Football: Argentina's FA turns to former roadsweeper to lead it

The newly-elected president of Argentina's Football Association, Claudio Tapia, arriving at a press conference to announce his appointment. Argentina have quite a task on their hands to qualify for the 2018 World Cup automatically.
The newly-elected president of Argentina's Football Association, Claudio Tapia, arriving at a press conference to announce his appointment. Argentina have quite a task on their hands to qualify for the 2018 World Cup automatically.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BUENOS AIRES • The Argentinian Football Association, lacking proper leadership since 2015 and fearful its national team might not reach the 2018 World Cup Finals, elected a third-tier club chairman and former road sweeper as its president on Wednesday.

Claudio Tapia of Barracas Central, who play in the Primera B Metropolitana division, said one of his first tasks would be to get Lionel Messi's four-match suspension reduced.

Messi was suspended on Tuesday after Fifa said he had "directed insulting words at an assistant referee" during their 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Chile on Thursday.

The match officials did not include the incident in their reports but Fifa acted on video evidence and Messi missed Tuesday's 2-0 defeat by Bolivia in La Paz.

"(We) will make the necessary efforts before Fifa for the sanction to be... reduced because it is unjust," Tapia said.

Messi will miss games away to Uruguay and at home to Peru and Venezuela, before returning in October for their final match away to Ecuador.

It has emerged that the Barcelona superstar had written a letter before his ban was handed down by world football's governing body.

Argentina's captain and record goalscorer said his words were not directed at anyone, reported Argentine newspaper La Nacion.

"My words were never addressed to the linesman, they were just said in the air," he wrote.

Argentina are fifth in the South American qualifying table. Only the top four teams qualify automatically for Russia 2018 while the fifth-placed team must go into an intercontinental play-off against a side from the Oceania zone.

Tapia urged everyone to get behind beleaguered coach Edgardo Bauza. "We must back him ... as well as all the players," he told a press conference. "We must meet him to sit down and see what's best (for the team). We must find the way to recover our confidence so our beloved Argentine national team represent us in Russia and do their best."

Tapia was the sole candidate in the election but still needed the support of a majority of delegates, which he achieved by scooping 40 of 43 votes cast. He will serve a four-year term.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Argentina's FA turns to former roadsweeper to lead it'. Print Edition | Subscribe