As tension rises over the 30th anniversary of the deadly conflict between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, the Argentine government has named the upcoming football season in honour of a naval ship sunk by British torpedoes in the conflict.
The season, which begins Friday, will be the known as the first division ”Crucero General Belgrano,'' or Cruiser General Belgrano, which was torpedoed 2 May 1982 by the Royal Navy submersible ‘Conqueror’.
Argentina lost 649 servicemen in the war, 323 of whom were crew members on the Belgrano, which was the former USS Phoenix. A controversy has surrounded the naval incident: whether the Belgrano was ousting the exclusion zone imposed by the British or actually regrouping to attack the Falklands when she was sunk.
In spite of the Argentine governments’ official version, Argentine naval officers have confirmed the regrouping plans and recently released UK documents confirm the version based on intercepted Argentine communications at the time.
The Argentine government owns the rights to Argentine first-division matches and shows all the games on free-to-air television.
Advertising time during the matches is often used to promote the accomplishments of the Argentine government, which is strongly campaigning in favour of sovereignty over the Falklands/Malvinas and other South Atlantic Islands.
The 30th anniversary of the start of the 10-week conflict is April 2 when Argentine marines first invaded the Islands. On 14 June, 74 days later the Argentine troops surrendered unconditionally to a British Task Force sent to recover the Falklands.
A year later Argentina was rapidly on its way to free elections and the recovery of the rule of the law, following the collapse of the military Junta involved in the desperate ‘adventure’ of the invasion to try and save a crumbling authoritarian regime.
The British then set up a tri-service military garrison, RAF Mount Pleasant Airport which has since been tasked with the job of defending the Falklands and preventing any repeat of the 1982 conflict.
The Argentine government was angered by the arrival in the Falklands last week of Prince William, second in line to the British throne. The prince, known in the British defence forces as Flight Lt. Wales, has been deployed to the Islands for six weeks as a search and rescue pilot.
The British government says it's a routine deployment. Argentina has called it provocative.