South America

Playing football is a rewarding profession in Brazil, but being a player’s mother is now a hazardous occupation thanks to a spate of kidnappings, writes Ben Collins

The practice of kidnapping footballers and/or their family members for ransom has been rife in Argentina in recent years, while Levan Kaladze, brother of AC Milan’s Georgia defender Kakha, is still missing almost four years after his abduction. Now the trend has taken hold in Brazil, too.

Ben Lyttleton tells us how Tino Asprilla's desperation for a new club is becoming reality

Tino Asprilla’s search for a job in Colombia has not been going well. This year, the ex-Newcastle striker became the fourth former Colombia international to appear on a prime-time reality TV show in the hope of ingratiating himself with the public and finding work for the future.

The latest "new Maradona" is ready to fly the nest but, as Ben Collins asks, where will he land?

It was only a matter of time before Carlos Tevez left Argentina, especially after some spell-binding performances at last summer’s Olympics. However, the team that tempted the latest “new Maradona” away from Boca Juniors was not a star-studded Champions League regular, but Corinthians of Brazil; a fascinating choice for a number of reasons, not only because the US$22 million (£11.4m) transfer may have been instigated by a certain Russian billionaire.

Expectations were low for Colombians Once Caldas going into July's Copa Libertadores final. Jake Lagnado explains how they pulled off one of the biggest shock in South American football history

When Colombia’s Once Caldas beat Boca Juniors 2-0 on penalties in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final on July 1, it wasn’t just the quality of both sides’ penalties that shocked South Americans. Few had expected a team who in just two previous attempts had never made it past the first round, to beat the illustrious victors of three of the past four finals. Boca manager Carlos Bianchi was so aggrieved he did not even lead his team up the podium afterwards claiming unconvincingly that he was so used to winning he was unaware that losing teams got medals too.

Laws in Argentina have been changed to protect badly run clubs. Martin Gambarotta examines the peso, the dollar and the 'inflation effect'. 

The president of Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, has a dif­ficult job. The country owes bondholders from Tok­yo to Milan $90 billion (£50bn). That’s a debt no football club can equal. Argentina defaulted on that debt in 2001. Back then the entire debt of the 20 first division football clubs amounted to $291m. The coun­try was about to go up in flames and beloved football clubs were on the verge of burning with it. Boca Juniors, arguably the biggest club, had debts of 40 million pesos. But by 2002 people were asking: “Forty million what?”

Luke Gosset reports on a disturbing trend of kidnapping players and their families in Argentina, which is persuading stars to leave the country or not return from abroad

Leonardo Astrada, one of Argentina’s best loved footballing sons, was due to announce offic-ially his retirement on the day River Plate clinched the title against Olimpo on the penultimate weekend of last season’s Clausura championship. The 33-year-old midfielder has won more trophies for the Buenos Aires club (12) than any footballer at any club in Argentina and looked forward to a rapturous reception. Un­fortunately, he did not travel to the game.

The head of the Argentine FA is in trouble after spoiling a good record of tackling anti-semitism. But other abuse goes unchecked and unremarked, writes Martin Gambarotta

In Argentina, a bankrupt nation of 36 million people, everybody knows more than they say they know. Journalists, for example, have a habit of gathering news, usually in the form of gossip, which they rarely use in stories and often only divulge to mates at an asado, the traditional barbecue still common des­pite the economic col­lapse. Football journalists are espec­ially aware that not all the news they have is fit to print.

Former Brazil coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo has been convicted of not paying his dues, as Robert Shaw  relates. You’d never have a dodgy national coach over here, of course

Is former national team coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo the Jeffrey Archer of Brazilian football? Both have received popular acclaim, been rumbled through du­bious assignations with women and been economical with the truth when it came to documenting their lives – in the coach’s case, taking three years off his age.

Two of the biggest clubs in Brazilian football have been affected in different ways by the strange nature of the game there. Robert Shaw investigates

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Botafogo v Santos games were titanic struggles involving the cream of Brazil’s talent, with Garrincha and Pelé taking top billing for their respective sides. In 2002 the two clubs had divergent fortunes. Santos won the championship, beating Cor­inthians 5-2 on aggregate in December’s play-off final. The team were coached by Emerson Leão, the former goalkeeper renowned more for modelling swimming trunks than for a less-than-successful spell as national coach during World Cup qualifying.

On the brink of triumph, little São Caetano are not so little anymore, and they have a lesson for Brazil's big boys. Cassiano Gobbet explains

Two years ago, when they reached the finals of the Brazilian championship, AD São Caet­ano and their supporters used to sing: “We’re on our way to Tokyo.” This was a joke about the yearly Toyota Cup match between the club champions of South America and Europe. It’s no longer a joke. Outperforming the big names of South America, many of whom are drowning in debt, the Azulão (Big Blue) have reached the final of the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of the Champions League. At the time of going to press, they hold a one-goal lead from the away leg of the final against Olimpia of Paraguay and so are in with a great chance of travelling to Japan in December to compete with Real Madrid for the crown of world champions.

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