Twenty-twenty-one has officially come to an end, and what a year it was. On the few occasions we were not troubled by the impending pandemic-induced apocalypse or arguing over which vaccine would afford protection from infection or more likely turn us all into communist/ Bill Gates-controlled drones, we watched on fondly as Argentine football trundled on as enthralling and infuriating as ever.
Some of the pressing issues of course, like criticisms of hapless referees or arguments over whether the Boca truco team's glorious championship victory was superior to River's chess triumph, were easy enough to predict. But there were also a few surprises along the way: the bitter battle between Diego Maradona's lawyer and family to decide who had more right to squeeze every peso out of the late legend's name; Marcos Rojo brandishing a fire extinguisher as a deadly weapon in Brazil; and perhaps most unexpectedly, Argentina actually managing to win the final of a football competition.
If the sport fit all of that drama into the space of 12 short months, it should shock nobody that our review of 2022 includes even more curious – and some might say – outlandish, events.
The nation is divided down the middle over whether Boca star Carlos Izquierdoz or River's Agustín Palavecino made the most impressive sandcastle during their summer holiday in Pinamar. After weeks of fierce debate, a panel of experts eventually decrees that the detailing on Palavecino's towers gives him the edge.
San Lorenzo's pre-season preparations in Mar del Plata take an inconvenient turn when the entire squad leaves half an hour before their opening friendly against Godoy Cruz due to unpaid wages. New coach Leandro Romagnoli promptly scours the beach for 11 tourists wearing club shirts and scrapes together their match fees by selling churros. He resigns after a 15-0 reverse.
Fearful of breaching copyright and falling foul of the Maradona family, the Liga Profesional bans the use of the number 10 over the course of the season. Teams experiment with 9+1 and 8+2 jerseys which prove too confusing for players, so the Roman numeral X is eventually decided upon for the league's playmakers.
Racing Club's plans for the 2022 campaign take a turn for the worse when coach Fernando Gago falls off the bench in their opening game and ruptures his Achilles tendon, ruling him out of action for six months.
Having heard nothing from Lionel Messi since Christmas, Paris Saint-Germain eventually track down their star diving for pearls off the coast of American Samoa. The forward flies back to the City of Lights and the next day scores six to see off the challenge of closest Ligue 1 rivals Marseille.
A historic court ruling judges that any player or team that channels the spirit of Maradona for inspiration is in breach of celestial image rights and must pay for the privilege to call upon the legend's aura, whether they win or lose the subsequent match.
The spectre of coronavirus continues to haunt Argentina, which as autumn arrives brings in new supporter protocols. Fans are now banned from sharing joints in the stands to reduce the risk of spreading infection, with health authorities advising cocaine and ecstasy as healthier alternatives to make the Liga Profesional watchable.
Barracas Central go to great lengths to insist they are receiving no special treatment following promotion. The appointment of referee ‘Quichi’ Patia, however, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the AFA president except for an extravagant handlebar moustache and is chosen to officiate all of Barracas' games, raises some eyebrows. Suspicions are only further raised when a questionable 97th minute penalty awarded by Patia hands Barracas victory in the Copa Liga Profesional final.
Carlos Tevez makes a shock return to Boca for the Copa semi-final. At half-time, though, with his side trailing 2-0, he announces his departure in an emotional yet brief press conference, explaining that he no longer has the strength to continue.
A motivated Gonzalo Higuaín reports for World Cup duty in Qatar, only to find out that the tournament does not start for another five months and in any case he was unlikely to make Lionel Scaloni's squad. The veteran striker decides to stay for a two-week holiday he describes as “very pleasant.”
Furious at Boca's Copa Libertadores elimination at the hands of Palmeiras, Marcos Rojo commandeers an ambulance cart and goes on a slow rampage through the streets of São Paulo. It takes three squadrons of Military Police to eventually apprehend the defender, who is banned for three Libertadores matches.
Scandal hits as ‘Quichi’ Patia is revealed to be none other than ‘Chiqui’ Tapia, and both men are forced to resign from their respective positions.
Subsequent AFA elections throw up a shock result as the 80 voters choose Tapia's second cousin over Marcelo Tinelli by a 41-40 winning margin.
Messi's commitment to PSG is once more called into question when he gives son Mateo his place in the starting line-up for the boy's seventh birthday. Mateo enjoys a solid if rather eventful debut, netting against Cannes before being sent off in the 47th minute for ungentlemanly conduct.
Anti-quarantine extremists are up in arms when images of deserted stands appear during Sarmiento de Arsenal de Sarandí's home clash with Patronato. The home club is forced to clarify that the stadium was actually open, but it was a rainy evening and nobody wished to attend.
The Copa Libertadores final throws up a surprise winner: Barracas Central, who overcome the obvious handicap of not having qualified for the competition in the first place to thrash seven-man Palmeiras 4-0 in the final and deny the Brazilian side their third consecutive victory.
The season in Argentina ends, which means it is time to talk about whether Marcelo Gallardo stays at River or not again. While neither River nor Boca take the title, the Millonarios claim bragging rights for the season as national strip poker champions.
Argentina advance to the quarter-finals of the Qatar World Cup by way of a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over France. They have to negotiate the last-eight without goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, who received a one-match suspension for sexually assaulting an advertising hoarding after his match-winning save against Kylian Mbappé.
The World Cup final between Argentina and Brazil does not fail to disappoint, with each team coming to the fore with sparkling moments of play interspersed with uncompromising tackles and regular set-tos. Messi finally seals victory with a last-minute free-kick and celebrates by supping Quilmes from the decapitated skull of Richarlison, in classic mediaeval warlord fashion.
The Albiceleste's joy is nevertheless short-lived, as they are accused of performing an unlawful imitation of Maradona in winning the World Cup and obliged by an injunction to hand back the trophy.
After nine long years, the AFA affirms that with a little luck 2023 might finally see away fans return to the stands.