Argentina Shuts Down Soccer? Oh, That’s A Riot

In the realm of soccer powers, it seems like traditionally, there are two centers of power: Western Europe and South America. Indeed, every single World Cup winner (and most runners-up and semi-finalists) are from one of the two areas.

Argentina Soccer Riot Guards
(Unfortunately, the graffiti doesn’t say “Big fans of you guys and all you do.” It never does.)

But while European soccer continues to flourish, throwing around unholy sums of money on the club scene (we mean on soccer clubs, not in bars - though we’re sure they enjoy doing that too), South America has essentially reverted to Brazil and her 12 ugly sisters. Nowhere is that more evident than Argentina; the former powerhouse has fallen so far off that losses like 3-0 to Ecuador now seem like the least of their worries.

According to REUTERS, Argentina has actually suspended the start of their soccer season, and fans are predictably furious:

The kickoff to the Argentine domestic soccer season was put on hold indefinitely on Tuesday, while the game’s national governing body sought a solution to clubs’ massive debts.

Bussed-in protesters also attacked the Argentina Football Association (AFA) headquarters, smashing windows and demanding the resignation of AFA president Julio Grondona.

(video via 101 GREAT GOALS)

In case you don’t speak Argentinese [dude, come on, it’s Spanish–ed.], the signs are quite accusatory:

In particular, the mob scrawled “Julio Grondona thief” on the wall on the AFA building, and handed out leaflets saying “Grondona, liar and traitor … resign now” before police eventually dispersed the demonstrators.

The debtors? Some of the best clubs themselves, owing unholy sums of money all over the place:

Some of Argentina’s biggest and most successful clubs are among the major debtors, including former South American champions River Plate, Racing Club and Independiente.

Sources close to the tax authorities say clubs owe the government 300 million Argentine pesos ($78.43 million), on top of debts to the AFA and, to a lesser extent, their own players.

How, precisely, does a club get that far into debt to the government? Shouldn’t someone have pulled some plugs long before they got this deep?

Also, of particular note is the fact that this isn’t the first time such calamity has stricken a South American nation even this year; earlier, Peru’s national team just straight up quit. It’s not as bad as all club soccer disappearing for the year - and Peru’s team sucks to boot - but it’s safe to say there are serious systemic problems in South America, ones with potentially dire consequences for the sport for years to come.