It might be summer, and so damn hot that merely the idea of leaving your air-conditioned fortress of solitude brings out panic sweats and a nasty rash. But football in Argentina stops for nothing, which is why throughout January we are ‘treated’ to the Torneo de Verano summer friendly tournaments.
Now, everyone seems to have a different opinion of this interminable merry go round of fixtures. They are:
- Valuable chances to try new tactics and players ahead of the season.
- Vitally important matches against rivals, with the winner allowed to mercilessly mock the vanquished.
- Cynical money-making exercises for advertising companies, tourist resorts (such as Mendoza and Mar del Plata) and television stations anxious for viewers.
- Indisputable proof that my team is going to win the league/ absolutely screwed (delete as applicable).
- A pointless waste of time.
- Since all football is the devil, a particularly malevolent, hot and sandy devil (that one would be my editor).
In fact all of those opinions, save the last one which is clearly nonsense, have a grain of truth in them. The hype around the latest Boca-River meeting (there will be an exhausting three this summer) is obviously a bit silly, but it does give players a chance to regain match rhythm in the most demanding of settings and in front of capacity crowds; never a worthless exercise.
To save you the time of catching up on what has happened so far – we have already established you are incapable of moving off the sofa – these have been the highlights of 2014’s Torneo de Verano:
- Racing and Independiente will not meet officially this year due to the latter’s relegation. But the Avellaneda rivals did manage to play out a relatively bloodless, well-spirited friendly in Mar del Plata. La Academia streaked to a 3-0 victory over their neighbors, all the goals coming in the first half.
- I did say relatively bloodless. Claudio Morel Rodriguez earned himself a red card for this karate kid-style takedown on Diego Villar, who faces two weeks out and will not answer the perpetrator’s calls for forgiveness.
- As can be expected from the people who brought you the Ghost of the B videos, Racing fans went to ridiculous lengths to remind Independiente they are in the Second Division. Or should, I say, ridiculous heights…
- Boca and River also played their first clash of the summer, on a sweltering evening in Mar del Plata.
- In fact it was so hot that fans were seen before the match approaching the stadium in just t-shirts (something you must NEVER, NEVER, NEVER DO ON THE ATLANTIC COAST). The lack of sweaters surely points to global warming and the end of the world.
- The game itself was tied 1-1, Boca’s Juan Sanchez Miño taking the lead before Jonathan Maidana evened the score up.
- Afterwards we had the usual dull controversies: River forward Fernando Cavenaghi accusing Boca of time-wasting and defensive tactics (Bianchi’s Boca??? Surely not).
- Xeneize defender Daniel Díaz also had strong words for the referee, disputing his red card. Oh, and keeper Agustin Orión thought Maidana fouled him in the build-up to his goal.
- A bright point was seeing presidents Daniel Angelici and Rodolfo D’Onofrio sitting together in the stands. “This is not a war,” was their message. If you say so.
- Other games happened too, but since they do not involve Boca and River you probably heard even less about them.
Right, now we are all up to speed there is no excuse not to be following avidly the rest of the summer tournament. Check out all the fixtures and competitions on this handy link, drag the TV in front of the air-con and get comfortable.
And if you are going to venture to Mardel (that’s what people call Mar del Plata) to take in a match, don’t be fooled by what I have told you above.
Bring a sweater and don’t be a hero, those winds get chilly in the evening.