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SPORTS | 27-04-2020 21:48

Football season in Argentina is over due to virus crisis, says AFA chief

AFA chief Claudio Tapia says 2019-2020 football season, interrupted since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, is officially over, cancelling Copa Superliga.

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) has announced that the 2019-2020 football season, interrupted since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, is officially over.

The 24-team Copa Superliga, of which one round had been played, will also be cancelled and no clubs will be relegated from the top flight due to the disruption, officials confirmed. Relegation is currently calculated by a complicated system of points taken over a three-year period, known as 'promedios.'

The league title was decided back in March, when Boca Juniors beat Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata 1-0 to pip their arch-rivals River Plate to the post on the final day.

AFA President Claudio 'Chiqui' Tapia confirmed the decision this morning, blaming the move on the lengthy suspension of local football due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the decision would be officially put to a vote at an Executive Committee meeting tomorrow.

Without a potential date for the game's return, the decision was inevitable, he added. "The idea is to restart play but when authorities allow it and with maximum security."

"We are going to end the tournaments so we can designate the teams qualified for continental competitions next year," Tapia told TNT, adding that "there will be no relegation in this season." 

Such a move will save clubs like Gimnasia, coached by legend Diego Maradona, from the drop. Central Córdoba de Santiago del Estero and Patronato will also escape dropping down a division.

Tapia said the top division would expand as a result of the decision, with teams joining from the second flight.

The AFA chief said that "the next season will also be played without relegation," adding that the promedios system would return "in the 2022 tournament."

“This is a global crisis that needs us all to do something. Maybe the measures will be unpopular, but we have to take them," Tapia told TNT.

Spots in the next Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana will be awarded based on the standings from March 15, when all football activity was suspended in the South American nation.

Boca Juniors, River Plate, Racing Club and Argentinos Juniors have already secured their places in next year's Copa Libertadores, but there were still two spots up for grabs.

Tapia said the decision was taken as part of measures to save clubs, given the economic crisis facing the country and football in Argentina.

"There are economic realities. In football, the economic recovery will be slow," he said.

Not all clubs are said to be happy at the move – both Boca and River wanted to keep relegation in place and now the country's largest clubs will have to cope with the addition of more matches on their fixture list.

AFA also said in its statement that it is “indispensable” that fans are able to attend games when competitions return.

“We don't know the science for sure for soccer to return, that decision is not for us,” Tapia said in his TV interview. “Everyone's will is to play when we can, and if we have to play in January because we could not do that during this year, we will do that.”

AFA also said the next season might not begin until January.

Argentina has been in lockdown since March 20, with quarantine restrictions remaining in place until at least May 10.

– TIMES/AFP

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