The day that the football returns.

Professional football is returning to Buenos Aires and not soon enough. I admit my addiction has become overwhelming. A three week distraction travelling through Bolivia: seeing some of the world's finest sceneries and meeting people from fascinating cultures; was not enough. As my brother will half-jokingly tell you, “he misses football so much that we sat down in the centre of La Paz to watch two teams made of ladies from the market”. Besides the spectacle of organized women's football being an interesting gendered phenomenon in Bolivia, I did have to restrain myself from yelling “¡DALE! ¡CANTA!” at the restrained and for the most part quiet Bolivia audience. Even the more lively – if the four red cards and numerous yellows – of the professional Cochabamba 'clasico' between Wilsterman and Aurora has not satiated my hunger. Friends and families were divided between the azul-rojo of Wilsterman and the celeste-blanco of Aurora but sitting together. I don't think Bolivian football often elicits the passion, nor the violence, found in Argentina.
Clasico de Cochabamba
Luckily the break has been relatively very short, only one month compared to the long arduous four summer months that hockey fanatics endure. But one month is more than enough time for the drama to make many twists and turns. Following from a distance, trying to keep ahead of transfer rumours and backroom politics was difficult. I've returned to a club in political upheaval but apparently more secure footing on the pitch. Previous President Abdo and his Vice-President have renounced their positions and political factions – known as agrupaciones have been preparing their campaign lists for upcoming elections on September 1. The familiarity of Canadian snap elections.

In league play San Lorenzo was back at Nuevo Gasómetro last Sunday against San Martin of San Juan, a rematch of the final league match last year. With a new look. New jerseys – which are still ugly, poorly designed and too expensive for their quality, thank you Lotto – and new players. In 17 new faces as of today; gone is the overweight club of Bottinelli (controversially to River Plate), Gigliotti, Ortigoza (looking for the parrilla in the UAE as we speak), Bueno and Chávez (who is returning to Napoli's pizzarias). As you can tell my hope is that the addition of Juan Mercier, Furch, Prósperi, Franco Jara, Luis Aguiar, and Denis Stracqualursi will at least be a slimmer more committed team.

Sunday's 2-1 win was messy at times but did deliver an entertaining and more athletic first half. Goals for Pipi Romagnoli, who picked up the ball in the box while I was claiming “penalty” to place it neatly into the corner, and Jara came without the agony and force that seemed to be required last championship. Jara's celebrated his goal by climbing the fence in front of the hinchada, earning the title of “Jaraña” (play on the word for spider). On the less optimistic side, Stracqualursi showed haunts of Gigliotti, missing wide after running in on goal and the defence did get nervy in the second half against a team likely to be close to the bottom this year. But after so many changes, the team has only had one week together and hopefully these problems come from the lack of familiarity.

In the stadium, the hinchada had a 'new look' as well. Within the City of Buenos Aires, the large trapos -ribbon like flags- famous in Argentine stadiums have been 'banned'. Security officials for the city argue that illegal activities occur underneath the trapos because they obscure the watchful eye of the cameras – which seem to conveniently malfunction anyways. The trapos seem like a convenient symbolic target to cover up the reality that drugs and weapons enter the stadium through the 'watchful' eyes of hundreds of police officers each week. It will be interesting to see if such a ban holds and forces a slight change in the symbolic culture of the hinchadas. I doubt it will make the illegal activities any more visible.

The voice of the hinchada was as strong as ever; the loud boom-ba-ba-boom of the banda underlying the chorus of 25 000+ voices with the tribuna bouncing to the rhythm of thousands of jumping feet cannot be simulated anywhere else. The sunset behind the Platea Norte during the second half was spectacular. In the end, winning the first match without too much stress for once was comforting. Promedios are still a problem and plenty of matches to worry about.

Nuevo Gasómetro in all its 'under-construction' beauty
Off the field, everyone's focus is on the 'return' of Argentina's most famous TV personality: Marcelo Tinelli. Tinelli is a well known hincha of San Lorenzo, with millions of pesos to back up his interests in the club's well being. Olé reported that he was at the match last Sunday in his palco (box) after a three year absence – whether or not he actually had stayed away... when Tinelli wants to be seen and heard, the media gives him attention. Being a major financial source for many of transfers to the club, Tinelli has also manoeuvred into a political position behind his preferred interim President Mattias Lammens and receiving the position of first vocal on the new board of directors. Lammens and Tinelli are also organizing an agrupación, likely 'winners'. Interim President during elections becomes full time President, politics in football clubs.

One of Tinelli's biggest impacts, however, has come in the increase in socios and media attention for San Lorenzo. A few second plug on his top-rated, and at times easily mistaken soft-core porn, celebrity dance program Showmatch has created a sharp increase in the numbers of socios. Whether these people stay officially affiliated to the club for more than three months is a debate amongst the 'regular' hinchas. Being a 'real' hincha myself, with my abono-visitante and extreme travelling for San Lorenzo (to Salta twice in four months), I'll have to wait and see.

Football is back in Argentina; and just in time to distract from the low medal count at the Olympics. Canada may not be doing great but every Argentine is envious of our 10 medals. Unfortunately they missed the best football match/worst officiating this year: the Canada-US women's semi-final. Onto the Bronze ladies; its hard to beat 12 US players but you managed to take it to the 119th minute. 

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