The lucky to be alive weekend preview

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With a new census just around the corner, exact population figures are unavailable for Argentina. The last time they did a head count was in 2001, but clever people in offices crunched numbers and believe the current figure to be about 40,130,000.

Throw in a few hundred thousand gringos and foreigners passing through, we’re probably at the 40,500,000 mark in total.

This, then, is roughly the number of people who ought to wake up every single day and thank their chosen person or object of worship - just for being alive. In Argentina, apparently, ‘you have to be grateful they don’t kill you.’

So says Vélez right-back Fabián Cubero, whose agent was relieved of 658,000 pesos (£107,000) as he left a bank earlier this week. The money was destined for Cubero, as part of a bonus from his club.

Now, Cubero is something of a mix of Alan Ball and David Beckham - the former on the basis of the pitch of his voice rather than hair colour, the latter on the basis of his partner, but that shouldn’t make him a target for thieves. Only it does.

Cubero’s wife, Nicole Neumann, is in the upper echelons of the WAG league table, as a TV presenter, model and general tabloid fodder. But much like her husband’s accountant, Miss Neumann was the centre of a similar incident in April. Allegedly stopped at gunpoint (we’re not alleging because we might be sued, but because several accounts suggest Nicole was telling porkies), a startled Neumann then said ‘they kill you for anything,’ and suggested she’d have to leave the country just to be able to go out for a stroll with her kids.

The curious thing about both Cubero and Neumann’s stories is that, evidently, they are around to tell the tale, and so is the accountant. But only just - they escaped. So with a fist full of paranoia and carpe diem, we should all thank our lucky stars to be breathing and watch as much fútbol para todos as is humanly possible, because in Argentina you never knowing when you are likely to be brutally executed coming out of a bank while carrying thousands of pesos.

Given the recent spat of traffic accidents, you are actually more likely to be run over by a bus, but it doesn’t generate quite the same headlines.

So, if you brave the outside world, in and amongst the various clashes this weekend, are two stand-out games. First up is on Saturday where the ‘battle of the barrio’ is on – Lanús against Banfield - where local bragging rights are settled between two sides who traditionally failed to make much of a mark on Argentine football, but have both won the league title in the past three years, and both look like decent outside bets for challenging again this year.

Then on Sunday afternoon, or by Sunday night, we should have more of an idea of the state of the mess in Boca. Apart from their performance, they could be looking for a new coach. Boca host league leaders Vélez, and a defeat will signal the end of Claudio Borghi’s reign - we know this because after just three games Borghi himself said he’d quit if he lost to Vélez.

Whether or not the back three of Cellay, Insaurralde and Caruzzo finally click, or whether the front two of Viatri and Palermo gel remains to be seen. Vélez, albeit at home, is not the game you would risk your future employment on.

That said, according to some people, just leaving your house is a risk not worth taking, as ‘they’ might kill you. Better stay at home at watch it on the telly...


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

(Estudiantes v Gimnasia postponed till 29/September after midweek Recopa ‘action’)

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