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Argentina football league: The Argentine Primera division

The Argentine first division is the Premier football league in Argentina.  Similar to the English Premier League, it is contested between 20 teams and it operates on a system of promotion and relegation to the Primera B Nacional – the second divison League.

The time period is from August to May and each season is divided into two touranaments –Inicial and Final. The winners of both tournaments would play a final to determine the champions of the Argentine Primera Divison.

The Argentine championship was ranked seventh in the ranking of the strongest leagues in the world (for the 2001-2012 period) by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS).

argentina football league

River Plate – The most succesful team in the Primera Division


1891-1931: The  Association Argentine Football League was established by Alex Lamont of St. Andrew’s Scots School in 1891. It was the first football league outside of the British Isles. The first Primera División matches were played on 12 April 1891: Buenos Aires FC vs. St. Andrew’s and Old Caledonians vs. Belgrano FC. Argentina was the first country apart from the United Kingdom to establish a Football league. The era from 1891-1931 is regarded as an amateur era while the era from 1931 onwards is regarded as the Professional era. During the amateur era, Alumni was the most successful team.

1931 -1966: The Primera Division went through a face lift in 1931 when it turn professional as 18 clubs formed the professional league. The most recent face lift was in 1991-92 season when the current system came into picture. A single double round-robin tournament was played each year, and the team with the most points was crowned as champion.

1967-1985 : In 1967, the single tournament format was abandandoned and replaced by two championships – Metropolitano and a single round robin Nacional. These changes brought about a revolution in the League as as small teams, like Estudiantes de La Plata at first, and Vélez Sársfield, Chacarita Juniors started winning the championship in contrast to the five clubs who had won all the championships up to that date

1985-1991: Instead of holding two championships every year, only one double round-robin tournament was contested, like football leagues in Europe. The team topping the table at the end of season was crowned the champion.

1992-2012: The single championship was split into two single-round tournaments, giving birth to the current Apertura and Clausura arrangement. Originally, two points were given to match winners.  In 1995/96, the rule was changed and three points were given for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss since then.

2012: In the 2012-13 season, the current arrangement of Torneo Inicial and Torneo Final was brought into picture replacing Apertura and Clausura. The winners of both tournaments would play a final to determine the champions.

Buenos Aires and the Buenos Aires province is the main areas from which the bulk of the clubs are based from. Majors clubs such as Boca Juniors, River Plate, San Lorenzo, Estudiantes, Independiente, Racing – all these clubs hail from this area. Other clubs such as Newell’s Old Boys(Rosario), Belgrano(Cordoba), Rosario Central(Rosario), Colon(Santa Fe), Godoy Cruz(Mendoz) are based out of places other than Buenos Aires.

Major Clubs

Sixteen clubs have won this premier trophy, although only four clubs have won more than ten titles. River Plate is the most successful club with 35 titles.  Other major clubs are Boca Juniors(24 titles), Independiate(14 titles)  and San Lorenzo(10 titles).

The current champion is San Lorenzo. The all-time top scorers of Primera División Argentina are Arsenio Erico and Angel Labruna both with 293 goals.

Relegation and Promotion

Relegation is based on an averaging system. At the end of each season, the two teams with the worst three-year averages and the worst positioned team in the season table are relegated, and the best team in the Primera B Nacional is promoted while the promotion of the other two is yet to be decided.

The two teams with the worst three- year averages in the League is releagated to the Primera B Nacional, while the best team in the second division is promoted along with two other teams. There has been widespread criticism  that the averaging system was instituted to minimize the chance of big teams being relegated

Major Rivalries

Super Derby(Superclásico) : This is one of world football’s fiercest and most important derbies . It is contested between Buenos Aires rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate. The prefix super is used as these teams are the most popular and successful teams in the league. These teams command about 70% of all the Argentina fans between them.

Avellaneda derby : The Avellaneda derby (clásico de Avellaneda) is the second most important rivalry in Argentine football . It is contested between Independiente and Racing, the 3rd (Independiente) and 4th (Racing) most popular and successful teams in terms of the total number of league championships won

Rosarian derby: This is the most important derby between clubs not based in the autonomous city or the Buenos Aires province.It is keenly contested between Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central, the two major teams in the city of Rosa

Interesting fact: The English newspaper The Observer put the Superclásico  at the top of their list of 50 sporting things you must do before you die.

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