Even by the lofty standards of the Argentine Football Association (AFA), the last couple of weeks have been a bit mad. The ongoing discussions of a Super League haven’t gone away, but they’ve been added to by the government’s recent decision to cut the AFA’s belly open and have a good old rummage around while the patient’s under heavy sedation.
Well, that’s the way some AFA directors would like to paint the situation, anyway. What the government – or rather, an independent branch of the Justice Ministry known as the General Judicial Inspection (IGJ) – actually wants to do is audit the AFA’s books and postpone the organization’s presidential election, until yesterday scheduled for the 30th June, by 90 days.
Why? A federal judge, María Servini de Cubría, is currently investigating the AFA’s finances with particular regard to the money former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration paid for the Fútbol Para Todos (FPT) broadcast rights. In a turn of events that must be absolutely shocking to anyone who was born yesterday, it turns out that there’s a chance not all of that money ended up in the places it was meant to end up in. So if you’re wondering why hardly any clubs seem to have any money in spite of the government having pumped billions of pesos into Argentine football over the last seven years, you might now have (part of) your answer.
The distinction between an audit and a government intervention in the AFA is a very important one in footballing terms, because the sports world governing body FIFA doesn’t allow government intervention in national associations; if it deems that that’s what’s going on, it can ban a country from international competition. In the last decade both Peru and Spain have come close to falling foul of these regulations. Presumably this means FIFA either operates double standards or sincerely believes that, for example, football in North Korea is run without any interference from that country’s government. But here we are.
President Mauricio Macri has plenty of experience in football boardrooms, of course, having built his political powerbase on his wildly successful (on the pitch) presidency of Boca Juniors during the early years of this century. That means he’s familiar with FIFA’s requirements, and also — because he’s an Argentine politician — he’s aware of how catastrophically unpopular it would be if his administration were to take any blame for Argentina pulling out of the Copa América Centenario, which kicks off on Friday.
What Macri also doesn’t want, though, is for General Labor Confederation (CGT) Secretary General Hugo Moyano to become AFA President. That’s a possibility because Moyano is president of Independiente, and as of Tuesday night’s weekly AFA Executive Committee meeting (which was the deadline for declarations) he’s one of five candidates (and arguably the favorite at this stage) to win the position at that recently-delayed election.
There was an initial thawing of relations after Macri won the presidential election late last year but Moyano has since changed his tune, remarking that, “if [Macri] had said what he was going to do, no-one would have vote for him.” It’s not hard to see why the Casa Rosada aren’t eager to see him in charge of the country’s most important sporting body.
In a way, then, delaying the elections 90 days could be seen as a form of government intervention — there’s talk that the State hopes another candidate, such as Marcelo Tinelli, can use the extra time to solidify its own vote base — but the government is clearly being careful not to anger FIFA. Indeed, Macri has spoken to FIFA President Gianni Infantino via teleconference to ensure that any State audit — and any subsequent “normalization committee” overseeing AFA finances — is done within FIFA’s guidelines.
Moyano, of course, is good at politics and is also very good at shouting, and that’s likely the reason (or at least part of the reason) for Monday’s and Tuesday’s TV and paper talk of the AFA voting to withdraw the national team from the Copa América Centenario — a threat that, had it been carried through, would have resulted in an automatic fine and Argentina being banned from the next two Copas Américas as punishment (not to mention Boca Juniors presumably being kicked out of the Copa Libertadores ahead of its upcoming semi-final). But it’s now clear that that withdrawal was never really likely to happen.
As for the Super League, some news outlets report that everyone’s in agreement that it has to happen but that things have been delayed by this week’s big fuss, while others say the whole thing is up in the air at present. The faction (led by Tinelli) pressing for a vote on the Super League entirely independently of the AFA presidential election seems to have quieted down somewhat in recent days, but expect it to come to the fore again before too much longer, especially with the postponement of the election having been confirmed now.
When there’s no football to watch, the AFA has an endless ability to entertain with all its nonsense, and no doubt it will continue once the national team kicks off against Chile in California on Monday. At least now we can be reasonably certain that match will indeed take place, and as Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori said in his press conference early today, “Us players don’t want to get involved in what’s going on in Buenos Aires.” Who can blame them?