Elections for the new president of Boca Juniors, one of the two major football clubs in Buenos Aires, were due to take place this weekend, but they were canceled and postponed on a date to be fixed after the complaint filed by one of the two main candidates, the economist Andres Ibarra, who denounced irregularities in the registration of new members.
Boca Juniors, founded over a century ago by Italian immigrants in the working-class district of Boca, is one of the most famous and recognizable soccer teams in the world. It is also a non-profit association that cannot have a single majority shareholder: its ownership is currently shared among 315,879 members, approximately 100,000 of whom have the right to choose the president every four years through elections.
According to Ibarra’s complaint, then accepted by the competent authorities, in recent months 13 thousand members have gone from simple sympathizers to members with voting rights, while normally no more than a hundred of these changes occur per month, even if there are new elections. are looming. Ibarra then denounced “a disproportionate growth” which, according to him, hides “a political strategy” on the part of the current management, which is running in these new elections with the former Boca player and idol of local supporters Juan Roman Riquelme, currently deputy president.
The suspension of voting reflects the tensions that surround, for better or worse, everything related to Boca Juniors. Presidential elections are usually followed by large numbers of people and with great passion, particularly because of the way they are often linked to national politics. And it is precisely for political reasons that this year’s elections are considered even more important than they usually are.
During his electoral campaign, the new Argentine President Javier Milei, elected on November 20, also involved football with a highly contested proposal: the conversion of club teams from public companies with large shareholders to open joint stock companies. to private investments, which, according to Milei, would bring economic and competitive advantages.
Following Milei’s proposal, more than a hundred Argentine teams spoke out against and convinced their supporters of the current popular ownership model, including Boca Juniors, who reiterated their position through Vice President Riquelme: “Faithful to our origins and in defense of nearly 120 years of history. , Boca Juniors confirms its character as a non-profit civil association and the promise that the club belongs to its people.”
Ibarra did not particularly comment on the issue, but the fact is that his candidacy is close, if not linked, to the new ultra-liberal right-wing government. In fact, Milei won the presidential elections also thanks to the support of Mauricio Macri, former mayor of Buenos Aires, Argentine president from 2015 to 2019 and president of Boca from 1996 to 2007, the last period of great victories in the club’s history. . During these elections, Macri presented himself as Ibarra’s deputy, but of the two he is certainly the more influential: together, they promise to bring Boca into a new golden period, to entrust the position of coach to Martin Palermo, another beloved former Boca player, and to solve the age-old problem of the stadium, the Bombonera, which has long been the center of renovation or renovation projects that never came to fruition.
For the Bombonera, one of the most admired and historic stadiums in the world of football, but also dated and wedged between the streets of a busy working-class neighborhood, the two teams have very different proposals. Ibarra and Macri want to build a new 105,000-seat stadium in another area of Buenos Aires, of which they have already presented the project, while Riquelme wants to renovate the current facility, which he has not succeeded until present due to difficulties in agreement with the residents of the district, whose homes adjacent to the installation should make way for a new central stand.
The other big goal that Riquelme and current president Jorge Amor Ameal have yet to achieve is winning the Copa Libertadores, the most important club tournament in South American football, which they almost lost a few weeks ago in the final. in Rio de Janeiro against Fluminense. In all this, what is happening on the other side of Buenos Aires also weighs heavily, where its historic rival River Plate, after winning two Libertadores in the last seven years, is about to complete a major renovation of its stadium, the Monumental.
For the rest, the presidency of Ameal and Riquelme is judged positively and according to the latest polls it enjoys the support of more than half of the members. In the last four years the club structures have been improved, the women’s team has won both in Argentina and internationally and in the men’s team there are a lot of new talents who have grown up in the football sector. young people, which gives us hope. And since Boca is a multi-sport team, the basketball and volleyball teams are also doing well and benefiting from a lot of following.
In the last Boca Juniors presidential elections, in December 2019, 38,352 members voted out of 87,000 eligible voters. In this case, the candidacy of Ameal and Riquelme overtook that of Christian Gribaudo, another member of the center-right party of outgoing President Macri.