Argentinian soccer and the Argentinian Football Association have long been the subject of claims of mass corruption off the field. On the field, it has been all sorts of heartbreak for one of the most talented generations to never win a major title.
Following a fourth major tournament final loss in a row, the biggest star of them all called it an international career. Yes, Lionel Messi took to the mic and seemingly retired on the spot following a second-straight heartbreaking loss to Chile in a Copa America final.
“I was thinking in the locker room that this is it for me in terms of the national team,” he told reporters following the loss. “It has been four finals [including the 2007 Copa América]. It’s not for me. I tried to find [a title]. It’s what I wanted most. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it, but I think that’s it.”
No doubt watching a player completely in his prime talk of international soccer retirement was a shocking moment. But, then we got word that Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Kün Aguero were also out of the door for sure following the loss.
Aguero had some pretty harsh words as to why he would be out of the door, noting the locker room atmosphere.
“There are several players who are evaluating not continuing with the national team,” said Aguero, via The Sun in the U.K. “This is the worst locker room I’ve ever been in, worse than the final in the World Cup in Brazil and the other Copa America.”
Word also is going around that Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain are on their way out as members of the national team too.
One would easily get the impression that this group of crazy-talented players finally snapped after losing final after final at major tournaments. However, there is something seriously deeper than what happened on the pitch at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night.
That’s because of that other side of the coin we talked about earlier — the AFA and its corruption of the Argentinian game.
It’s not as if Messi spoke out about the treatment of players and the whole delayed plane situation throughout this Copa America Centenario or anything.
Oh wait, he did exactly that in an Instagram post on Friday as the team awaited a plane to take them to New Jersey.
“Once again waiting on a plane to leave for our destination,” Messi wrote.
“What a disaster the AFA are. My god!”
Clearly, Messi and the players haven’t had the best of experiences as of late on and off the pitch. However, there is also the corruption of the game itself back in Argentina.
After decades of reported corruption and a lack of investigation, Julio Grondona passed away in 2014. The architect of all that took place, good and bad, in Argentinian soccer was all about Grondona for the better part of 35 years.
He was there for the fan violence epidemic, players allegedly not getting paid and clubs not seeing the money they should’ve over the years.
It didn’t take his successor, Luis Segura, long to finally feel the axe come down on him after taking over and continuing the corruption of the past. Segura was indicted earlier this year, along with six other high-ranking officials on suspicion of embezzlement.
Money that was supposed to go to clubs for broadcasting rights to league and national team matches was missing from their coffers because it never got there in the first place.
With the ongoing FIFA corruption scandal implicating many Argentinians in leadership within COMNEBOL, none of that should be surprising.
Yet, things have gotten so bad within Argentine soccer that FIFA has stepped in to take control of the federation.
Considering all that has gone on within FIFA over the last few years, one would have to sink to some pretty low depths for that organization to say “enough is enough, we’re taking over.”
Maybe the federation gets its stuff together and the players calm down from another crazy loss in a final. Then again, nearly 40 years of corruption within Argentine soccer suggests it may not come in time.
If these players truly are done, Argentina’s hopes for the 2018 World Cup certainly take a big hit. COMNEBOL qualifying returns in September, and a mass exodus like the one we’re hearing could be happening would devastate the national team program.
With Argentina sitting third on 11 points and just one point clear of having to get in to a potential playoff to make the World Cup in Russia, this exodus couldn’t come at a worse time.
Let’s just see if it all calms down or if Messi and Co. are serious enough to take a stand against what is happening behind the scenes and force real change for the betterment of its national game.