The Gloriously Respectful preview

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“You have to respect the glory,” says Alex Sabella. Various sectors of the press, the fans and the world have not exactly been forthcoming in lavishing praise on his Estudiantes side in recent weeks, and the men from La Plata are not happy about this lack of respect.

After losing to top-flight newcomers, All Boys, in the league recently, the critics have rained in. After losing to Newell’s in the Sudamericana and going out of the competition, the critics rained in. And after losing the Recopa – South American Supercup to you and me – to Liga de Quito, yes indeed, the critics rained in.

Estudiantes had been the darlings of Argentine football before this campaign. They’re not one of the Big Five, they have a Millwall ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’ swagger about them, and although they haven’t won the league since 2006, winning the 2009 Libertadores Cup meant that nobody could come close when it came to bragging rights.

Along with Vélez, they were the favourites for another successful season a couple of months back. And it wasn’t just going to be any old successful season, but a championship, Sudamericana and Recopa grand slam.

But then All Boys, Newell’s and Liga de Quito put paid to that talk. Everone was on the Picha’s back again. Lacking respect.

Fortunately, in Argentina there are two types of competition that save seasons -  one is the league, the other is the clásico. The La Plata derby had been postponed because of the Recopa final, but on Wednesday the two went to battle. Fortunately, in light of recent gun-wielding antics from the Estudiantes fans, there was no battle. Although there was a victory.

The Pincha breezed past Gimnasía winning 2-0, including a penalty from Juan Sebastián Verón, forcing the gymnasts coach Diego Cocca to quit, and went top of the pile again.

‘We have to thank these players, they lead us to glory and that deserves respect,’ Sabella demanded after the derby.
The problem is that the current squad is nowhere near that has been so dominant in recent years. To balance the books, Estudiantes were forced to sell Mauro Boselli to Wigan, Marcos Angeleri to Sunderland, Clemente Rodriguez and Cristián Cellay to Boca, plus José Sosa to Napoli over the close season.

Without that group of players, challenging in the Sudamericana and on the home front would be far too big a task.
‘We are like a pick-up truck,’ reckons Juan Sebastián Verón, obliging the journalist who unflinchingly continued the insidious newly-installed trend in Argentina to compare all teams to cars. This weekend they take on San Lorenzo, the Ford Falcon, readers may recall, where sanloré’s coach Ramón Díaz believes the whole country will be supporting the ciclón in order to knock Estudiantes off the top spot.

The clash between the two ought to have been two contenders for the biggest, most powerful, most glorious and most respected job of them all – national team coach. Ramón Díaz has the CV for the gig. Alex Sabella is Carlos Bilardo’s favourite for the role. But as Maradona pointed out this week, it’s all about profile. And that must be respected.

‘It’s not my fault if the new coach has a low profile because he only scored three goals. I scored 200, I earned my profile on the pitch,f’ said Diego about Sergio Batista in Russia while helping to raise $500,000 for charity.

Maradona, you see, isn’t being shown enough respect for what he did as a player, for his time as coach and for what he can still bring to the national team. This lack of respect has been turned around on a sixpenny piece by pelusa himself, and thrown back in the face of just about everyone.

Between his fund-raising trips to Moscow and interviews with local TV stations, Maradona has criticised everybody – from AFA head-honcho Julio Grondona for lies, to Carlos Bilardo for not being able to sing karaoke, to Sergio Batista for not being recognised in Uruguay (and only scoring three goals), to the players when they were still his players for their lack of concentration against Germany…

The list goes on, but the story is the same. The glory must be respected.

Matchday nine fixtures

Quilmes – Arsenal
Newell’s – Vélez
All Boys – Tigre
Godoy Cruz – Independiente
Gimnasia – Argentinos
Racing – Huracán
Olimpo – Colón
San Lorenzo – Estudiantes
Boca – Lanús
Banfield - River