March was a trying month for the Argentine Football Association, but it looks like April will be no picnic either. The AFA has attempted to weather multiple storms this month, but the problems are not going away. Following the player’s strike over unpaid wages in early March, and culminating with the double-punch of Lionel Messi’s suspension and the Albiceleste’s 2-0 defeat away to Bolivia, the AFA now must deal with its own internal strife. It all begins with inaugurating a new president on Wednesday.
Following the death of old leader Julio Humberto Grondona in 2014, the AFA has not had a stable leader at the top of its soccer pyramid. The 2015 elections to choose a successor were called a draw, with 38 votes for both Interim President Luis Segura and media mogul Marcelo Tinelli. The problem? The AFA only has 75 members.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been vocal about the need for the AFA to get their act together, saying that, if they fail to do so, “drastic measures will be required. We need stability and for Argentine football to be properly administered.”
After the world soccer governing body demanded that an outside committee be brought in to clean up the hierarchy of the AFA, Claudio Tapia was selected as the successor, without an election. He takes over the federation on Wednesday afternoon.
Tinelli, who was formerly in contention for Tapia’s new gig, will be taking over as the Director of the National Team. The two men take over at a time when theAFA is rifled with corruption long-term, but immediately, their first concern must be to find money to fund a national team that is currently at risk of missing the World Cup in 2018.
How bad are the AFA’s money woes? Roy Nemer, of Mundo Albiceleste, reported earlier this week a trifecta of concerning information. First, Messi pays for the team’s security out of pocket during international dates. Second, players are expected to pay for their own flights and food when on duty with the national team at the 2016 Copa America. Finally, and perhaps most concerning, Julio Olarticoechea, the country’s Olympics manager, had to borrow money from his daughter in order to stave off financial ruin last year.
Although the government eventually bailed the federation out during the March strike, the moves taken by the new administration could truly decide whether one of the world’s most famous soccer countries survives this mess, or whether dark days are on the horizon for the Argentinians.