Soccer-Grondona's ghost haunts Argentine FA after election farce

by Reuters
Saturday, 5 December 2015 17:30 GMT

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The shadow of the late Julio Grondona is hanging over the Argentine Football Association (AFA) after a botched presidential election left the two rivals to his succession arguing over what to do next.

The AFA's first democratic election in 36 years, in which the 75-man AFA Assembly was eligible to vote, ended in farce on Thursday when the count revealed an extra ballot had been cast for a 38-38 tie.

"He (Grondona) cast the extra vote," was the ironic comment by Grondona's son, also called Julio and a member of the Assembly as president of first division club Arsenal that his father founded in 1956, as he glanced towards the ceiling.

Grondona senior, who died aged 82 in July last year, ruled the AFA for 35 years after being voted back into power eight times unopposed by a show of hands.

The election, held at a time of crisis in Latin American soccer with two dozen directors indicted in a U.S. investigation into graft at the heart of world governing body FIFA, took place in the same hall at AFA headquarters as Grondona's wake 18 months previously.

Incumbent Luis Segura, who took charge after Grondona's death, is being challenged by entrepreneur and television show producer and presenter Marcelo Tinelli on a renewal ticket.

The two parties have agreed to meet on Monday to thrash out the details of a new vote before the end of the year.

Tinelli, 55, is 18 years younger than Segura and looking to oust the old "Grondonista" order.

He said the election scandal was a clear indication of the need for urgent change.

"We are not motivated by personal ambition but by the conviction that we Argentines don't deserve a spectacle like that," Tinelli told his millions of viewers on his TV programme "Showmatch" on Friday night.

"If we can't organise an election with 75 voters, we can't organise a football tournament or eradicate (hooligan) violence and go to the stadiums with our families.

"For Argentine football to be inclusive, transparent, we must make more effort for there to be a change."

Soccer officials from across South and Central America have been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with multimillion-dollar bribery schemes.

They include present or former directors in the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) in which Grondona was a big player.

From his position at AFA, Grondona exerted huge influence at FIFA where he served as a vice-president for 26 years and was a close ally of now suspended president Sepp Blatter. (Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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