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Posts Tagged ‘Argentina’

A Sad Day for Argentina.

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

This article from Mark Weisbrot highlights why.

No Sympathy for a Sinking Ship

June 22, 2010 Leave a comment

As the second round of World Cup group games conclude and the UK lies precariously underneath the Damoclean sword of  Osbourne’s ideologically driven, socially divisive “emergency” budget, there are interesting parallels to be made between the relative performance of teams in the world cup and their respective socio-economic models.

In simple terms European teams are not matching their pre-tournament expectations, whilst their South American counterparts are performing beyond the predictions made of them (this blog included). All five South American qualifiers currently sit atop their respective groups and have provided the competition with some of the more fluent and stylish football thus far. Argentina are ridiculously entertaining (both on the field and in the dugout), Brazil appear extraordinarily resilient and defensively strong, Chile attack with such exaggerated verve that their inability to finish is something of a disappointment, whilst Uruguay and Paraguay are talented, adaptable teams that have proved that a nation need not have a large population to create an impressive football team. The contrast with the traditional powers of European football could hardly be more comprehensive. The Netherlands and Germany are perhaps the two Western European teams most immune from criticism. The former were the first team to secure qualification for the second round of the competition, albeit unimpressively, whilst Germany dismantled Australia before succumbing to a particularly incompetent refereeing performance and an underrated Serbian team. Spain are extremely impressive in terms of retaining possession yet look tactically limited and surprisingly toothless. England, France, and Italy have been little more than a disgrace. Failing to achieve a good performance amongst them (and scoring only three goals in six matches!), the unpleasant triumvirate have all been exposed for what they are – overhyped, ageing (in the case of England and Italy in particular), and divided (France and England) squads playing some of the most negative, unimaginative football witnessed at this World Cup. France are almost certainly out, whilst England and Italy sit in precarious (albeit recoverable) positions within their groups. It would be a genuine shame should any of these teams make it through the group stage.

Whilst the relative fortunes of these two region’s football teams are somewhat interesting, it is the socio-economic context to these performances that perhaps offers an insight into a real power shift that extends far beyond football.

Ask any Argentine what they think of austerity measures and the IMF and they’ll most likely bristle at the memory of their country sinking into an economic shambles that was rescued through defaulting on the nation’s debt and, ultimately, telling the IMF where to go. As a case-study into why neoliberal economics and the IMF as a whole are fundamentally flawed concepts and institutions, one only has to look at Argentina. Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and any other respectable economists, i.e. those not slavishly following the laughably discredited ideas of Milton Friedman et al, all stress the inevitable economic decline precipitated by pursuing an agenda of fiscal-contraction in an economic downturn. Apparently this memo has not yet reached Western Europe. It’s hardly surprising – the greatest casuality of the global financial crisis has been, incredibly, social democracy. In late 2008, when sales of Marx were at their highest in years, and the state became the saviour of the financial system, this idea would have appeared preposterous. Instead we now see daily attacks upon the public sector, upon the ‘unaffordable’ welfare state, and, perhaps most ridiculously, upon the failure of “socialism” (with regards to the ousted Labour party in the UK). What the global financial crisis actually showed us was that 30 years of pursuing a neoliberal agenda and a minimally regulated financial sector were not sustainable. It is not the welfare state that is unaffordable but rather the current global financial system. Remarkably, Europe in general and the UK in particular, have decided that reducing their national budget deficits is the most pressing problem currently facing the region. Whilst financial institutions will always promote such a view, it is incredibly flawed. No real reform was made following the financial downturn and we remain locked within a crisis of capitalism. The Conservative Party’s ideologically driven economic medicine for the UK is to pursue an outdated and unworkable socio-economic system, with an inevitable rise in unemployment, poverty, rapid decline in health, education, and other public services, and an astonishing acceleration of inequality the result. When the next inevitable financial crisis arises this flawed socio-economic agenda will finally be exposed. The state will not be in a position to rescue the financial system and the general populace won’t enjoy the insulation they had from the deepest recession since the 1930s. Western Europe, and Britain in particular, faces an undignified and messy decline. Just as the England football team’s deficiencies have been hidden by an obscenely unbalanced and unsustainable domestic league model, often misguidedly heralded as ‘the best league in the world’, the UK economic system’s flaws were disguised by an obscenely unbalanced and unsustainable dependence upon a financial system beset by incompetence, greed, and panic. The Premier League began to lose a little of its lustre last year as some of its top talents fled to more appealing environments (a process set to continue this summer) and the subsequent decline in quality was notable.

South America has done things differently. The hardship associated with excessive neoliberal policies has shaped the current socio-economic agenda of much of the continent (Columbia is an obvious exception). The utterly reprehensible actions of the US both before but especially throughout the Reagan-era in the region has proved another powerful influence. Where Europe seeks to attack worker’s pay, conditions, and rights in general, Brazil has surged economically whilst led by a former prominent trade unionist in Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. It could be asserted that many South American nations in general have willingly traded rapid economic (in terms of GDP) growth for a little more social harmony (and Uruguay certainly fits this model), yet their growth has exceeded that of Europe over the past decade (and has improved markedly following the abandonment of nominally neoliberal policies). The upshot of these varying economic trajectories is all too apparent at this year’s World Cup. Neoliberalism has left societies fractured, discontent, and greedy – qualities all too apparent in the play of England and France – whilst the social democratic model of Argentina, Brazil, and other South American nations, has created a unity and equality on and off the pitch. The contrast between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics should prove fascinating. The London games are likely to be held under severe budget restrictions with a demoralised population and the economic deterioration of the country all-too-apparent, whilst Rio de Janeiro should consolidate (following the 2014 World Cup) Brazil’s developing global prominence.

Unlikely Stars of the World Cup – No. 2: Ángel di María (Left Wing)

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

To describe Argentina’s di María as a potentially unlikely star of the World Cup is a little disingenuous. He clearly doesn’t have the profile of a Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, yet he was subject to interest from Manchester United in the January transfer window, and is generally viewed as a supremely talented prospect for many of Europe’s top clubs. An intrinsic part of Benfica’s current-season resurgence, di María’s ball control is excellent (although perhaps not Messi-standard), his shot technique ridiculous, and his running explosive. Everton were ripped-apart by Benfica on the two occasions when the teams met in this season’s Europa League, with di María a central influence in both games.

Although yet another untested South American teenager at the time of his transfer to Benfica, di María’s fee of €8 million from Rosario Central is beginning to look particularly cheap. Not only does he have a minimum fee release clause of €40 million, should he help Benfica break Porto’s recent monopoly on success in the Portuguese Liga (Sagres) and so qualify for the Champions League proper (which is looking increasingly likely), the club will have received a substantial return on their investment.

If di María had one weakness, it was his lack of apparent goalscoring ability. However, having gone some way to allay such concerns this season for both club and country, there is no reason to presume that he won’t prove to be a success at the World Cup this summer.

Perhaps the biggest hindrance upon di María’s World Cup performance shall be the squad in which he his playing. Whilst it’s all-too-tempting to blame the vagaries of a national coach who avoids training in the morning to prioritise his lie-in whilst ascribing all success and failure to simple acts of fate, there are wider issues facing the Argentine squad. It is undoubtedly something of an unbalanced team – there are far too many attacking midfielders rather than out-and-out strikers, although the rapid emergence of Gonzalo Higuaín is making this concern ever more redundant. Likewise, there is a genuine lack of defensive and goalkeeping talent. Despite criticism aimed at Maradona over his refusal to pick Internazionale’s Walter Samuel, it would be fair to say that he is somewhat past his best. That is no to say that the situation has not significantly improved in the last few months. Argentine players, from Carlos Tévez to the much-maligned Éver Banega and Juan Sebastián Verón, besides the usual suspects, are having superb seasons. The contrast with a team such as England could hardly be more stark where, the incredibly impressive form of Rooney aside, there are few prospective World Cup squad players having anything other than disappointing years.

When Argentina beat Germany recently in Munich they displayed a strength in organisation that was also present in the very last moments of their World Cup qualifying campaign. For a team which has several of the world’s most talented players, the British, if not global, media’s dismissal of Argentina is founded on the naive belief that Maradona’s rather chaotic approach to life will transfer directly to his team.

Weaknesses in defence aside, there is no reason why Argentina cannot be viewed as potential winners of the World Cup with di María emerging as one of football’s global stars.