Thursday, July 18, 2024

SPORTS | 17-11-2023 00:30

Boca gears up for the election to end all elections

Vice-President Juan Román Riquelme will lock horns with former Xeneize chief and Argentine head of state Mauricio Macri in one of the biggest, potentially nastiest football election ever witnessed.

It will be the election to end all elections, one which has Argentina in uproar and will dominate the headlines until the very last vote is cast and then counted.

Not the one on Sunday, of course, which is outside this column's remit and about which we cannot talk too much anyway thanks to local election law. The run-off clash between Sergio Massa and Javier Milei serves as a curtain-raiser to a mammoth showdown in Boca Juniors, where current club Vice-President Juan Román Riquelme will lock horns with former Xeneize chief and Argentine head of state Mauricio Macri in one of the biggest, potentially nastiest football election ever witnessed.

Just weeks after lending his support to Milei for the upcoming presidential run-off, the ever-versatile Macri announced on Monday that he would be accompanying Andrés Ibarra, a minister during his government, in a unified opposition to Román for December's polls.

“For me it is an honour to announce that you will be accompanying my ticket as vice-president,” Ibarra beamed to kick off the press conference in Puerto Madero. “We have before us an election which we could not go into with a divided opposition, to recover lost glory and put Boca among the five biggest clubs in the world. Macri in turn focused his speech on the side’s legendary Number 10, calling out his “arbitrary, authoritarian and overbearing” administration – while also losing a few supporter points with references to Riquelme's supposedly famous 'rabona' against Mario Yepes (it was a nutmeg) and his famous pass to set up the second Intercontinental Cup goal against Real Madrid (it was the first).

There is no love lost in that relationship. Even while Macri was sitting at the Boca helm during the 1990s and 2000s the Xeneize could barely contain the obvious friction between the two, typified most notably by Román's famous ‘Topo Gigio’ hand-cupping gesture to the directors' box during a 2001 Superclásico victory over River Plate. 

But the timing of Macri's re-entrance into club politics is also significant. The week prior to his announcement, the entire football world was convulsed by comments from new political partner Milei lending his apparent support to the privatisation of professional and amateur clubs alike, leading to an unprecedented unity at the top level of the Argentine game to maintain the current member-owned, non-profit status quo. 

The decision, of course, also follows hot on the heels of Boca's Copa Libertadores final defeat to Fluminense; something that Macri, who won the competition multiple times as president, and his allies were quick to jump on as evidence of the current malaise at the Bombonera.

In spite of that setback, Riquelme's position in La Boca still appears to be unassailable. The candidate will run off the back of the six titles the Xeneize picked up during his four years as vice-president and head of the football secretariat, as well as the club's enviable economic health (even allowing for the ravages of those Covid-affected years) and a new commitment to promoting young talent which saw six academy graduates take the field during the final – not to mention his continued deity-like presence amongst the majority of fans.

Against their formidable opponent, Ibarra/Macri will put up the latter's own, highly impressive track record at the helm and ambitious plans for a new, gargantuan Bombonera capable of holding each and every one of the club's members, while also trying to ignore less than positive memories of former supremo and Macri ally Daniel Angelici during his eight-year administration. And one thing is certain: there will be no shortage of heated exchanges between these two sworn enemies, dirty tricks and character assassinations on the way to disputing control of the club, making sure that elections will continue to dominate the news cycle long after Sunday's outcome is revealed.

Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards


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