South America

Martin Gambarotta takes a look at the growing debt in Argentinian league football and the AFA's initiatives to deal with it

As a full-scale popular revolt was toppling the Argentinian president Fernando de la Rúa in December, a considerable number of people were kicking up a fuss about something else: tickets to see Racing Club’s bid to clinch its first league title in 35 years. The game was post­poned because of the turmoil that left at least 27 dead, but eventually – with a new head of state in office and much cajoling – the game was played a week later. Racing won the title.

The choice of Colombia as the host nation for the Copa America caused much controversy and country's ability to host the tournament was called into question. Simeon Tegel reports

Allowing Colombia to host the Copa América was either a very brave decision or a very fool­ish one. Unfortunately for the officials of the South American Football Confederation (Con­mebol), it was the second alternative which increasingly looked the more accurate description in the run-up to the July tournament, the region’s biennial equivalent of the European Championship.

Brazil are in turmoil, Peru are in despair, and Chile are in the pool with a load of Colombian women. It's never dull in South America, as Leopoldo Iturra discovers

Gabriel García Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 for his use of magic realism, a style which deliberately exaggerates Latin American folk­lore and which allows anything to happen – from the appearance of Romanies who invent snow to immortal incestuous families.

Cris Freddi looks at little Brazil's clash with mighty Exeter City in Rio de Janeiro in 1914

We don’t really chortle at the thought of Brazil taking on a small English club. We understand that these were pioneering days, when a non-League club like Exeter City had not been professional for six years but could field Eng­land players of the future in Dick Pym and Jack Fort. A tour of South America then was probably regarded in the same way as a trip to some­where like Chad or Belize today.

Mention Brazil and most people become emotional about Pelé, Garrincha, Romario and other legends.  Cris Freddi sees it differently

I hate Brazil. Not the country – I’ve never been to the country. But I hate Brazil. Like all fair-minded people, I am the Brazil hater.

Even with Ronaldo in one of his funny moods, Brazil rarely needed to break sweat to retain their South American title in Paraguay as Sam Wallace reports

At either end of the Defensores Del Chacos ground in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, stood enormous models of Budweiser cans which, at set in­tervals, would start to gyrate. Occasionally, a plastic bag thrown from the crowd behind the goal would sail over the cans, jettisoning in flight its cargo of urine. The irony was hard to ignore. No amount of expensive advertising ever quite managed to sanitise a gloriously chaotic Copa America 1999.

Brazil v Guatemala, CONCACAF Gold Cup, February 5th 1998, Miami. Neil Wills witnessed a shock result

Every so often something comes along which imbues life with fresh meaning. Such an occurrence befell several million people simultaneously on an otherwise ordinary day in February 1998. It is sad to recount that the incident in question was of no greater import than a football match, but there you go: some­times you have to take what you can get.

Rather then follow the general consesus of an uphappy team, Argentina's national squad have taken a different approach. Peter Hudson investigates

Any strike is a rarity in Argentina these days, given the weakness of the local labour movement. But the latest is doubly unusual in being led by professional footballers, hardly noted for their revolutionary fervour. What’s more, the players are not looking for higher wages or better conditions. Rather, they are withdrawing their labour in defence of their poorer colleagues, who have been prevented from plying their trade by a court order late last year suspending all matches outside the First Division.

If England managers have a hard time, they still get off lightly compared to their counterparts in Colombia, as Richard Sanders reports 

As the new manager of Colombia, 40-year-old Javier Alvarez, steps gingerly into the post, he could be for­given a little trepidation, and perhaps the odd glance over his shoulder. His two predecessors received repeated death threats and one saw his centre-half mur­dered by disgruntled gamblers.

Kevin Keegan is not alone in trying to run a national team while holding down a club job. Adriaan Grijns recounts a similar experiment in Brazil

Wanderley Luxemburgo is an arrogant man. He once walked off the pitch with his team winning 1-0 and five minutes left. Wanderley, as he is referred to here, is the acclaimed new manager of the Brazilian national team, the Seleção.

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