Good night and good luck

The news that Diego Buonanotte has been charged with manslaughter spread on Monday. The judge investigating an accident that happened on December 26th of last year, in which three passengers were killed, called the River Plate forward in to testify.

Buonanotte was at the wheel during the accident in question.

Tests soon dismissed any possibility of him having driven under the influence, but the on-going investigation is over the possibility of Buonanotte’s responsibility for reckless driving.

Remarkably, given the type of accident, Buonanotte was back training within months, but he had no recollection of the accident. He was only told several days after the accident, while he was still in hospital, what had happened and that his friends had not survived.

After testifying on Monday, River Plate gave him time off. Club president Daniel Passarella told him to come back when he was ready. Coach Ángel Cappa quickly realised that although he could do with an in-form Buonanotte to help River this season, the player needs professional help.

Cappa began the season with Buonanotte in the first team. The idea was to help him deal with the situation by playing football. In the first three matches of the season, he was in the starting XI.

His rating in Olé, out of ten, was 4.5. On matchday 4, against Argentinos Juniors, the paper gave him 3.5. It clearly wasn’t working - Buonanotte simply wasn’t in condition to play football.

Away to Vélez, on matchday five, he was on the bench.

The game against Vélez was tense enough, with Cappa a hate figure amongst the Vélez fans after the controversial season finale in 2009, when Cappa was in charge of Huracán.

Despite starting with the idea of keeping Buonanotte on the bench, an early injury forced Cappa to put him on in the first half. With a brilliant shot from outside the box, Buonanotte brought River back level.

"Killer” screamed one home ‘fan’.

While the judiciary decides whether Buonanotte is guilty of manslaughter or not, it is clear that Buonanotte will be punished – by himself - for considerably longer than any prison term possibly could.

And while he comes to terms with the accident, as long as he is playing football he will always be a target for opposition ‘fans.’

The issue escalated from mere verbal abuse from ‘fans’ on the terraces with problems, as it happens, involving Vélez last weekend.

They travelled to play San Lorenzo at the Nuveo Gasómetro, with a clever, yet provocative banner poking fun at the Ciclón’s failure to ever win the Libertadores. San Lorenzo’s coach said the game against Vélez wasn’t a clásico. Vélez fans agreed that playing San Lorenzo wasn’t a clásico for them either…

The match itself was as far from a classic as is possible. The only reason it made any headlines was when rocks and seats started flying towards the end of the game, and then when tear gas and rubber bullets also started flying.

Ever since 2008, when Vélez supporter Emanuel Alvarez was shot at by a San Lorenzo ‘fan,’ fixtures between the two have been high risk. Alvarez was victim number 231 in football-related deaths in Argentina.

The number now stands at 250.

It’s here where the issue moves from verbally abusing opposition players and causing disruption at games, into the realms of organised crime and violence.

Violence in and around football in Argentina is a totally different phenomenon to hooliganism. The only way to eradicate it from is with political will – from the national government, from AFA, and of course from the club directors.

Just in the past month there have been major incidents at Newell’s, Quilmes, Estudiantes, and now Vélez and San Lorenzo. River Plate are on alert for possible incidents amongst their ‘fans’.
Argentine football has its demons that it refuses to face. Diego Buonanotte has no choice but to face his.

Fixtures matchday 7

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

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