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SPORTS | 07-01-2023 22:48

What lies ahead for Argentine football in 2023

Your (tongue-firmly-in-cheek) guide to what lies ahead for Argentine football in the next 12 months.

Greetings, fellow world champions, how do you do?

Just like a stopped clock is right twice a day, this now famous* (read consistently by more than four people each year) Annual Review was bang on target in predicting glory and triumph for Argentina to finish 2022 with a flourish. Not to mention a generous dose of chaos and confusion, which was perhaps rather less difficult to forecast. Really, it was a double celebration; we all know Messi and Co took gold, but what of Mateo, resident of Indio Rico, General Pringles, proud winner of the Aberdeen Angus World Cup and, without wishing to resort to hyperbole, probably the most beautiful bovine on the planet (next to Lautaro Martínez). ARGENTINA! ARGENTINA! ARGENTINA!

But where do we go from here? There will not be another World Cup in the next 12 months (probably for the best, gives us a chance to get those resting heart-rates down to a moderately healthy level), nor even, shockingly, a Copa America, that competition which seems to be played every six weeks or whenever CONMEBOL get bored and decide to liven things up. Not that 2023 promises to be uneventful, of course: elections are on the horizon to decide whose turn it is to botch the organisation of the next great sporting celebration Argentina enjoys and point the finger of blame when it all goes belly-up. And the economy.

And on that optimistic note, Happy 2023 everybody! Away we go!

 

January

After two weeks' journey and 12 consecutive public holidays, the Argentina squad finally arrives in the centre of Buenos Aires to celebrate their World Cup win. They are subsequently rushed to hospital to be treated for severe dehydration, alcohol poisoning and sunstroke.

The start of the Liga Profesional de Fútbol season is put in doubt when it transpires the Argentine Football Association (AFA), still celebrating from Qatar, have forgotten to pay any of the referees and support staff, leading to a strike. The impasse is eventually solved when Claudio ‘Chiqui’ Tapia promises to use one of the giant bags of US dollars won at the World Cup to pay off the disgruntled officials.

 

February

Ten kilos overweight and still hungover, Lionel Messi finally reports back to Paris Saint-Germain training. He scores four goals the next day against Dijon and celebrates by showing off the World Cup tattoo emblazoned on his holiday belly.

FIFA rules that until Independiente settle their 10-million-peso debt with a Villa Domínico supermarket, they are subject to a worldwide embargo on purchasing Sprite and Lays crisps.

 

March

Chiqui Tapia announces a sudden expansion of the Liga Profesional to 70 teams, mid-season. 'Why not?' he replies when asked over the alteration, as fans of Douglas Haig, Central Ballester and Gimnasia y Tiro de Salta jump for joy following their unexpected promotions.

The mystery of what AFA has done with Argentina's World Cup winnings is revealed when a 45-metre beanstalk sprouts overnight in the middle of one of the Ezeiza training pitches.


 

April

Boca Juniors club president Juan Román Riquelme is finally pressed for his opinion on December's heroics. “It was alright, yeh, quite enjoyed it,” is his exuberant response.

Struggling for form in his first months in charge, Martín Demichelis resorts to donning a Marcelo Gallardo mask during River Plate training and games. The gambit immediately pays off as results improve at the Monumental.

 

May

In spite of their struggles in the Primera Nacional, Patronato make a big Libertadores splash as consecutive victories over Flamengo and Peñarol take the side top their group and into the last 16.

Messi adds a fifth Champions League win to his bulging collection and seconds after lifting the trophy reveals he is walking away from both PSG and football. “Andá pallá, bobo,” he retorts when asked to explain this shock decision.

 

June

Amid predictable chaos the bloated Copa Liga Profesional reaches its conclusion, with the packed fixture schedule leaving many teams on the point of breakdown. Despite winning just three matches and scoring 12 goals all season, Boca Juniors squeeze into the play-offs.

Advancing to the final, Chaco For Ever stand in the Xeneize's way. A dull match ends in penalties, with Agustín Rossi saving all five Chaco attempts to send the trophy to the Bombonera. Juan Román Riquelme almost smiles.

 

July

AFA causes a stir by organising a Finalissima between Argentina and Karpatalja, current holders of the CONIFA World Cup for non-FIFA recognised nations. A tense clash is decided on penalties, with Yuriy Toma smashing the decisive kick directly into Emiliano Martínez's exposed backside to hand Argentina the trophy.

Messi turns the world of football on its head: he is coming back to lead Patronato's final Libertadores sprint. Rumours are rife that this is a result of losing a bet with Mateo.

 

August

Drawn together in the Copa Libertadores, Boca and River warm hearts across Argentina with a moving message of unity before the game. “United in saluting our World Cup champions,” reads the banner that both captains carry to the centre of the pitch before embracing. The game itself lasts just 20 minutes before being abandoned due to a mass brawl that leads to seven players from each team receiving red cards.

The embargo looming over Independiente is finally lifted when the club agrees to send Leandro Fernández to work as a cashier in the supermarket in return for three packets of Oreos and four AA batteries. Their joy is short-lived, however, as they are deducted six points over a long-standing dry-cleaning debt.

 

September

The municipality of Pujato, Santa Fe, unanimously resolves to honour its favourite son by naming every single street Lionel Scaloni. Mayhem ensues.

With results at River still underwhelming, Demichelis takes the drastic step of undergoing comprehensive cosmetic surgery in order to perfectly resemble Gallardo. To no avail: the next week, a 2-1 league loss to Sacachispas sees him dismissed.

 

October

Emiliano Martínez is separated from his wife after she discovers him in the middle of a ménage à trois with his World Cup and Premier League Best Goalkeeper awards. The couple are eventually reunited after Dibu promises to cease all romantic activity with trophies, prizes or any other inanimate object rewarding excellence.

A café in Santa Rosa hits the headlines when the ghostly image of Diego Maradona appears on a slice of toast, predicting further glory for Argentina in 2026. Millions flock to the new site of pilgrimage before the bar is shut down by the late footballer’s daughters as a gross breach of copyright.

 

November

Recently relegated Federal A outfit Patronato are inspired by a Messi hat-trick to take the 2023 Copa Libertadores trophy with victory over Palmeiras in the final. “This was a big one,” the man himself admits to reporters as he becomes the first footballer to win both continental competitions in the same year. “Now, andá pallá.”

The presidential run-off between Alberto Fernández and Horacio Larreta Rodríguez ends in an improbable 13.1 million – 13.1 million tie. Bewildered at what to do next, the Supreme Court determines by unanimous decision to elect Chiqui Tapia as interim head of state.

 

December

One month into the Tapia administration, with the economy growing at 25 percent annually and inflation down to zero, Chiqui is confirmed in his post for the next 15 years. In his acceptance speech the now-joint Argentina and AFA president reveals the Liga Profesional will be further expanded in 2024. He then settles in to watch the first Argentine land on the moon in a rocket assembled by the Ezeiza training ground staff.

After 10 long years, AFA affirms that with a little luck 2024 might finally see away fans return to the stands.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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