Top-flight football is returning to Argentina, after a seven-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Claudio Tapia, the president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA), announced Wednesday that top division teams would return to the pitches after government officials greenlighted the governing body’s proposals.
"For all the leaders and directors in Argentine football this return is important. We have been very respectful of health regulations, we always stayed in the same position, that soccer would return when the health authorities ordered it," Tapia told members of the press after a meeting at the Casa Rosada.
Up until now, only five teams involved in the regional Copa Libertadores tournament have been allowed to return to training and play matches in empty grounds. No Argentine league football has taken place since March 16, some 227 days ago.
"We all needed [local] football to come back. We have passed various test events such as in the [Copa] Libertadores, the [international] qualifiers and the friendlies. That was the kick-off. Now we are going to gradually restart all the tournaments," said the AFA boss.
This week, the national team played matches, with a home World Cup qualifier against Ecuador played at La Bombonera.
Not everything has been decided, however. Though strict sanitary protocols will be imposed on matches, which will be behind closed doors, there remains the thorny issue of how teams will travel to compete against rivals in different provinces, each of which may be under varying forms of Covid-19 lockdown.
Tapia confirmed an agreement to restart matches had been reached at a meeting with government officials at the Casa Rosada. Among those in attendance were Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, Health Minister Ginés González García and Tourism & Sports Minister Matías Lammens, the former president of the San Lorenzo football club.
According to sources, the first match is likely to take place on October 30, which coincidentally happens to be Diego Maradona's 60th birthday. It is not thought that the decision was deliberately chosen to honour the Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata coach.
The second tier is due to restart action on November 7, according to AFA, with the third and fourth divisions, as well as the women’s professional league, scheduled for November 23. The fifth tier will be delayed until December 6.
AFA alo said that on Friday, there would be a draw to decide the format of the new top-tier Liga Profesional (replacing the Superliga), with only a couple of months left before Argentina must decide its representatives for international competition in 2021.
A new tournament, the Copa de la Liga Profesional de Fútbol 2020, has been drawn up to be squeezed into the abridged season. Relegation has been suspended.