Argentina football coach resigns in Olympic chaos

Buenos Aires (AFP) – Argentina head coach Gerardo Martino resigned on Tuesday, deepening the chaos in the frustrated squad a month before the Olympics after its star striker Lionel Messi also quit.

In a statement published by the Argentina Football Association (AFA), Martino said he and his coaching staff quit due to management disputes in the body and difficulties in getting the squad together in time for the Olympics.

The blow came less than two weeks after Messi said he was quitting following defeat to Chile in the Copa America Centenario, sparking demonstrations by fans desperate for him to stay.

The crisis in the national squad laid bare managerial squabbles in the AFA that are blamed for disrupting the organization of Argentina’s favorite sport.

Martino’s decision was “due to the lack of clarity in the naming of new leaders for the association and the serious inconveniences in forming a squad to represent the country in the coming Olympic Games,” the statement said.

Argentine media said Martino was frustrated at clubs not releasing players for the national squad.

Key players such as Paulo Dybala of Juventus and Mauro Icardi of Inter have not been released.

– Pain of defeat –

Former Barcelona coach Martino, 53, took over the Argentina team in the wake of the 2014 World Cup, in which they were beaten 1-0 by Germany after extra-time in the final.

He guided Argentina to 29 wins, seven draws and three defeats.

He led the team to the Copa America final last year and again last month in the centenary edition. They were beaten both times by Chile on penalties.

The June 26 defeat this year was Argentina’s third consecutive loss in a major international final. They have gone 23 years without a major title.

“Losing again is too great a pain,” Martino said after that defeat.

Martino comes from the same northern city as Messi, Rosario.

As well as clubs in Spain, Ecuador and Chile, he played briefly for Argentina but was eclipsed by his contemporary Diego Maradona.

He guided Paraguay as far as the quarter finals of the 2010 World Cup as its national coach.

He returned as coach to his first club, Newell’s Old Boys, and won the Argentine league with them in 2013 before a single trophy-free season with Spanish giants Barcelona.

– Football association chaos –

The AFA meanwhile is in crisis and its management has been criticized by the likes of Messi and Maradona.

Before leaving for the Copa in the United States, Martino said that the AFA owed him six months’ pay.

Former AFA head Luis Segura quit last week amid a dispute over how the leagues should be organized.

Major clubs want to break away and form a “super-league” to get bigger broadcasting revenues.

The president of the Argentine Olympic Committee, Gerardo Werthein, warned on the radio shortly before Tuesday’s announcement that there was “50-percent chance” Argentina would miss the Olympic football competition.

The Olympics run from August 5 to 21 in Rio de Janeiro.

After that the country will look to the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Argentina’s great rival Brazil has also switched coaches just ahead of the Olympics.

They sacked coach Dunga after their group-stage exit from the Copa America and replaced him with ex-Corinthians boss Tite. But Olympic coach Rogerio Micale will take them to the Games.

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