Argentina matches off after ex-president dies

BUENOS AIRES - All football matches in Argentina were suspended for the weekend after the death on Wednesday of former head of state Nestor Kirchner, husband of President Cristina Fernandez.

"This weekend no official matches in any category will be played... according to what was agreed by the AFA executive committee moments ago," the Argentine Football Association said in a statement on their website.

It added the AFA's "deepest sadness at such a terrible loss" and said it had sent a note to the president and her family with their condolences.

Kirchner, who ruled from 2003 to 2007 and was a leading contender to succeed his wife in next year's election, suffered heart failure on Wednesday morning and died at his weekend home in the southern Patagonian city of El Calafate.

A keen supporter of Racing Club, one of Argentina's Big Five clubs that has had strong links with the ruling Peronist party since the days of former leader Juan Domingo Peron in the 1950s, he had twice had arterial procedures this year.

Argentine motor racing, volleyball, basketball and boxing events scheduled for Friday have also been postponed with some Saturday contests also put back.

Argentina ace Lionel Messi and former World Cup captain and coach Diego Maradona were among many sports personalities to offer their condolences to the president. Maradona flew south to do so in person.


"Lionel Messi and family, in conjunction with the Leo Messi Foundation, wish to express their deepest sadness over the passing of Dr. Nestor Kirchner," the Barcelona forward said in a letter.

AFA president Julio Grondona, who brokered a multi-million deal with Fernandez's government to snatch top flight soccer from private television companies' hands and broadcast it on the state channel, spoke to Radio 10 from Switzerland saying: "This is a terrible loss for the Argentine people."

The sports daily Ole said on their website the first division programme spread over Friday, Saturday and Sunday was being put back to the following weekend, quoting AFA board member Juan Carlos Crespi, vice-president of Boca Juniors.

This decision postpones the long-awaited return from knee surgery of Boca midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, who was set for his comeback against his first club Argentinos Juniors at the Bombonera on Sunday.

In turn, it pushes the biggest derby on the Argentine football calendar, the November 7 "superclasico" between River Plate and Boca, back a week at least and maybe more due to concerts scheduled at the Monumental.

River's former Argentina midfielder Matias Almeyda will have another week to recover from a leg injury in the hope of being fit to face arch-rivals Boca.

Estudiantes captain Juan Sebastian Veron also gets an extra week's rest and training after being doubtful for the Apertura championship leaders' home match against Lanus on Friday.