The resignation of the national team’s coach, Gerardo Martino, is another chapter in the crisis that is currently facing Argentine soccer, which is unprecedented and it is still uncertain whether it has hit rock bottom.
The former Barcelona coach’s departure from Argentina’s national team was a result of the structural situation due to the lack of real management within the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and a serious economic crisis in the majority of the country’ s soccer clubs.
However, it wasn’t just the administrative side of things that have gone wrong. The sporting side with the national team’s recent defeat to Chile in the 2016 Centennial Copa America along with soccer star Lionel Messi’s retirement from international soccer added dismal to Martino’s exit. A dark immediate future has been painted for the team.
Surely the death of Julio Humberto Grondona in July, 2014, after presiding over the AFA for 35 years uninterrupted, revealed a crisis that had already been brewing within the soccer association for several years.
“Don Julio” had built a power system where he was the only one that was able to make the really important decisions and he also was the only one with the power to say yes or no in the association.
When Luis Segura, Grondona’s right-hand man, took over as AFA president it did not prevent an internal leadership bid starting which has continued to deepen since then and has left the soccer entity in a virtual acephaly.
Argentina’s change in government, on December 10, 2015, put into check the first division tournament’s television transmission system, which had been in the hands of the government since 2009.
Argentina’s new president Mauricio Macri’s promise to gradually cut funds accelerated the dispute between the AFA’s various leading sectors.
Also, a complaint regarding embezzling funds ended in a court case in which Segura was among those charged, along with other leaders and the three chefs de cabinet during Cristina Fernandez’s last government. Despite this, Segura is still the AFA president.
The institutional crisis began deteriorating the sporting situation for different Argentine soccer clubs, not including the national team as the individual quality of the team’s members, headed by Messi, supplanted any deficit.
However, over the years, the number of youth players selected for the national team have been diminishing and now there are not even assigned coaches for the national youth teams. The only training on offer for the young players are a few sessions a week led by Julio Jorge Olarticoechea, former World Cup 1986 Mexico champion.
Argentina finishing Brazil 2014 in second place under Alejandro Sabella’s leadership was Julio Grondona’s last milestone before he died, and it only represented a mirage of what Argentine soccer was going through.
The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) sent two observers to the AFA and, following a report, ordered the new elections, planned for June 30, to be suspended. The observers also put together a normalizing committee to put an end to the internal leadership crisis.
Beyond the failures meant by losing to Chile in penalties in the finals of the past two editions of the Copa America, Martino’s departure is the result of difficulties in putting together a national Under-23 team for the upcoming Olympic Games.
With a month to go before the sporting event gets underway in Rio de Janeiro, Martino had to postpone the start of training by one week since he only had eight confirmed players due to clubs refusing to let their players participate.
On Tuesday, the president of the Argentine Olympic Committee, Gerardo Werthein, warned of a “50 percent possibility” that Argentina would not be able to participate in the soccer competition at the Games.
Hence, the country that has won two World Cups, 14 Copa Americas, two Olympic gold medals and one silver, who gave the world Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, is now currently facing its worst crisis in history.
However, the most alarming factor is not the present, it is the future. Without leaders, without a coach for the national team, without Messi and in a deep economic crisis, the future is very bleak.