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Floating football's working class

Boca Juniors, Argentina's most famous football club, is to break with its working-class traditions by becoming the first team to list on the local stock market. The club, supported by an estimated half of Argentina's fanatical football fans, last month won authorization from the Buenos Aires stock exchange to launch the Boca Juniors Closed Common Fund, with the aim of raising $20 million to buy a much-needed batch of new players.

Although Boca can count on erstwhile footballing genius Diego Maradona among its squad, success has eluded the club in recent years. So painful has been its recent string of defeats it has just sacked manager Carlos Bilardo, who took Argentina's national team to World Cup glory in 1986.

For as little as $100, fans will soon be able to buy into the fund, whose performance will become a much-watched element of the already volatile Merval stock market index. Their investment will give them a stake not in the club itself ­ which will not become a limited company ­ but in the transfer fees of its players.

Conflicts of interest could arise. If Boca sells a star for a huge transfer fee, fans could cash in, but may well be too grief-stricken at the loss of a leading player to enjoy their windfall.

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