As COVID-19 still rages in Argentina, 25 September is the date that the authorities expect competitive action to resume.
Staggered small groups consisting of six players each to ensure social distancing took the pitches at the Jorge Griffa Training Centre for the first time in five months this week as the Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (AFA) try to get the show back on the road.
Coronavirus tests took place over the weekend to ensure there were no active infections within the Newell’s squad prior to training resuming on Tuesday. Every player tested returned a negative test but there was a number of players who did not report for duty in Rosario this week. Santiago Gentiletti is still locked in contract negotiations with Newell’s, Cristian Insaurralde is based in Buenos Aires and was deemed a travel risk while Cristian Lema is officially a Benfica player again after his loan ended, although Newell’s are trying to bring him back for a second season with La Lepra. Another player not to report for a Coronavirus test is new signing Manuel Guanini, who has already tested positive for the virus back in his native La Plata, and is recovering there in self-isolation.
Despite the challenges involved with getting the squad back to training and the uncertain nature of the league restarting, Newell’s fans were thrilled to see club legend Ignacio Scocco with the ball at his feet again, dressed in rojinegro training gear. The 35-year-old signed for Newell’s for a fourth spell on 1 July after his contract at River Plate came to an end.
It’s still unclear when we’ll actually see him on the pitch at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa again. Although neighbouring countries Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay have all resumed domestic football competitions, Argentina is still grappling with a Coronavirus outbreak that has caused 5,000 deaths from 260,000 cases. On the day training resumed at Newell’s, Argentina had its deadliest day for Coronavirus deaths so far (240).
Nevertheless, sports channel TyC reports that AFA, whose new tournament the Liga Profesional de Fútbol replaces the Argentina Superliga in 2020, has decided that the top tier will return on 25 September with a brand new bespoke format that is, in true Argentine fashion, very complicated.
According to TyC, the tournament will start with 6 groups of 4 teams, with a round of ‘Clásico’ (derby) matches after the initial fixtures are complete. The winners and losers of each group will be split apart and placed into new groups where they’ll then fight it out for the Championship and spots in South America’s two continental competitions, the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.
With a mooted restart date of 25 September, that leaves Newell’s manager Frank Kudelka with approximately 7 weeks to get his squad fit, conditioned and ready for a new campaign. On top of that, there are contracts to sort out and transfers to complete. Those 7 weeks are sure to fly by.
Like other countries in South America, matches will be behind-closed-doors for the foreseeable future but will be screened on TV. Click here to find out more about watching Newell’s Old Boys matches online.