Black eyes, stamped chests and the worst idea ever

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This week’s three major stories all unfortunately show some of the worst traits of Argentinian football, and all have hit the headlines in spectacular style.

Bottinelli, Black Eyes & the Barra Bravas
Mentioned before in Argie Bargy as one of the factors in River Plate’s relegation, the Barra Bravas are an ugly yet seemingly immovable blight on the country’s footballing landscape. Despite years of promises, AFA president Julio Grondona (more on him later) has failed to deal with the issue of these organised hooligan groups and in recent weeks there have been two major incidents that show their power – and that the authorities have been feeble in attempting to challenge them.

Firstly, there is the example of Independiente’s ‘Barra del Rojo’ who, following a home defeat to Boca Juniors, assembled outside the changing rooms, playing the funeral march. It was no cryptic message: they wanted coach Antonio Mohamed gone – and the next day, the club announced he had resigned. “I didn’t make this decision. The Barra made it.”

This week though, saw a worse example of the Barra’s behavour at San Lorenzo. Following some poor performances from a team who've won just two in the last nine, fans took matters into their own hands by breaking into a closed training session.
The Barra's confrontation with the players resulted in defender Jonathan Bottinelli being punched, and leaving him with a black eye, claiming he’d never play for the club again.

Ramon Diaz, manager of Independiente but formerly of San Lorenzo, lamented the impression that this presents to the outside world: “This is the image that we give of Argentina. We must calm this [violence]”.

World Cup winners & wars of words
A clash between title chasers Racing and Lanus on Wednesday night has led to some heated words and could have some disciplinary repercussions. Half an hour in, Mauro Camoranesi – a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006 – committed to a tackle on Patricio Toranzo, catching him slightly late.

It wasn’t a particularly bad tackle, but a disagreement ensued and the ex-Italian international headbutted Toranzo right in front of the referee. Camoranesi received a red card and went to leave the pitch but as Toranzo lay on the ground, he went over to him and launched a boot at his face. Inexplicably, Toranzo too received a red card whilst he lay strewn on the turf, and the front page of Thursday’s sports daily Olé carries the image in full-sized glory.

A bad-tempered game has led to a war of words between the two sides, with Lanus and Argentina goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin labelling Racing’s Colombian forward a ‘moron’ as well as Toranzo unleashing a tirade in response to Camoranesi’s actions.

“People don’t do these things," spat Toranzo. "To me, he’s a coward because he hit me on the ground… he is a coward.” He went on to say “This bloke is not normal – he should see a psychologist."

Sorry, how many teams?
Finally, it’s our old friend Julio Grondona. Upon his re-election for his ninth term as AFA president (having taken office in 1979), he has flown to Switzerland with a mission: to gain approval from FIFA president and all-round top bloke Sepp Blatter to enlarge the Argentine top flight to a mammoth 38 teams.

When this idea surfaced in June, the public outcry was enough for them to seemingly ditch the idea; after all, it was far too risky with Grondona up for re-election in October. Now though, there seems to be little that can be done to stop it as the machine begins to clunk into gear to run the most unwieldy tournament the world has ever seen.

The full proposal is explained here and is just as nonsensical as it was when the idea went back under the surface in the summer – but it's washed up again like a corpse in Argentine football's stinking river.