It has become custom at the start of every new year in Argentine football to remark just how emphatically reality won out over the fiction of this annual review. In 2020, though, our beloved preview was not so much beaten as taken outside and pummelled to within an inch of its life, a feeling shared by almost everybody else on earth as this most cursed of years finally comes to a close.
Coronavirus; months without football; video meetings; celebrities you've never heard of singing a horrendous Spanish translation of ‘Imagine’: all of the above conspired to make the last 12 months an almost unbearable ordeal. Then, as the poisonous cherry on top of the cake, we lost Diego Maradona, a man who had already survived enough brushes with the Reaper to kill dozens of ordinary people and who had us all convinced that he was going to keep living and scandalising us forever. (Hasta siempre, Pelusa, we miss you deeply.)
Still, it was of some comfort at least to see that some things had not changed during the upheaval. The AFA and new Liga Profesional de Fútbol Argentino conspired to create a tournament so convoluted and absurd that it surpassed even their own extremely high standards; not to mention it was so meaningless that even many of the players and teams involved seemed to be determined to boycott their own campaigns. That and Independiente's eternal struggles and disappointments just about kept us going through 2020; luckily, the next 12 months should prove far happier for all concerned.
– JANUARY –
In a bid to maximise home advantage, Central Córdoba determine to play all of their home games in fiery Santiago del Estero at 2pm. The initiative gets off to a rocky start when, in their first match, referee Mauro Vigliano collapses from heat exhaustion during the coin toss.
Disregarding the semi-final results, CONMEBOL announces Boca and River will meet in the Copa Libertadores final once more because “it’s what Maradona would have wanted.” The match behind closed doors in Rio’s Estadio Maracanã is suspended due to crowd trouble.
– FEBRUARY –
As a special tribute, the new Torneo Diego Armando Maradona kicked off with all 26 teams temporarily changing their name to Club Atlético Maradona. The first weekend threw up some surprises, with CA Maradona coming from behind to beat CA Maradona while CA Maradona and CA Maradona played out a thrilling 3-3 draw.
The AFA finally bans Central Córdoba from playing any home games before 10pm after three San Lorenzo players spontaneously combust on the pitch.
– MARCH –
January’s Copa Libertadores Superclásico final is finally rescheduled in Moscow, with Boca prevailing on penalties after a dour 0-0 draw. Fierce debates spring up across Argentina over which team is now more dead than the other thanks to this latest development.
Exasperated by San Lorenzo's continued poor form, the Romero twins retire from football to become highway bandits in Patagonia.
– APRIL –
To keep things fresh the AFA introduces a fresh rule change with the Torneo Maradona in full swing. As of April, any goals scored by a player with X or K in their name now count double.
As part of the evil Disney/Fox/ESPN corporation’s new directives, Copa Libertadores matches are now to be commentated on by cartoon characters. Observers unanimously agree that the duo of Aladdin and Goofy captured perfectly the spirit of Racing's 2-2 draw with Guaraní.
– MAY –
Lionel Messi declares that he has played his last match at Barcelona and, in a move that shocked the football world, announces his return to Newell's Old Boys. As a parting shot he claims that Catalan is a stupid language and that if he saw Barca coach Ronald Koeman in the desert, he would throw him an anchovy.
Argentina is brought to a standstill by an outbreak of what is being dubbed ‘Carpinchovirus.’ The origin is thought to have been a barbecue at Luis ‘Pulguita’ Rodríguez's house, where he treated his guests to a grilled capybara of dubious origins.
– JUNE –
Still struggling for results, Independiente take the brave step of rehiring Ricardo Bochini, Daniel Bertoni and the entire squad of the glorious 1970s run as players. Observers are in agreement that, while results are no better, they are no worse either.
River finish the mini-season at the top of the league, earning as a result the Diego Armando Maradona Award introduced the previous week by the AFA; but not the title, which will now run until December. Nobody at the club celebrates.
– JULY –
The Carpinchovirus continues its inexorable spread across the world. Among the most noticeable symptoms are a love of Tucumán-style empanadas, the retraction of one’s head into the shoulders and a penchant for scoring golazos with ice-cool nonchalance.
Lionel Messi's joy at finally capturing the Copa América with Argentina proves short-lived when, after the final, he tests positive for a banned diuretic. The Newell's star is handed a 15-month ban from all footballing activities.
– AUGUST –
After months causing mayhem on the roads of Patagonia, the Romero twins are finally tracked down to a cabin in Villa la Angostura, where following a tense three-day armed stand-off they surrender to Police and Gendarmerie forces. The ex-San Lorenzo stars later plead guilty to 50 counts of armed robbery and are forced to choose between a lengthy prison spell and returning to the Cuervo. They choose the former.
Messi causes a stir by shooting at journalists with an air rifle through the gates of his Rosario mansion. Polls overwhelmingly suggest that he has never been as popular in his home nation.
– SEPTEMBER –
Fears that the Carpinchovirus would cause an indefinite suspension of the Torneo Maradona disappear thanks to the discovery of a vaccine, distilled largely from Fernet Branca. Pulguita himself is the first recipient and declares it to be “pretty good, could use some ice,” hours before netting a hat-trick against Banfield.
Aldosivi and Huracán draw 0-0 in Mar del Plata. Ahead of Patronato's home clash with Unión, the clamour to once again suspend football for the good of everyone's health becomes almost deafening.
– OCTOBER –
FIFA, CONMEBOL and the AFA unanimously decide to rescind Messi's ban after just three months, on the grounds that football is a bit boring and a lot less lucrative without him involved. He marks his returns by scoring six against Racing Club, also earning a yellow card for pulling down his shorts and baring his rear-end at the Academia bench in his celebration.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, working on a lawsuit filed by fans from both giants, finally judges whether Boca or River is the side which is in fact dead. The case is dismissed on the grounds that each party is a sporting institution which cannot take on human attributes of life, with a stern warning for all involved to never set foot in Switzerland again.
– NOVEMBER –
After just shy of two years, Alberto Fernández’s government officially declares Argentina free of coronavirus and lifts the restrictions on sharing mates. Boca Vice-President Juan Román Riquelme still refuses to share his drink with anyone and bristles at the suggestion.
In another unexpected rule change, the AFA decides that every game from November onwards will count for nine points. League leaders River drop out of the Torneo Maradona in protest and are replaced by Barracas Central Maradona.
– DECEMBER –
Newell’s thrash Boca 5-0 with Messi scoring all five goals to pip the Xeneize to the Torneo Maradona crown. The flimsy truce between Riquelme and Tevez finally unravels: after some choice words from the Boca captain, he is left unconscious on the Bombonera pitch after being brained by a swing of Román’s personalised Thermos.
In its end-of-year message the AFA expresses its hope that 2021 will finally be the year that home fans return to stadiums, while warning that visitors may have to wait until 2022.