Independiente in Red Hell

As if the team heading towards a historic negative league record - with players in the firing line, an unfinished stadium, conceding nine goals in a week and the highly popular coach arguing with journalists live on TV - wasn’t bad enough, the situation at Independiente managed to deteriorate even further this week.

‘Aldrete and Independiente president accused in PAMI fraud’ wrote Clarín on Thursday.

PAMI is the Argentine pensioners’ social services. Victor Aldrete, the former president of the institution, is accused of defrauding the state, with the insurance company El Surco, which Independiente president Julio Comparada is the owner of, allegedly complicit in the operation.

Comparada released a statement in which he says he is appealing, and that he ‘had nothing to do with the contract nor with the negotiation.’

But whatever happens regarding the case, there will be plenty of scope for wisecracks from other teams in the coming weeks. The alleged fraud involves funeral services.

Independiente may not be dead and buried but they are experiencing something pretty close to, as one website dedicated to covering the club calls itself, Red Hell.

Godoy Cruz extended the miserable week for the club on Thursday, with a 3-1 defeat of El Rojo in the Copa Libertadores, but that is by no means is the end of the suffering.

Although it was the second game in the South American Champions’ League in which Independiente conceded three, come the final day of this weekend’s round 5 on Monday, there could be an altogether more disastrous situation.

In between the defeats away to Liga de Quito and then at home to Godoy Cruz came a lacklustre 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal. It was the 13th league match without a win.

The club’s longest run without a victory was back in 2002, when the side failed to defeat 14 opponents. Anything other than at home to Newell’s will earn this team, the coach and all involved the unenviable reputation of levelling that record, plus spark the fear of setting a new record the following week away to Quilmes.

With just two goals in the last seven league games, and seven draws and six defeats in the last 13, there is little by way of hope for Independiente fans to cling on to.

Just back in December it was a different story.

The King of the Cups, as Independiente is known for its proud record as the club with the most Copa Libertadores in of all South American, won the Copa Sudamericana, the Europa League equivalent. It was their 16th international trophy and a magnificent achievement. It didn’t matter that their new stadium, loosely modelled on Old Trafford, was in truth nowhere near completion.

Snubbing Racing, who live 100 metres away, to the final Libertadores spot via the Sudamericana win was the cherry on top.

While the gloss of silverware glazed over the poor showing in the league, however, this season is a different matter. Bottom in the Libertadores group is of little concern compared to their league situation.

Because while River Plate have dominated the headlines when it comes to a big club facing relegation, Independiente’s poor run has them now level pegging with River in the relegation league table. And unlike River, Independiente are not churning out hard-fought draws or wins. They are not 3rd in the league. They are 19th.

Centre-forward Silvera hasn’t scored in 10. Goalkeeper Hilario is making mistakes – a rarity after his Sudamericana run heroics. Newboy Matías Defederico hasn’t settled in.

El Turco no se va they sang on Thursday, ‘The Turk is staying.’ In his debut in the Independiente dugout, Antonio Mohamed won the agitated clásico with Racing, endearing him to the supporters, but then took the side on the 13-match run without a defeat. And judging by the war of words he had with a journalist during a live TV interview, he is feeling the pressure.

Amid this situation, the question is very simple. Who can fix Independiente?

Round 5 Fixtures:
Friday: Olimpo-All Boys, Tigre-Banfield; Saturday: Lanús-Gimnasia, San Lorenzo-Boca, Argentinos-Arsenal; Sunday: Estudiantes-Godoy Cruz, Colón-Racing, River-Vélez; Monday: Huracán-Quilmes, Independiente-Newell’s