If Argentina mourned the first anniversary of the death of Diego Maradona, Thursday ended with an explosion of joy for River Plate, the classic rival of the idol’s team, a well-known Boca Juniors militant. Commanded by Marcelo Gallardo, a 45-year-old totem who has been training River for seven and a half years and this Thursday he added his 13th Olympic round, the club that won the most Argentine leagues beat Racing 4-0 and became champion of the First Division championship Division 2021. The superiority in the result was the same as in the tournament: in the absence of three dates for the end of the season, River takes 12 points to the second, Workshops and Defense and Justice. Only three times in history had he been a champion so long before.
More focused on international competitions since his inauguration, in mid-2014, curiously it is the first league that River wins with Gallant and the second for the club in its last 21 editions, since 2008, but the 37th in history. Boca follows, with 34 First class tournaments. Nothing will compare to the maximum achievement of Gallardo’s cycle, the final of the 2018 Copa Libertadores against his greatest rival, but this Thursday’s triumph means at a certain point the cancellation of a pending debt.
The consecrational night was surrounded by two other peculiarities. The River audience cheered Maradona after the tribute that the AFA arranged before each game, a novelty for a fans in a historical short circuit with the idol. What was not surprising were the usual police and organizational errors that corrode Argentine football. A large number of false tickets and a failed security operation left thousands of people outside the Monumental stadium, who could not enter despite having legal tickets. The police repressed with rubber bullets.
Agustín Palavecino, Julián Álvarez and Braian Romero (2) scored the goals of another night of pleasure for River, who won 11 of the last 12 matches of the tournament and drew 1. If Argentina and River were always cradles of cracks, the brilliant appearance of This season is that of Álvarez, a 21-year-old striker who added to his polished technique voracity in the area: with 17 goals he leads the professional league scorers table -16 of them in the final 12 games-. The last time a River player finished as the tournament’s top scorer was 31 tournaments ago, in 2002.
Like a blood pact, the lasting bond between River and Gallardo -already among the five technicians with the longest tenure in office in the history of domestic football- he contrasts against the unhinged Argentine tournaments, whose organization changes every year. The First Division championships had 14 formats and 15 names in the last 10 years and will undergo further modifications next season, when the league will become the one with the largest number of teams in the world, with 28. In this context, it is more atypical that River 2022 may suffer the loss of Gallardo, who at the beginning of this month, prior to the arrival of Xavi to Barcelona, he sounded like a possible replacement for Ronald Koeman: his contract expires in December and he has not yet announced whether he will renew it.
River’s title comes at a time of duality for Argentine soccer. The excellent 2021 of your national team, champion of America with Lionel Messi at the MaracanaUnbeaten in the last 27 games and with a guaranteed qualification for the Qatar World Cup in 2022, it is opposed to domestic tournaments that seem designed to suit the needs of the leaders.
The Professional League – that is its current name, as in the previous ones it was Super League – that has just consecrated River has 26 participants, a number well above the average for the rest of the world. Only Argentina and five other First Division championships have more than 20 teams: Venezuela (21), Kiribati (23), Equatorial Guinea (24), Libya (24) and the joint US-Canada league (27). The historical number in Argentina until 2014 was 20, as were the major leagues, such as England, Spain, Italy, France and Brazil (Germany has 18). In 2022, with the jump to 28 clubs, Argentina will become the world record, although in 2015 it reached 30.
Without relegation in the First Division since 2020, the local championships, especially those of the Ascent, generate permanent controversies. The striking campaign of Barracas Central, the humble club of the president of the AFA, Claudio Tapia, which this Monday lost to Tigre in the final due to promotion to the First Division, was favored by constant arbitration decisions. Domestic football also suffers from the unstoppable inflation that plagues the national economy, at 50 percent per year, and the constant depreciation of the peso: if Argentine clubs were always exporters, today it is difficult for them to retain their figures more than ever. This year neither team advanced to the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana.
In this context, River and Gallardo – it is not clear in what order – mean an oasis. After a hesitant start to the season, which included a rare quarter-final elimination the Liberators Against Atlético Mineiro of Brazil, the team chained a formidable run. River has 17 games without defeats and in all the Professional League games he scored goals, 9 in the last two home appearances.
After the pandemic, and due to the economic crisis, River and Boca lowered the average age of their teams by three years, from 28 years to 25. With the spiritual leadership of the old chiefs, Enzo Pérez (35), Franco Armani (35) , Leonardo Ponzio (39, who won his 16th title at River), Javier Pinola (38) and Jonatan Maidana (36), Gallardo found unexpected answers in young people like Álvarez, Santiago Simón (19), Benjamín Rollheiser (21), Felipe Peña (20), Enzo Fernández (20), Federico Girotti (22) and Héctor Martínez (23), the new names for the old River, the most champion of the Argentine League with the traditional formats or the riveted ones of today. also with Gallardo.
The only thing that River fans are asking now is that he Doll follow in 2022.