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No president, no coach, no Messi: Argentine football is in meltdown logo 06-07-2016

The resignation of Gerardo Martino was not such a great surprise to those who pay close attention to the comings and going of the Argentine national team. The real shock was that Tata had made such a game effort to carry on as everything around him collapsed.

He finally said "enough" on Tuesday, after a short meeting with Barracas Central president and Argentine FA vice Claudio Tapia. The reason Tapia was there? Because there was almost nobody left in the AFA to receive Martino's resignation after a nightmare two months that have left the body on the verge of self-destruction.

In that time the organization has suffered judicial intervention; the mass walkout of vice-presidents linked to the biggest clubs in Argentina, Boca Juniors, River Plate and San Lorenzo, pushing for an elitist 'Superliga'; a bomb threat at its Viamonte headquarters, and finally last week the resignation of president Luis Segura.

At this point the question is not, who could be interested in taking over the Albiceleste job for the Olympic Games and the resumption of the World Cup qualifying campaign. More pertinently, with the AFA in a state of civil war and completely devastated, who even has the authority to appoint a new coach at this present time.

Former captain Lionel Messi was one of the first powerful voices to break the wall of silence over Argentina's pitiful state. The Barcelona wizard rarely speaks up about political or non-football matters, but yet another delayed plane during the Copa America in the United States drove him to slam the AFA as a "disaster".

The body made a half-hearted attempt to shift blame for that mishap, but it was the beginning of the end for La Pulga and his national team.

Just days later, as Chile still celebrated its penalty shootout win in the Metlife Stadium, Messi finally reached his limit. "The national team is over me, that's that," he said, his expression that of a man resigned to his fate. Of course, that penalty miss took its toll, but the sheer chaos among those charged with looking after the players surely contributed.

Take Martino, who went in to the Copa having failed to receive his wages for seven months. Or Under-20s coach Julio Olarticoechea, a colleague of Diego Maradona in his national team days and a World Cup winner in 1986.

"At the AFA training facilities there is no food to give to the kids, no money for spaghetti. The situation is really sad," the trainer lamented to Radio Continental.

This is not some obscure, impoverished football backwater, but a nation with two World Cups, a hosts of Copas America and a reputation for having produced some of the best players in the history of the sport.

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The level of contempt AFA directors, the vast majority of them club presidents and more worried about grubbing more television money and pushing through new league formats, have for their charges and especially the young promises is nothing short of criminal.

Martino's frustration reached a head with Olympic chief Gerardo Werthein's assertions that Games preparations were "shambolic", even warning that Argentina could pull out of the football tournament altogether if they could not put a squad together. The coach saw most top clubs close ranks to the Under-23 team, barring their best young players from competing in Brazil.

With the FA completely unable to respond, or use its leverage to change those sides' mind, he was in an impossible situation. The coach may have been "passive" about squad selection, as Werthein claimed: but when it comes to apportioning blame the clubs and the AFA itself must take the lion's share.

Diego Simeone, Jorge Sampaoli and Mauricio Pochettino will now be mentioned for the job, and are undoubtedly the most suitable candidates.

But any one of that trio would have to be clinically insane to work in Argentina at the present time. All the Albiceleste can do is find an adequate stop-gap for the Olympics, and hope that by the next month at least the institutional chaos has died down to the extent that a permanent successor can be named.

No matter how you dress it up, Argentine football is in complete meltdown, and its crisis goes far beyond missing out on the Copa through the vagaries of penalties. There is no AFA president, no senior coach and no captain, and seemingly no way out of this mess for those supposedly in charge.

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