That time is finally upon us, ladies and gentlemen. After months of staring forlornly at the television while we slowly cooked in summer sun (and let’s face it, power cuts meant you were probably staring at a blank screen. There is no shame in it, admit it), it is back.
I am, of course, talking about the 2014 Final tournament, the upcoming season of Argentine football that starts with a vengeance this Friday. Excited? You had better be!
Football writers like to think they know everything about their given sports. Just take a look at the usually pitiful success rates of most predictions, however, and you will see the truth. As much as we like to think we are the masters of the game, what we really excel in is analysis and strapping on the hindsight glasses after the game itself. Predictions have a nasty habit of biting us in the rearend, which is why this column is steering well clear.
What we will do, though, is try and make the game a little more fun for newcomers to the crazy world that is Argentine football. With a little help from esteemed colleague Sam Kelly, I have compiled a list of certain events you could well be seeing over the next four months of action. They range from the mundane to the bizarre, but all are within the realms of possibility.
Take a look at the list, cut out and keep, play Argentine football bingo with your friends, clean up after your dog with the list; use it however you see fit. First person to complete the checklist will get a prize from me!*
- In the first game River Plate lose, Ramón Díaz complains about the refereeing.
- In the first game Boca Juniors lose, Carlos Bianchi complains about the refereeing.
- Media uses the term paso a paso as soon as Racing Club manage to win two games in a row.
- Argentinos Juniors coach Claudio Borghi (right) is filmed smoking away in the dugout, in training, during press conferences, anywhere he can get a sneaky pucho (a cigarette.)
- Sports newspaper Olé uses a questionable coffee pun when referring to a Colombian player.
- Olé uses a questionable negro pun when referring to a black player.
- Olé uses a questionable black coffee pun when referring to a black Colombian player.
- At some point in the season, the Final will be dubbed ‘the worst season ever’.
- A new-look Fútbol para Todos programme will make excessive use of new camera toys. An obvious offside? Let’s see that in super slo-mo from six angles, ooh yeeaaaaah.
- After two games, at least two coaches will be rumoured for the sack.
- After five games, at least three coaches have left.
- Whenever Vélez or Lanús win, the words ‘Model club’ appear everywhere.
- Martín Palermo will be linked to almost every vacancy, apart from those teams fighting relegation.
- For the teams fighting against relegation, Ricardo Caruso Lombardi will be announced as their savior.
- Ramón Díaz is suspended from the River bench, leaving gormless son Emiliano to look hilariously out of his depth ‘directing’ the team for a game.
- Juan Román Riquelme plays one scintillating game, leading all to state that the Boca wizard is back.
- In the next game, Román is injured and misses the rest of the season.
- At least one of Carlos Bianchi and Ramón Díaz to be ‘en duda’ by the time the Superclásico comes round. If Boca and River are both playing like Barcelona and fighting neck-and-neck for the title, it’ll be whichever of them is just behind on goal difference.
- The Superclásico itself is a massive disappointment like always, but that won’t stop newspapers talking about it for three months before and the same time afterwards.
- One derby is accompanied by a club commentator who completely loses it, such as this Gimnasia
fanreporter last year:
- A young star shines for three matches, is immediately labeled the ‘Next Messi’.
- A middling Primera journeyman performs above-average. The media and public demands he displaces one of those fancy-pants prima donnas playing overseas in the Argentina World Cup squad.
- Any Primera footballer tells cameras, “it’s a long season”, when it really is not.
- A promising young talent gets caught in a nightclub/ speeding/ posing with a gun, and it’s put down to ‘youthful high-jinks’ (see right).
- The barra brava of a struggling club decide to lend a helping hand by going down armed to training and scaring the bejeezus out of players.
- Nobody has a clue when any teams are playing due to endless tinkering with the schedule.
- A referee decides to make himself the centre of attention by preening like a peacock in the middle of the pitch. An ill-advised press conference will probably follow. Mr Lunati, we’re looking at you.
- A close friend confides to you that they would rather their team lifted the 2014 Final than Argentina the World Cup.
- You come to accept this thinking as both completely outrageous and perfectly normal.
- A Botinera/WAG wannabe strips down to her smalls in the stand, in order to ‘support’ the team.
- TV cameras immediately zoom to said wannabe, and indeed any other attractive young girl in a way that should have the operator put on a register.
- Fútbol para Todos seamlessly replace their inappropriate political endorsements during commentary with inappropriate product endorsements during commentary.
- Halfway through the season you wonder why you watch Argentine football rather than the Premier League, before remembering those games are shown at 10:30am on Saturday and you’ve only just got home.
- You embrace this new nocturnal regime (of course you do, Dracula), and by the end of the season are screaming for your adopted club to take home the gold.
That’s it. That should be enough. Hungry for more Argentine football gossip? Take a listen at the best (and only) English-speaking podcast on the market, Hand of Pod.
*Sorry, there is no prize.