Trouble blights Huracan's renaissance
There's a famous South American film with a title that translates as 'God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun.'
It's Brazilian, set in the country's arid northeast. But it is Argentina that has the sun in the middle of its flag, and the title could easily and appropriately apply to events in Buenos Aires.
Good and evil are not hard to find in Argentine football, sometimes in the same place - such as the Huracan club at the moment.
Founded just over a century ago, Huracan are one of the traditional big six of greater Buenos Aires.
Though it's one of their rivals, Racing, which are known as 'the Academy,' Huracan are the Argentine club that can be more closely tied to the ethos of West Ham.
Their importance comes less in the number of titles they have won, more in a tradition of well played football.
The team went about their business with such style and swagger that they still stand as a reference of how the game should be played.
For their rapid exchange of passes the attacking trio of Brindisi, Avellay and Babington were nicknamed 'Pele's brothers,' and to continue the Brazil comparison, Houseman on the wing was their Garrincha, a magnificently unpredictable talent.
The architect of the team was coach Cesar Luis Menotti. Success with Huracan launched Menotti to the national team job in 1974.
After decades in the wilderness, Menotti brought in a level of organisation and a philosophy of play - traditional Argentine passing football at increased pace - which carried the team to international football's top table, where they have been ever since.
Huracan, meanwhile, have yo-yoed between the first and the second division - which makes a glance at the current league table very sweet reading indeed. With a game to go, Huracan are on top.
The current team is coached by Angel Cappa, Menotti's close friend and former assistant.
Cappa is a throwback to ideas which should never have gone out of fashion - he is the type of coach who is incapable of going home happy if his team have won but played badly.
In a few short months he has moulded his men into an attractive, attacking side that are just a point away from winning the championship.
As fate would have it, their last game of the season is against the only side who can deny them.
Velez Sarsfield will take the title with a win. A draw is good enough for Huracan. Either the club will double their number of championships, or they will notch up another heroic second place.
Either way Huracan's progress gives the supporters plenty to celebrate.
And something to lament as well.
The club's neighbourhood, Parque Patricios, was famous for being the area in which Buenos Aires' litter used to be incinerated.
As the scenes at the club's last home game bear out, some of that trash seems to have ended up on the terraces.
There were fights between Huracan supporters inside the stadium, in the streets around the ground and even outside a hospital. When it was all over, two were dead and several injured.
The team had just beaten Arsenal 3-0, a result which put them in pole position in the title race.
But what should have been a happy day was marred by the cancer that afflicts the game in Argentina.
Professional football always walks a line between business and culture. In Argentina the balance is tilted firmly towards the latter.
Rather than businesses, the clubs are owned by their members, perceived as important representatives and defenders of their neighbourhood.
Idyllic in theory, this is open to abuse in practice. And a model that puts supporters at the heart of the club has been distorted into one that breeds supporters who live off the club.
The violence between Huracan fans - present in many other clubs as well - has nothing to do with passion for football, and everything to do with lust for money.
Rival groups do battle for control of revenue streams such as diverted ticket sales, parking, 'taxes' on street sellers around the ground, and so on.
It is winter in Argentina at the moment, so any sun on show in Buenos Aires is of the pale variety. But the opposing forces, the gods of football and the devils of greed and violence, are both on show as Huracan go for a second title.
Comments on today's piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag;
Q) As a Southampton fan I was hoping you would be able to shed a little light on what happened to the disaster that was Agustin Delgado?
I saw him a few times for Saints, including a game against Man U which perfectly encapsulated his time at the club - he played pretty well but got injured. Was he ever any good? If so, did he ever recapture his form once he moved home?
A) A record of 31 goals in 71 internationals tells us that we're dealing with a genuinely great striker - and these are not cheap goals, lots were scored in World Cup qualifiers and three of them in the World Cup itself. Inside 20 years Ecuador went from whipping boys in their own continent to the last 16 in the world, and 'Tin' Delgado is a key part of that remarkable rise. He looked gangling and a bit awkward, but he was much, much better than he looked. He had the priceless knack of grabbing goals from nowhere, and Ecuador are badly missing him at the moment. Man City's Felipe Caicedo is, as yet, nowhere remotely near the standard that Delgado set.
Problem with Southampton? Perhaps he moved across before English clubs had cottoned on to the importance of helping players settle in off the field. And also there was the timing of the move. When he was signed it was public knowledge that Delgado was playing through a knee problem to ensure Ecuador's qualification for the 2002 World Cup. Those knee problems have dogged his career - it's why he retired from international football after the last World Cup. He's 34 now and back home with Emelec, but he's only made a couple of substitute appearances this year.
Q) It's been confirmed that West Ham have signed Luis Jimenez from Inter on a one-year loan. Mourinho didn't give him much playing time and Inter fans I spoke to seem to think he is a very gifted player who should have been given a chance. Upton Park seems to be a good match for him considering Zola's brand of 'carpet football'.
Do you think he could shine at West Ham and where should he be deployed? On the wings or as a 'trequartista'?
A) I expect him to do well with West Ham. He's an attacking midfielder who can also receive the ball back to goal, very elegant and strikes the ball wonderfully well, so yes, I do imagine him fitting in well with Zola's philosophy.
I don't really see him on the wing. One of the reasons he's out of the Chile picture at the moment is that coach Marcelo Bielsa, who loves wingers and plays two of them, doesn't imagine him operating on the flanks, and Mati Fernandez is their key man through the centre. But it's an exciting time for Chile, and a good season at Upton Park could get him back in the squad in time for the World Cup.