Relegated River Plate cast shadow over Argentinan football

The mood in Argentina at the start of a new season this weekend is quite different from a mere two months ago - before River Plate's shock relegation and the national team's Copa America failure.

The prospect of a season without a "Superclasico" - the country's biggest derby between arch enemies River and Boca Juniors - was unheard of, as was the idea that the second-tier Nacional B division might actually be of huge interest.

River have been on a recruiting drive that has put most of the top flight clubs in the shade with the return of players such as strikers Fernando Cavenaghi and Alejandro Dominguez, who helped them win titles in the early 2000s.

They have been making headline news almost every day as they prepare to try to bounce back in one season.

A controversial plan espoused by Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona to merge the top two divisions into a 38-team national championship from next season also made waves until it was literally shouted down.

Amid suspicions it was being devised to help River and make sure other top sides like Boca do not risk a similar fate, Grondona took less than a week to say the idea had been "put in the freezer".

Club directors, coaches and players criticised the concept in the media and fans staged a protest against Grondona outside AFA headquarters, while River's president Daniel Passarella and new coach Matias Almeyda, both former captains, said they wanted to come back up by their own means.

Grondona sacked Argentina coach Sergio Batista after the Copa America hosts could not get past the quarter-finals and has replaced him with Alejandro Sabella, who will be keeping a close eye on the domestic league after the failure of a team packed with elite European exiles.


Champions Velez Sarsfield have quietly gone about the business of preparing to defend their title, while making good money for new signings with the transfer of midfielders Ricky Alvarez to Inter Milan and Maxi Moralez to Atalanta.

Boca have gone nearly three seasons without a title, a long time for a club of their standing when there are two on offer per season, the Apertura (opening) from August to December followed by the Clausura (closing) from February to June.

Following Martin Palermo's retirement, Boca signed former Ajax Amsterdam striker Dario Cvitanich.

Juan Roman Riquelme, on whom their hopes are centred again after an injury-plagued 2010/11 season, has taken over the captain's armband.

Two major Boca targets close to the deadline were the return of Real Madrid and Argentina midfielder Fernando Gago and the signing of Uruguayan goalkeeper Sebastian Sosa, who helped Penarol reach the final of the Copa Libertadores in June.

A major factor in River's relegation - the result of their poor points average over three seasons in a system ironically devised to save the big clubs from the drop - was how well promoted sides All Boys and Olimpo did.

Neither finished in the relegation zone in the table of three-season points averages and instead two other sides who have traditionally been a part of the top flight, Huracan and Gimnasia de La Plata, went down with River.

Few of the major derbies remain as Estudiantes will not face Gimnasia while Rosario Central, whose arch-rivals are Newell's Old Boys, continue to struggle in the Nacional B.

That leaves the Avellaneda derby between Independiente, who have brought back Argentina central defender Gabriel Milito from Barcelona, and Racing Club, now under coach Diego Simeone, as the major first division "clasico".

Source: Reuters

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas