Thursday, July 13, 2006

From Russia with love (and a lot of money!) (July 13th)

I was playing mysterious here. I was telling you I had some big news coming regarding Argentina and it’s time for me to deliver and finally give you this information.

You all remember that friendly match we played against Angola (May 31st in Salerno, Italy). You all know we won with Maxi RODRIGUEZ and Juan Pablo SORIN scoring our goals in a 2-0 result.

But what none of us knew back then was that it was going to become the most important Argentina friendly match of all times!
Why? Because amongst the crowd there were a few men that were ready to sing a contract that is going to determine the future of our national team during the next four years.

Viktor Feliksovich VEKSELBERG is the third wealthiest man in Russia (behind Mikhail KHODORKOVSKY and Chelsea’s owner Roman ABRAMOVICH). He owns a number of companies related to the steel production and oil refinery in Russia and recently he bought a Gustav KLIMT’s painting for a record fee of 107 million euros (beating the record fee ever paid for a painting –a Picasso one-).

Guillermo TOFONI (picture here to the left of FIFA President, Sepp Blatter) is a former Argentinos Juniors’ youth team goalkeeper and the only FIFA agent born in Argentina legally allowed to organise international friendly matches. ( They have an English version on their website)

Julio GRONDONA is the president of the AFA (Argentine Football Association) and one of FIFA’s vice-presidents. He is in charge of the AFA since 1978 and he plans to continue at the helm.

The three of them were watching PEKERMAN’s team defeating Angola but at the same time were finalising the details of this incredible contract that was signed soon after that night.

What is this all about?

VEKSELBERG’s company –Gulgong- (teamed-up with TOFONI’s company –World Eleven-) has bought the rights to organise and distribute the broadcasting of 24 friendly matches that Argentina must play between the recent World Cup and the 1st of August, 2011.

For that privilege, the Russian millionaire will pay a total of 18 million dollars. Nine of them were already paid and the rest will be effective in amounts of 350.000 per game (half before each match and the other half hours after each friendly).

Not only that. There is a clause in this contract that forces the AFA (or the manager that will be in charge of the National Team) to field at least 7 players out of the list that was handed out by VEKSELBERG and TOFONI to GRONDONA.

They created the list before the World Cup and it includes the 23 players that made it to Germany 2006, plus 7 other raising stars.

It was a way that the Russians found to avoid organising a friendly match and realising just before the game that there were no prime-time players taking part of it. By including this clause, they guarantee at least 7 big names.

The 30 players are the following:

German LUX (River Plate - Goalkeeper)
Roberto AYALA
Juan Pablo SORIN
Gabriel HEINZE
Gabriel MILITO
Leandro CUFRE
Hernan PELLERANO (Velez Sarsfield – Defender)
Fernando GAGO (Boca Juniors - Midfielder)
Fernando BELLUSCHI (River Plate - Midfielder)
Federico INSUA (Recently bought by Borussia Dortmund, Germany)
Leandro SOMOZA (Velez Sarsfield – Midfielder)
Martin DEMICHELIS (Bayern Munich - Midfielder)
Carlos TEVEZ
Lionel MESSI
Julio CRUZ

You may be wondering…WHAT ABOUT KUN AGÜERO? Well…they thought about it and they decided to leave him out of the list because they presume that KUN will be called up by whoever becomes Argentina’s manager. So they left KUN out of the list to pick another of the players they want to see and give him the chance to be included in the squad.

It sounds incredible and I’ve got two ways of reading this whole thing about this contract.

On one hand, we all know about the struggling economy of Argentina and its football is not something different. This rich contract and all the money coming in will help the clubs and the AFA to survive and invest a little bit more in the infrastructure and the youth systems.

Argentina will play more often and its ‘brand’ will become more popular. The team will become more competitive as all of our players will be used to face International opposition (not only South American). The Russians will manage the broadcasting rights and Argentina could benefit from that because the Albiceleste will reach millions and millions of new homes and more supporters will join us.

But on the other hand, this contract seems to force the new manager to pick the names that are included in a list. That won’t give the manager a total freedom and will probably create a bad atmosphere around the team. I can already see that if one of the players included in the list has a bad game, he’ll be criticised and people will start saying that he shouldn’t have been in the list in the first place. I know it’s silly, but it’ll happen. Take my word on that.

We’re going to have to wait and see if this contract proves to be beneficial or disruptive.

There are a lot of rumours around the AFA stating that PEKERMAN is actually leaving because he does not want to be conditioned by an investor designing who should play or not.

I don’t know how much those rumours are true, but it make sense if they are.

True rumours or not, the official word is that the first friendly will be against South Africa and will take place somewhere in Africa (still to be determined) the 16th of August (yes, in a month!). Then on November 15th, we’ll play against Turkey at Dortmund, Germany. They want to make the most out of the great number of Turkish leaving in that area to guarantee a sold out. Plus with Federico INSUA now playing for Borussia Dortmund, some of their fans will be attracted by him and will also attend to that match.

Here are some other aspects covered by the contract:

The Russians will take care of the travel and accommodation of the players and
the staff before each match. They will pay for 35 plane tickets and 4
daily meals.
They will give the AFA 100 VIP tickets to distribute
at will (protocol, fans’ contest to win the ticket as a prize, sponsors,
After each game, there’ll be 2 players attending the
press conference. One will be chosen by the AFA and the other by the
Out of the 24 friendly matches contemplated in the
contract, 10 should be category ‘A’ (as FIFA determines each friendly depending
on FIFA Ranking or simply the status of both teams), 7 should be ‘B’ rivals and
7 ‘C’.

Are you happy with this ‘Magical Mystery Argentour’?


Un argentino en California said...

That is amazing. But I wouldnt see it as a great business for Argentina, since this people will get 10 time more in revenues in publicity and so on.
Anyway, I hope Grondona invests this money properly and not in his account as allways does.
Sebas good info!

Joey said...

er, I am a little bit lost here.

I mean, is 18 million a lot of money for 24 matches, for a team like Argentina? I know when China invited Brazil for a friendly, we paid them over 1 million dollar for that single match. Sure enough, all top stars showed up (even though they didn't really play very hard).

Guys, any American fans here? Anyone know if those games will be broadcasted in US?

Joey said...

Seba, is Argentin really a poor country? I have the feeling that the country has been struggling in economic crisis for quiet a while, but in the wikepedia, I read Arg has a GDP growth 9.2% (2005) and GDP per capita $13,600 (2005 est.), which is really pretty good.

Do you have a free education system? Do you have free medical care for kids? (again, is Messi' situation an exception or a genral case?)

Seba said...

Yes we do have free education and free medical care for kids (and grown ups).

We have the highest rate of "alfabetization" (sorry...don't know if that's the right word to refer to it) of all Latin America (maybe head to head with Cuba).

We were a very wealthy country. One of the powers of the planet at the time of the Second World War.

Then we had to suffer from terrible governments. A lot of politicians robbing our country and making the people suffer.

We have plenty of natural resources. Great universities. Our professionals are very highly rated in America, Europe and all over the World.

Unfortunatelly, we have had a very deep financial crisis by the end of the year 2001 and the situation was horrible.

The Banks kept all the People's savings and return it several month after and not all at once.

Plus...if you had (let's say for example) 30.000 US Dollars in your bank account...after those days of crisis in December 2001 when our currency (Argentine Peso) decreased its value to a third (it was 1=1 with the US Dollar and after that it was 1 dollar = 3 pesos). So the Banks will give you 30.000 PESOS (which was actually 10.000 US DOLLARS out of the 30.000 USD you had originally).

Hope the example was clear and you got my point.

That said, the economy is improving these days, but we are far from being a rich country (in fact, I think we will never be a rich country again).'s a great country and if you ever want to visit, you'll fall in love with our natural beauties (I'm not talking only about our women! ;)

Hope it helps.

Argentino en California. Gracias por el mensaje!

I think that if the Russians will take 10 times more of what it's left for the AFA then fair enough. That wouldn't be a problem the way I see it. They want to do business and take their share. Good for them.

If the money that the AFA is receiving ends up helping the reality of our football then we'll all benefit from it.

Too bad I'm also afraid of the same thing you are: GRONDONA! Take your hands out of that money or if you're going to manage it, then use it wisely!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Seba for the English translation.

One good thing coiming out of this is that youngsters like Gago, et al will benefit from the experience gained from playing these matches.

Papua New Guinea

William said...

Hi, Sebastian. I think your word "alfabetization" means literacy, as in the ability to read and write?

And, yes, the Russian deal may be a bit spooky, but I read your words "to field at least 7 players out of the list" as saying that, out of the 30 players, AFA must play at least 7 of them but [b]AFA holds the choice of which 7 players[/b]. I see that it's very odd for more than 23 of the 30 players on the list not being fit or not required tactically to play, especially when quite a few of these are big-name and sound players. So, to me, this doesn't seem to be overly restrictive, and is merely some clause added to make sure there are some Argentinian football celebrities to draw crowds to each game it plays under the contract.

I would look forward to the Albiceleste coming to play in Hong Kong (perhaps under the contract)? Perhaps you should come over to watch, too, and also visit our city!

Seba said...

Yes William that was the word I was looking for! Thank you for that.

Spot on about that clause. I see it the same way you do. Apparentely PEKERMAN didn't like it (that's what people say).

I would be against that clause if it forced the manager to play with 7 unkwown players, but seeing the number of options the manager will have, I think he has great room to work. I'm not sure here if that clause implies having those 7 players as a starters or if they could go to the bench.

In any case, we're talking about World Class players in most cases and it'll be impossible to keep them on the bench if you're asking them to make the trip.

Hong Kong? Not an impossible venue for one of the coming friendlies. But for me to be able to travel and watch it...hmmmm...I think there are more chances for me to play for Argentina before! hahaha!

Joey said...

Here is an important question: does the manager have to have 7 players in the 23 squad or 7 players in the starting 11? If only 7 in 23, tha's not impossible.

Still, is 18 million for 4 years a lot of money for Arg? I heard Backham earns 24 million from endorsements every year. That's only a single player!

Anyone has any, how much does Nike pay Brazil national team every year?

Anonymous said...

I look forward to Argentina coming to Singapore !

Anonymous said...

Hi Joey,
Nike will pay $12 million a year to sponsor Brazil. And an additional $6 million had it triumphed at Germany 2006. But bad luck the suckers lost.

Vamos Argentina!!!

Papua New Guinea

Saurabh Bhattacharjee said...

The most important thing that I learned in the law school is that devil lies in details. One needs to go into more details of the arrangement between AFA and Viktor Feliksovich before one can really predict as to how things will unfold.

While the the squad of 30 in the present case is relatively large and diverse to fetter the options of a coach, one must consider the long-term rammifications. For, this sort of a term may perpetuate itself and assume more dangerous proportion in the days to come.

As far as the alleged link between this contract and Pekerman's resignation, it would be better if he voices his opposition in open and can start an informed debate on the issue. At the end, the views of the fans would be very important as they are the most important stakeholders in the game.

On a lighter note, may be Brand Albicelestes will become more powerful and FIFA will start making an easier draw.

And may be Argentina should come to India. The team will attract millions. Remember that Bilardo brought the team to Calcutta in 1985 before it won the world cup. I am sure history will repeat itself.

Last time, I was just three years old but this time I will travel across the whole country to watch them.

Seba said...

Joey: BECKHAM is a special case. He's more than a football player and as a brand, unfortunatelly he is more popular than Argentina.

Sometimes I hear that a club was bought for 3 million dollars or 7 million euros and when you think about it, there are players earning almost that much in a single month! Let alone the fees paid to buy those players.

So it'll be impossible to compare.

That said, the contract NIKE had with Brazil from 1998 until last year (which was renewed for a longer term now) was worth 400 million dollars! A lot more than what Argentina will receive from the Russians.

I believe Brazil had also to play a lot more matches. Nevertheless, it's pretty clear to me that the brand BRAZIL in terms of football is playing in another league compared to Argentina.

But we don't have to get crazy about that difference. I think this agreement could be the founding for a more international team and I'm sure many people in the World will get to know Argentina and will start supporting our team.

18 million dollars is not a lot of money in Argentina. TEVEZ was sold for more than that. AGÜERO was sold for 23 million euros!

But compared to nothing...I don't think we'll be on the losing side here.

Messages like those hoping to see Argentina in Singapore, Hong Kong or India are clear indicators of what I'm trying to say here.

Hope it all comes true!

For the good of everybody!

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