In leagues all across the world, only one thing really matters come the end of the season; who’s in first place. However, this momentary picture of a division does not tell the tale of how a club ascends up the division to finish top of the pile.
Clubs can have a successful spell during the season and claim the title, whilst others can lose their grip on the championship due to lack of form, injuries or losing important fixtures.
Although I do believe that the Argentinian Primera short-tournaments are often won due to this, I also think the reason clubs are title challengers at the end of each season is deeper rooted.
Consistency, financial regularity and steady income are fundamental basics for the running of a football club. This is highly evident in the turbulent Argentinian league.
One club now regularly challenging for the Inicial and Final titles (formerly Apertura and Clausura) are Vélez.
Vélez are currently 1st in the Torneo Inicial after 14 games. They are widely considered to play the best football in the division, with a fluid front-line and an ethos of pace and movement. This can often be seen to be a stark contrast to a number of teams they face in the league.
El Fortin have had a number of wonderfully gifted players wear their V-shirts. In 2009, the goals and creativity of Santiago Silva, Juan Manuel Martinez, Hernan Lopez and Maximiliano Moralez helped the club win the Clausura with 40 points, losing just one game in the second short-season.
The club has continued this foundation and under ex-player Ricardo Gareca are riding high in the Inicial, with an mixture of youth and experience.
Just one of the players catching the eyes of fans and pundits (Gino Peruzzi is also a certain future Argentine senior international) is ex-Banfield striker Facundo ‘Chucky’ Ferrerya. The 21 year old joined the club in the summer after Banfield’s dreadful Clausura relegation campaign last season and the youngster has quickly found his feet with 7 goals in 10 games, with 5 goals in his last 2 games.
See (a little) more on Chucky here: http://nka.nu/60l
The Hand of Pod boys also discussed the youngster on this week’s Pod: http://handofpod.wordpress.com/
Looking at the top of the Torneo Inicial with 5 games to play, the famous ‘big five’ in Argentina currently stand at:
Boca Juniors: 5th
River Plate: 8th
San Lorenzo: 17th
Two of the smaller clubs in the league, Lanús and the recently promoted Belgrano, currently sit just a small number of points off the very top of the table. This emphasis on consistency is certainly highlighted in these shorter championships but perhaps there has been a mighty shift in power in Argentina. Despite River and Boca easily being the best-supported clubs in the country, River were in the B Nacional as recently as last year and Boca have struggled to find both form and results since their talismatic enganche Juan Roman Riquelme decided to hang up his boots at the end of last season.
The importance to run a club efficiently to stay afloat is also underlined when the country’s economy is struggling. This is particularly evident and interesting when you compare the imports and exports from Argentinian football from just a decade ago. Clubs are now searching more than ever into their youth academy and younger sides to find the star of the future to lift them up the table.
Argentina is known for its technically gifted and talented players on the pitch but behind the shop-window of the football field, the importance of consistency, regularity and uniform has proven to be more important in the long term.