In the aftermath of the violent assault against referee Claudio Elichiri in last weekend’s Federal B match between Sarmiento and Sansinena, the Argentine Union of Referees (SADRA) has called for a strike on football matches this weekend at all competitive levels that is likely to see all of the games in the 13th set of fixtures of the Primera Division suspended, including the Superclasico at El Monumental.
So what exactly happened?
The shocking event took place last Sunday at Sarmiento’s home turf in Ayacucho after Elichiri dismissed several of the home side’s players after they aggressively protested Sansinena’s second goal of the match. Due to the dismissals, the home side had an insufficient number of players left on the pitch and Elichiri suspended the match. The enraged home fans then began to invade the pitch and the images get really ugly. And things could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for the Sarmiento players themselves who can be seen defending Elichiri from the wave of oncoming supporters. See it all unfold in the video below.
The union’s statement and what’s happening now?
Yesterday the head of SADRA, Guillermo Marconi, announced that the organization would initiate “a general strike next weekend in all categories of national football,” from the Primera Division down to the lowest leagues affiliated with the AFA. Marconi added that this was now the tenth serious aggression against refereeing officials in 2016 and that the strike would only cease once “the safety of his colleagues is guaranteed”.
Now, it is up to the Ministry of Labor to address the concerns of SADRA. “When a direct action is announced, this strike, we have to take action,” said Ezequiel Sabor, an official from the Ministry. The Ministry will now look to work together with the referee’s union and AFA “to discuss what measures to take in order to avoid this from happening again.” Sabor finally added that he is keen to ensure that “the directors of the AFA understand that they have to protect their workers, be it a referee or whoever else it is participating in a football match.”
For the time being, it seems that the strike could indeed take place this weekend, regardless of the Ministry’s eagerness to tackle the issue.
So why is it only “likely” that the Superclasico will be suspended?
Well, SADRA is not the only referee’s union in Argentina and the official set to take charge of Argentina’s biggest domestic football match this Sunday, Diego Abal, belongs to the Argentine Association of referees (AAA).
Still, it looks more than likely that the AAA will join in the strike out of solidarity with SADRA and Elichiri. Indeed the President of the union, Federico Beligoy, has today chimed in and said that “if we have to go to strike, we’ll go to strike.”
For now then, it seems like there may not be any football matches this weekend, including the Superclasico between Boca Juniors and River Plate. And while that will no doubt to be the dismay of many of you, there is a much bigger issue at foot here. “When I got back home, I hugged my wife and we cried,” Elichiri told the media in the aftermath of the assault.
And the worst thing is that this doesn’t even seem that shocking to anyone who knows the first thing about Argentine football. The scope of the hatred, the violence, the crime plaguing the country’s favorite pastime seems to know no bounds. Fans, players, officials – they’ve all been made to feel like Elichiri all too often. So let the referees strike. Every step towards stamping out violence and crime from the football pitch is a step worth taking.