The arrival of Marcelo Gallardo to River in mid-2014 was the beginning of one of the most important moments in Millionaire history. A huge harvest of titles, triumphs against Boca and the conquest of the 2018 Copa Libertadores, precisely against the classic rival, are unforgettable achievements for the fans.
But before the arrival of the Doll and this stage of glory, River went through the worst moment in its history. He experienced an unexpected, unprecedented event that no millionaire fan would have imagined even in his worst nightmares: the descent to the National B, which marks 10 years today.
A club like River, the cradle of great footballers, used to winning important things, playing finals, went to B. The phrase is strong to this day, and it is almost impossible to understand that the Millionaire really played in the National B between 2011 and 2012.
But this happened: leadership mismanagement in the efforts of José María Aguilar and Daniel Alberto Passarella, economic problems, reinforcements that mostly did not perform and bad football campaigns became a lethal combo. And they took Núñez’s club to the worst of the abysses.
The story had started long ago. There, for the Apertura 2008 with Diego Simeone as coach, when the team finished last in the standings. Then, several coaches and mediocre campaigns followed (an interim of Gabriel Rodríguez, Pipo Gorosito, Leo Astrada and Angel Cappa), until at the beginning of the Clausura 2011 Juan José López is ratified in office.
The historic millionaire midfielder, a member of a luxury midfield that along with Merlo and Alonso, took over in Cappa’s place on the 13th date of Apertura 2010. He had the confidence of President Passarella.
Jota Jota debuted on November 17, 2010, when they beat Boca 1-0 in that year’s Apertura. What better start than a win against the classic rival? The team seemed to find its way with López on the bench: he finished fourth in the tournament and the Kaiser decided to ratify his confidence for the Clausura 2011, where the main objective was to score points to escape the Promotion. Of course, no one in River was thinking about relegation at the time. Yes, it was thought about scoring points to try to be champion.
The team, despite the ups and downs, came to lead the tournament on dates 9 and 10. The average looked askance but the campaign gave no signs to worry. However, from date 13 began what would become an inevitable fall. The defeat by 2 to 0 against All Boys was the trigger, which was accentuated when a week later the team lost 2 to 0 in La Bombonera and against no less than Boca.
Perhaps in that moment of definitions, when the final leg of the tournament began, in an instance where there was no room for error, the ghosts were more present than ever. The descent, far off until that moment, became something possible, something real. Nervousness, murmurs … fear was palpable in the stands. All that anguish was transmitted to the players. And the team no longer won again.
Four consecutive draws (1 to 1 against San Lorenzo, 0 to 0 against Olimpo, 1 to 1 against Colón and 1 to 1 against Estudiantes), plus the final 2 to 1 defeat against Lanús led River to play for the first time a Promotion to stay in First. Luck, fate, did not give a hand either: Olympus, a recently promoted team, ended up having a very good campaign and condemning the Millionaires.
The Promotion against Belgrano de Córdoba, who had finished fourth in the National B, was pure suffering for River. A tough and combative team like Ricardo Zielinski’s, with the chance to send a great like the Millionaire to the B, had the tranquility and sufficient motivation to face those two games.
For River, on the contrary, who was not used to situations like these, the Promotion ended up being a real ordeal. In Córdoba, in the first leg, the team lost 2 to 0. The rematch was lacking at the Monumental: despite the fact that it started winning 1 to 0 and they did not give a clear penalty (River had a sports advantage and winning by two goals was I was in First), everything went uphill for Núñez’s. Belgrano tied it with the remembered goal from Farré, then Olave saved a penalty against Pavone, and the final minutes were too many. They served to increase the anguish, the suffering on and off the field.
The game was suspended shortly after the end due to serious incidents in the stands, with the players crying in the middle of the court and a police cordon protecting them. It seemed a lie. It seemed unbelievable. It still looks like it today, 10 years later. River had descended to the National B.