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SPORTS | 23-11-2019 10:03

Boca legend Riquelme shakes up club’s elections

Dynasty first formed when Macri came to the Xeneize presidency in 1995 is under threat, after retired playmaker jumps into club politics.

If the soon to be ex-President Mauricio Macri thought that the worst had already passed for him in Argentina’s nightmare 2019, he was sorely mistaken.

The Cambiemos leader has already seen his re-election bid fail and the behemoth, crucial Buenos Aires Province fall back into Peronist hands over the last month; now he risks seeing his allies lose control of his beloved Boca Juniors.

In the Bombonera, as in Argentina, the parallels are impossible to avoid. A mercurial figure whose every public appearance invites comment, who makes the headlines with every word that comes out of their mouth, boosting the opposition with their presence not as a presidential challenger, but further down the list. Just as Cristina Fernández de Kirchner placed in check the entire Macri administration with her endorsement of Alberto Fernández, so has the unique Juan Román Riquelme made his move, accepting the second vicepresidential slot on a ticket headed by former chief Jorge Amor Ameal. Boca’s elections just got very interesting, indeed.

‘THE FOOTBALL SIDE’

“After the final in Madrid, my mind was changed because my son Agustín asked me to go back to the club,” Riquelme told Fox Sports in an explosive interview on Wednesday. “I hope I can help the institution to win again and Agustín to celebrate once more.”

He went on: “Clearly I am not ready to be president right now, but we will see in four years, and both Jorge and Mario [Pergolini, first vice-presidential candidate] will help me in that sense. If the people vote for us, I will take care of the football side.”

That last comment could not fail to hit its mark. First under Macri, and for the last eight years under Daniel Angelici, Boca have consolidated their position as Argentina’s biggest football powerhouse. No other side – not even River Plate – comes close to matching the revenues or budget surplus generated by the Xeneize machine, a factor that has allowed the club to spend a small fortune on squad improvements in the quest for glory.

But those encouraging account numbers are no substitute for titles, and that is where Angelici has fallen short. The burly ex-bingo hall impresario –and Macri’s alleged wheelerdealer in the murky world of the Argentine justice system – told fans in 2011 to “have your passport ready. We’ll take care of the rest,” an allusion to an imminent return to success in the Copa Libertadores and globe-trotting adventures competing for the Club World Cup.

Reality, though, has fallen short of expectations. Boca have failed to break a Copa drought which stretches back to that Riquelme-inspired campaign of 2007, falling short twice in the semi-final and, most painfully, losing to their arch-rivals last year on the unfa milia r stage of Madrid’s Bernabeu.

While River gear up for what could be their third Libertadores title in five years today against Flamengo, the Xeneize can only watch on from afar, while internal politics dominates club headlines.

NO BINARY CHOICE

December 8’s elections cannot be boiled down, as some might wish, to a simple Macri/ anti-Macri binary choice. Media personality Pergolini, for one, has been vocal in his support of the current presidency over the last four years, while Ameal was his chosen successor in 2007 upon taking up the post of Buenos Aires City mayor and leaving the Bombonera hotseat.

Indeed, up until last week Riquelme was in active talks with figures across the Boca arc, including Angelici and his anointed heir Christian Grimaudo. But should the club legend help Ameal across the line – by no means guaranteed given the immense resources at the disposal of the incumbent administration – it would indeed signal the end of an era in the south of Argentina’s capital.

A dynasty that was formed when Macri first came to the presidency way back in 1995 and oversaw Boca’s most successful period in history is now creaking, and might just go the same way as Argentina and Buenos Aires Province before the year is out.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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