July 29, 2021

The incredible factory of players blessed by football | It's LaLiga in EL PAÍS

The incredible factory of players blessed by football | It's LaLiga in EL PAÍS

A sign at the entrance to the offices of the Superliga Argentina de Fútbol, ​​in the heart of Puerto Madero, one of the most modern neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, gives an idea of ​​what happens behind those doors: "Where the stars are born". Argentina is a great football factory. His factory is the one that more foreign players has contributed to Spanish football throughout history. With 550, the southernmost nation of America doubles to the second largest provider of LaLiga, Brazil, which does not reach 300 names. The hegemony remains today. 28 Argentine players and five coaches, more than any other nationality, participate in LaLiga Santander.

Why do they arrive from the other side of the planet? What distinguishes them? Who are they? How is Argentine soccer? There are those who associate it with a carefree way of playing; others, to the gambeta and the filigree; many, to aggressiveness and to what canchero But all agree on something: passion and fidelity for colors both in the field and in the stands is colossal. That is where LaLiga has come to share experiences and to promote the professional development of an eternal diamond in the rough. Paula Robla, one of the delegates of Global Network, the internationalization program of the Spanish entity, states: "Argentina's soccer is for the whole world. It is a model of success in the development of quarries. Any child and any girl plays football since childhood, is part of their day to day, is involved in culture. And we come to enhance it. "

A little over a year ago, in August of 2017, Argentina reproduced the Spanish model. With the creation of the Superliga Argentina de Fútbol (SAF), the competition was separated from the Argentine Football Association (AFA). Mariano Elizondo, president of SAF, and former CEO of Ideas del Sur, one of the most important audiovisual producers in Argentina, summarizes his conception: "We were born to organize the finances of clubs, on the one hand, and competition, on the other " In 2017, Argentine soccer was stopped by the debts that the institutions had with the players. Elizondo, accountant and finance expert, sat down with the directors of each club to develop an economic roadmap: future income and future expenses. It was that simple to eradicate the debt. And soccer started.

In a year, in addition, the Superliga went from raising something less than four million euros in sponsorship to rub the 20. "Before there was no structure of sponsors or a plan to attract them," says Elizondo. That is one of the fundamental aspects of the collaboration of LaLiga, which formalized its support to Argentine football through the signing of an agreement in 2017. "We try to train clubs to create asset packages with which to attract sponsorships. There are some entities that, to this day, still do not exploit all their commercial potential. It is something that we trust to be able to contribute from the hand of the Superliga, "adds Robla, who has been steeped in Argentine culture in just over a year.

Argentine fans, with the flags of Messi, Pope Francisco and Maradona.
Argentine fans, with the flags of Messi, Pope Francisco and Maradona.

"The cooperation link with LaLiga also aims to improve the competition. There are many things in Spanish football that can be taken as reference: the audiovisual regulation, security in the stadiums, the figure of the match director … ", states the president of SAF. When LaLiga arrived in Buenos Aires, her Argentine sister still had no offices, recalls Elizondo. "In the first weeks we organized conferences between Argentina and the LaLiga departments in Spain to guide the creation of the structure of the Superliga: management of sponsorship offers, regulation of television broadcasts, licenses and security aspects", underlines the delegate of LaLiga .

To develop this last point, collaboration in security matters, LaLiga has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Security of Argentina. It is one of the most important agreements of the entity in the international plane that provides for the realization of training programs in both countries on the most state-of-the-art security systems in the stadiums. The program is completed with campaigns against racism and discrimination in the world of football and in favor of the inclusion and acceptance of diversity. Robla would also like to move some of his South American experience to Spain. And he chooses this: "We want to take from here the fidelity that the fans have for their teams. Here if you are a fan of a club … you are a fan of a club! "He says.

Gento ties the black bracelet to Argentine striker Alfredo di Stéfano.see photo gallery
Gento ties the black bracelet to Argentine striker Alfredo di Stéfano.

The Spanish-Argentine connection has more than a century. And it started on the lawn. Emilio Sagi-Barba, an Argentine son of Spaniards, made his debut at Barcelona in 1916. And he opened the doors to many of his compatriots who played and triumphed in Spain. Alfredo di Stéfano, Kempes, Maradona, Redondo, Simeone, Riquelme, Lionel Messi … are leaders in the history of the clubs where they played. Óscar Ruggeri, world champion with the Argentine national team in 1986, played for Logroñés and Real Madrid, where he won a league title: "All the Argentines who left for Spain opened doors. That's why it's important to be a professional when you go abroad. You do not have to think about making your life, period, "says the former player, who was a coach and is now a football commentator on television. "You have to do things well because that way you open the way for those who come behind and that spirit is very characteristic of Argentines who leave the country," says Ruggeri, a symbol of football in the Southern Cone.

Of the 28 Argentine soccer players who participate this year LaLiga Santander, five militate in the Leganés. So is his coach, Mauricio Pellegrino: "We hate losing. More than we want to win, we hate to lose … With all the good and the bad that entails ", says the character of the Argentine footballer. Pellegrino arrived in Barcelona in 1998 and the following year he finished at Valencia, where he reached two Champions League finals and won LaLiga twice. "The Argentines are very much trusted. There is a lot of similarity with the Spanish for the love we have for this sport. That cultural similarity and the performance we've had throughout history is our hallmark, "he says.

Pellegrino is one of the five Argentine coaches that he leads at LaLiga Santander this season. The other four are: Santiago Solari (Real Madrid), Antonio Mohamed (Celta), Diego Simeone (Atlético) and Eduardo Berizzo (Athletic). So was the deposed Leo Franco (Huesca). "For me, being in Leganés represents a great opportunity," says Pellegrino, who joined the club last summer. "I was very surprised by the great support we have, the union between the team and their fans", analyzes the coach. The Lega celebrates its third season in the top flight, something that the coach appreciates: "Dispute two consecutive seasons of LaLiga allows you to improve yourself year after year".

The development of Argentine football does not stop. This year, the Superliga will live a historical fact. On Saturday, Boca Juniors and River Plate, the two biggest clubs in the country, will play the first leg of the final of the Copa Libertadores (the American Champions) for the first time. The world talks about that party. The two entities are the ones that have contributed the most to LaLiga. And the growth of Argentine soccer further boosts the development of its quarries.

Fernando Guarini (right), director of amateur soccer and junior divisions of River, with Fernando Cavenaghi, canterano and one of the greatest idols of River Plate.
Fernando Guarini (right), director of amateur soccer and junior divisions of River, with Fernando Cavenaghi, canterano and one of the greatest idols of River Plate.

Fernando Guarini is the director of amateur football and junior divisions of River: "The recruitment of talent is being standardized throughout the country. Before, there were very few clubs with the capacity to discover and train players. Historically, from River we have exported many young people to Spain because we have been doing work in the lower categories for years. They come to Primera in another way, from the emotional, from the tactical, from the technical … they train five times a week and have everything they need. "

"Once I was with the father of a boy from the lower divisions and he confessed: 'If I have four milanesas [filetes empanados], two I give to him and one to each of his two brothers. ' Do you know the pressure that guy has? ", Summarizes Guarini. This is how football is lived in Argentina, and because of that process, which lasts almost 10 years, many of the young people pass away and then end up triumphing in Europe. In the last decade, River has sold players of its quarry abroad for more than 75 million euros, five times more than the most expensive signing of its history (Lucas Pratto).

Boca Juniors has premiered a little more than a year ago a high competition center for its youth in Ezeiza, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, sheltered by a huge forest. And for the development of its quarry has hired Claudio Vivas, exasistente of Marcelo Bielsa in the Argentine selection. "We have nothing to envy anyone. Boca must think of a structure that does not imitate anyone's. We have training camps at the height of our club. Gym, nutritional area, psychology, technology, medical assistance … ", stresses Vivas. The creation of modern and appropriate infrastructures is, for Elizondo, president of the Superliga, another of the teachings of LaLiga, which "requires clubs to do works. That remains. And it's something that inspires us, "he says.

Aware of the great factory that is Argentine football, Superliga also intervenes in youth competition to care for their development. "They took over the tournament, in which 26 teams participate. And the organization was improved. Before, the yellow cards count was not taken, "says Boca's youth soccer coordinator. "And the regulation was changed so that there could be five changes in the matches and that all the kids who travel can play," he says.

Claudio Vivas (left), coordinator of Boca Juniors, with Guillermo Barros Schelotto, coach of the first team.
Claudio Vivas (left), coordinator of Boca Juniors, with Guillermo Barros Schelotto, coach of the first team.

With the organizational and infrastructure issues covered, the clubs focus on trying to pamper players who are of training age and keep them away from problems that may undermine their growth as athletes and people. "We do workshops on sex education, drug prevention, talks with psychologists, nutritionists …", says Guarini, from River. "Many times you can not solve family problems, but the kid, who interests you from the football but also from the human, you contain it and protect it," he adds. "There are many who do not reach First: the neighborhood, a bad influence, an injury or the need to go out to work are obstacles that have to be overcome for 10 or 12 years," he explains.

And in Boca they are also aware of this: "We are always on alert to collaborate with the social aspect. Different cases appear every day. On this blackboard I write down the requests: my father lost his job, my father abandoned us, my brother is in jail, my best friend is drugged … We have an area of ​​psychology that deals exclusively with the individual aspects of the players ", comments Live

What distinguishes the Argentine player? For Ruggeri, it's the personality. Guarini, from River, points to the genetic factor. And Vivas, from Boca, emphasizes the technique of footballers. The three coincide in one: self-love, character and ambition. "When they took me to Logroño we went to the Bernabéu and I said to those who were with me: 'I'm going to come and play at this club," recalls Ruggeri, who also played for Boca and River. Many young people also dream of triumphing one day "on the other side of the pond". And each time, meet your goals, it seems more feasible.

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