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SPORTS | 18-12-2023 12:19

Riquelme scores resounding victory over Macri in Boca Juniors elections

Playmaker turned club director Juan Román Riquelme sees off challenge from former president Mauricio Macri in crunch elections to decide future of Boca Juniors; Javier Milei booed by fans as he visits La Bombonera to cast vote.

Juan Roman Riquelme will be the next president of Boca Juniors.

The club’s former playmaker and current vice-president will take full control of the legendary Buenos Aires club after defeating an opposition ticket led by Andres Ibarra and former national president Mauricio Macri in a massive election at the club’s La Bombonera stadium on Sunday.

Opposition candidate Ibarra, who led the club between 2004 and 2007, conceded defeat on Sunday night as initial results showed that Riquelme’s ‘Soy Bostero’ slate had more than 64 percent of the vote. 

"Based on the difference we have now, it is enough to recognise that we have lost," said Ibrarra, a former government minister in Macri’s 2015-2019 government.

Riquelme, 45, will take over as president in the next few days. The Xeneize idol, who was swamped by fans as he cast his vote on Sunday, will be seconded by current club president Jorge Amor Ameal.

A record 43,367 club members turned out to vote despite heavy rain and winds in the capital. Three large tents were set up on the pitch of La Bombonera to house 288 ballot boxes and officials overseeing the count.

The turn-out is the largest-ever for a club in Argentina and the second-highest global tally, only bettered by the 57,088 members who turned out to vote in Barcelona’s 2010 election.

A few days ago, Riquelme had called on “all members” to cast a vote. Expressing confidence over his chances of victory (“We are going to win, I have no doubt"), he predicted a "95 to 5" victory over Macri’s ticket – a level he didn’t quite reach.

The lead-up to the club vote had been marked by harsh criticism from both main tickets and a two-week suspension after Macri and Ibarra filed an appeal before the courts citing alleged “irregularities” in the electoral roll.

Eventually, the vote was ordered to go ahead on the condition that around 13,000 members vote using different ballot boxes.

"The court gave its verdict and it was possible to vote,” said Riquelme on Sunday, surrounded by fans. “This was a party! I'm going to die a ‘Bostero’ just like them, and today is a day we have to enjoy.”


Macri absent

Macri himself was nowhere to be seen on Sunday. He was travelling to Saudi Arabia as part of his role as head of the FIFA Foundation, where the Club World Cup is currently being played.

The former head of state, who led Argentina for four years from 2015, led Boca between 1995 and 2007 before jumping into politics. His spell in charge of the Xeneize saw the side win 17 titles, including four Copa Libertadores  (2000, 2001, 2003 and 2007) and two Intercontinental Cups (2000 and 2003).

His candidacy was supported by Argentina’s new President Javier Milei and ex-Boca striker Martín Palermo, the club’s all-time top scorer who was tipped to take over as head coach in the event that Macri emerged successful.

Macri had vowed to build a new 105,000-capacity stadium for the club in La Boca and to lead the team back to the top after a mixed few years.

 

boca elections

 

Riquelme, who already held much of the power as club vice-president, will now take control of the side for the next four years. His main mission is to bring back success to Boca, who failed to qualify for the 2024 Copa Libertadores after a poor domestic campaign.

Boca, who lost last year’s Libertadores final, will have to aim for the Copa Sudamericana, a tournament most fans feel is beneath them. 

The new leadership has reportedly targeted Huracán’s Diego Martínez for the head coach role and are expected to move quickly as they seek a successor to Jorge Almirón, who quit the club after their Libertadores final defeat to Fluminese.

Martinez had a previous stint at Boca between 2011 and 2017, when he coached the club’s youth sides. 

 

Milei jeered

President Javier Milei was among those who visited the stadium to cast a vote on Sunday, but the head of state was not given a warm welcome by fans. 

A week after taking office as head of state, Milei entered La Bombonera stadium dressed in a rain jacket, the morning after a heavy storm caused severe damage across Buenos Aires City and Buenos Aires Province, where 14 people died.

But upon his arrival, hundreds of Riquelme’s backers began to boo and jeer the libertarian leader.

“The club belongs to the members,” chanted fans, many of whom oppose the Sociedad Anónima Deportiva (SAD) model favoured by Milei and Macri that would see clubs sold off to private firms.

Riquelme, who accuses Macri and Milei of plotting to sell-off Boca and rip the soul out of the club, is expected to give a press conference this week to talk about the result and outline his plans for the future.

Argentina’s president offered his support to Macri’s ‘Dale Boca’ ticket during the election campaign, supporting his ally’s candidacy and accusing Riquelme of installing “populism” within the club’s leadership.

Macri condemned the reception given to Milei in a post on the X social network, criticising the “tremendously rude and not spontaneous insults.”

"What we saw, unfortunately, is what has been happening for four years with Boca. I hope for the future and the good of our club that it ends today and changes once and for all,” he said.

 

– TIMES/AFP/PERFIL
 

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