Last month, there was the threat that Argentina would pull out of the Copa Centenario. It didn't happen, and the Albiceleste went on to finish second at the tournament. But now there is the threat
that Argentina will pull out of the men's soccer tournament at next month's Olympics. That threat is real -- put at 50 percent by the head of Argentina's Olympic committee -- and it has led to
the resignation of national team coach Gerardo Martino
The underlining problems are the same that caused Lionel Messi
to say he intended to quit the national team and they
have no immediate cure: the chaos surrounding the Argentine federation, under investigation by the Argentine government for fraud and under management by a FIFA-ordered stabilization committee.
Argentine soccer is paying a steep price for the years of dictatorial control by Julio Grondona
and the void his death left. Efforts to name a successor ended in a hung verdict when the
75 voting members of the AFA voted 38-38 -- yes, 38-38 -- in the presidential election pitting interim president Luis Segura
against Marcelo Tinelli
, a TV host and San Lorenzo executive.
New elections were ordered for June, but the Argentine government stepped in and postponed the elections, ordering investigators to audit the AFA accounts related to the payment of TV
broadcasting rights from the Argentine government of former president Cristina Kirchner
. Segura, six other AFA officials and three Kirchner cabinet members were charged with fraud related to TV
Segura still managed to attend the Copa Centenario final in New Jersey, but FIFA stepped in and ordered a committee to take over the AFA. It also ordered new
elections -- not later than June 30, 2017. That lack of clarity is at the heart of the latest mess -- Martino's resignation and that of his coaching staff.
"The national team's technical
staff have decided to hand in their resignation on this day," the AFA said in a statement on Tuesday. "Due to uncertainty over the designation of new authorities in the Argentine soccer federation and
the serious problems in putting together the team that will represent the country in the Olympic Games, the staff have chosen to resign."
The problems related to the Olympic team, which
was supposed to begin training on Monday, stem from the fact that clubs are not required to release players for the Olympics, which is deemed an age-group competition. With the AFA in disarray, clubs
are reluctant to step forward and hand their under-23 players over.
Things are so bad that Gerardo Werthein
, the president of the Argentina Olympic Committee, said there was only a
50 percent chance Argentina would send a team to the Olympics. Argentina won Olympic gold in 2004 and -- with Messi -- in 2008, but the AFA has not made the Olympic team a priority.
is happening has everything to do with what is going on with AFA, an entity in which there is no one who can make decisions," Werthein told Radio Mitre. "They have not spoken with us in 20 months,
they are completely silent about the Olympic team despite being two-time champions and they have done absolutely nothing to call up the players."
The 2005 Under-20 World Cup and 2008
Olympics are the only championships Messi has won with Argentina. In the last three years, it finished second in the World Cup, Copa America in Chile and now Copa Centenario.
have demonstrated in the streets for Messi to change his mind about quitting and return for one last run with the Albiceleste at the 2018 World Cup. There is first the matter of qualifying for the
World Cup, which brings the national team back to the current crisis.
Qualifying is by no means a sure thing in the tough South American zone, and Argentina's next qualifier at home
against Uruguay is on Sept. 1. That's less than two months from now.
In the meantime, La Albiceleste don't have Messi, the world's best player. It might be without his supporting cast of
stars, who have all threatened to quit. And on top of that, it now doesn't have a coach.