By Rex Gowar
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The Argentine FA, lacking proper leadership since 2015 and fearful its national team might not reach the World Cup finals, elected a third-tier club chairman and former roadsweeper as its president on Wednesday.
Claudio “Chiqui” (little one) Tapia of Barracas Central, who play in the Primera B Metropolitana division, was the sole candidate in the election, but needed the support of a majority of delegates, which he achieved by scooping 40 out of 43 votes cast.
He will serve a four-year term, but some of the power behind the scenes is expected to be wielded by his deputy Daniel Angelici, who is president of top flight Boca Juniors and was a key figure in promoting Tapia's candidacy.
The AFA has been under the administration of a FIFA-appointed Regularising Committee, headed by Argentine Armando Perez, since last June after a presidential election in 2015 ended in a 38-38 tie between two candidates when only 75 delegates had a vote.
Tapia is the first man to win the AFA presidency in an election since Julio Grondona in 1979. Grondona ran the AFA as his personal fiefdom for 35 years until his death in 2014.
The 49-year-old Tapia, who came to Buenos Aires from San Juan province with his family when he was a boy, spent nine years working for the capital’s refuse collection company while playing for Barracas and became a trade union leader and president of his club aged 35.
Tapia has been close to the Argentina team since 2015 and headed the delegation that took them to the Copa America Centenario in the United States last year where they lost the final on penalties to Chile.
The AFA will hope to draw a line under the 35-year reign of Grondona, who died a month after Argentina reached the World Cup final in Brazil. During his tenure the team also won the trophy in 1986 and reached the 1990 final.
In a deal cut earlier this month, it was decided that River Plate president Rodolfo D’Onofrio and San Lorenzo vice-chairman Marcelo Tinelli, a TV show host and former sports journalist, would take charge of the Argentine first division, which will be renamed the Superleague from next season.
Tinelli was also made director of the national team and his first task will be to seek a reduction to the ban handed to captain Lionel Messi for allegedly insulting a linesman during and after their 1-0 home win over Chile in a World Cup qualifier last Thursday.
The match officials did not include the incident in their reports but FIFA acted on video evidence to ban Messi for four matches, which started with Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Bolivia in La Paz.
That result left Argentina in fifth place in the 10-team South American qualifying competition, which would only be good enough to secure them a spot in an intercontinental playoff. The top four qualify automatically for the tournament finals in Russia.
Messi will miss games away to Uruguay and at home to Peru and Venezuela, before returning for their final match in Ecuador in October.
(Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Toby Davis)