Two Juniors Become Seniors: Primera B Promotion Race Concludes

Argentinos Juniors and Chacarita Juniors will be playing top flight football after gaining promotion from Argentina’s Primera B Nacional. Argentinos Juniors were comfortable champions, finishing 11 points clear of their nearest rivals. Chacarita Juniors grabbed the second promotion spot after an epic down-to-the-wire battle with Guillermo Brown which was only settled on the final day of the season.

Argentinos, led by former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze, have been superb this season both at their La Paternal home and on the road. The club were the second-highest scorers with 61, and boasted comfortably the meanest defence, conceding only 24 in 44 games. Almost half of the goals were provided by the striking duo of Francisco Fydriszewski and Braian Romero, and the teenage MacAllister duo of Kevin and Alexis, kin to Carlos MacAllister of Boca Juniors and Argentina fame, featured regularly despite their tender years. Perhaps the most impressive performer of the season was Esteban Rolón who managed 41 appearances in all competitions, starting all but one of them. The sharks are already circling around the 22-year-old midfielder, who has been heavily linked recently with domestic giants Boca Juniors, River Plate, Racing, and Independiente interested.

Success in South America is often a double-edged sword and more often than not comes with a heavy price. Rolón may not be the only high-profile departure, with manager Heinze looking likely to leave after just one year in the hot seat. Heinze claims that he never signed up to a long-term project and has completed his objective of gaining promotion. He assured the club that he wasn’t jumping ship to join a more glamorous club, and that his decision was based on the fact that he hasn’t been sleeping, pointing to his decreasing passion and lack of enjoyment in the role.

Despite their patchy recent form, Argentinos have a rich history and will feel they are back where they belong. Diego Maradona rose through the ranks at the club, debuting as a 15-year-old in 1976, before moving to Boca Juniors in 1981. Ironically, Argentinos enjoyed their best period after El Diego had departed, winning four major trophies in 1984 and 1985. The 1984 Metropolitano and 1985 Nacional championships were followed by continental success in the 1985 Copa Libertadores and Copa Interamericana. The decline was gradual and just 11 years after ruling South America, Argentinos were relegated to Argentina’s second tier. The club recaptured the title in 2010 after a 25 year wait although were relegated once again in 2014. Juan Román Riquelme, who had represented Argentinos at youth level, finished his career with the club as he aimed to help them bounce back to the top level at the first time of asking.

Chacarita Juniors have a more modest history than their fellow promoted side. Since their inception 111 years ago the club have yo-yoed between the top flight and the third tier, winning only one championship in their history (the 1969 Metropolitano). The club carries the nickname of Los Funebreros (the Undertakers) due to the stadium being close to the Chacarita Cemetery, the largest in Argentina and second only in fame to the Recoleta cemetery, where Eva “Evita” Perón amongst others are buried. This season Chacarita Juniors have relied heavily on veteran striker Rodrigo Salinas, who has netted 30 of their 57 league goals. The 31-year-old has never been particularly prolific throughout his career but seems to have found his home, and his level, with Chacarita Juniors in the second tier.

The two new boys will be competing in the 28 team Superliga which is scheduled to start on 18 August 2017 and conclude in May 2018. Teams will play each other once whilst there will be an extra Derby weekend where sides will be paired up with their biggest rivals. Four teams will be relegated and two will be promoted once again as the league is trimmed from 28 to 26 teams. The two newly promoted sides will face off on the first day, on Argentinos Juniors’ turf with each looking to get a leg up on the other. Argentinos will travel to Cordoba on the second weekend to face Talleres, then will be back in La Paternal to welcome grande San Lorenzo. Chacarita will host Tigre on week two before facing Belgrano away from home.

Sadly, and what may also impact foreign viewers, Argentine football will no longer be free to air on television. Former president Cristina Kirchner made all games free in 2009 via the Futbol Para Todos scheme although this has been reversed by the incumbent administration. Turner Sports and Fox Sports have acquired the rights with a five-year deal worth over $200 million per year.