Dear Viggo - your letter reminded me of a phrase from Baruch Spinoza that seems very accurate to me - "politicians are impotent beings who use the sadness of the people to govern." Today is an atypical day - the heat is lethal and they're announcing on the radio that it could hail. The city seems like a set from the film Blade Runner. Two days ago, I went to the parish church of Santa Cruz, in Boedo, with my nearly one-year-old daughter Ana. It occurred to me to have her baptized. Do you know that church? It's a medieval structure, very beautiful, and its priests were very strong members of the resistance during the dictatorship; it was in this church that the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo met for the first time to resist. My godfather took me to this church and although I'm not a constitutional Catholic (I detest the Pope, who to me is the manager of the organizational structure and doctrine of the Church), I'm a profound believer, and I am devoted to this particular church. I confess to you that it's very hard for me to support the Argentine team. I have a bad experience with what soccer does when it nationalizes itself and starts with the same old national anthems. I listened to the anthem on the radio when the dictatorship staged the coup against Isabel Perón, the anthem sounded full blast on the radio when one morning I came down from my bedroom and my old man told me, rejoicing, that we had won back the Malvinas. We listened to the anthem every other minute in that harsh and metaphysical cold of the Mundial 78 [translators' note: the 1978 World Cup] while the people celebrated and kidnapping and killing was going on wholesale. I detest chauvinism. For me, the ideal place is the bar in Star Wars, where women with three boobs and men with fish heads and dealers from Andromeda get together. In diversity, in a mixing of cultures, the intense life that I love emerges. Where we're all blonde or all black; that is, where one looks for purity, there is only fascism. Look how even nature is right-winged, since according to its plans the weak have to be sacrificed in favor of the purity of the pack. The left is like a tumor. It's unclassified information. The left should be service to others, elimination of the "I", of personal importance. Not long ago I dreamed that CASLA played - by one of those tricks of the unconscious - in a World Cup. The news surprised everyone. They said they were going to let San Lorenzo play with the national teams from around the world. In the dream I said to my old man, "Now I really can cheer for someone in the World Cup!" The club is something atavistic; it's a passionate territory that doesn't understand borders. For me, the San Lorenzo shirt, its color on a sunny day, can make me weep with emotion. Well, you played Sigmund Freud in Cronenberg's most recent film - how do you interpret my dream? With love, Fabián Casla.
I think that´s a great dream! To me, there´s nothing bad or insecure about it. I don´t think Sigmund could find any hidden frustration or sexual damage. It´s a child´s dream, like winning an Olympic medal, being the first one to reach a wonderful valley or unknown planet, to score the goal that wins the Cup for San Lorenzo.
I completely agree with you, Fabián, about nationalism. And with Orwell, who said, "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." Look at Breivik in Oslo, defending the homeland´s honour and the supposed racial and Christian purity with an appallingly detailed Islamophobia.
For me, the thing about Argentina´s national team is a bit complicated. Although I don´t think nationalism is at all right (I´d like it if passports or borders didn´t exist), the national team affects me because of my history with the country, and is similar up to a point with Denmark and its national team. I spent some important years in Denmark and I´m a citizen because of my father. I have an especially strong link with my family there and I had beautiful experiences living in Copenhagen and other places. I even like our Queen Margrethe a lot, although I´m not a great fan of monarchies in general. She is a cultured and talented woman, very committed to the well-being of Danish citizens, the arts, science and the environment. The Danish people´s relationship with the royal house is much closer and more relaxed than that of other people with their kings and princes - especially compared to England´s case, for instance. In Denmark, patriotism is less offensive than that of many other countries, although it´s true that xenophobia has gone up a bit since the time when Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO´s current Secretary General, was Prime Minister between 2001-2009. In spite of the opposition by the great majority of citizens, he got Denmark into the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Very similar to what happened with Aznar in Spain, who, like Fogh Rasmussen, is a great admirer of G. W. Bush and his predatory foreign policy. All that has changed the relationship of the Danish people with other nations, especially with those with a Muslim majority, but I trust that this recent imbalance will be corrected. As I say, Danish people are generally peaceful and culturally open. Forgive the socio-political digression. What I´m driving at is that I have a strong and somewhat irrational connection with Denmark, too. By the way, there´s a lot of soccer tradition in that nation with five million inhabitants. The national federation was founded in 1889, and the Danish are as crazy as the Argentinians when it comes to soccer. It is also the king of sports there. During any World Cup, whether or not the National Danish Team is in the tournament, soccer paralyses half of the country.
In 1978, I was working in a factory in Copenhagen. Before the start of the World Cup, I bet my co-workers some 300 kroner and a crate of beer that Argentina would end up champions. They thought I was crazy. The majority of them had their bets on Holland, Germany or Brazil. I hadn´t been to Argentina since 1970 and I was missing it very much. Although what I was learning about the dictatorship was causing me a lot of pain, I couldn´t help feeling what I did, that longing as a child for Buenos Aires, for Chaco, the countryside, the rivers, San Lorenzo, our Spanish language, and so many other things. The longing for Argentinian things caused me a lot of emotion when I would see Kempes and the others on the Danish TV with the albiceleste [tr. note: blue and white] jersey. Much later, when I came to know about the manipulations of the game against Peru, I felt let down. I don´t like cheating. When the National Argentinian or Danish team loses, I get almost as sad as when San Lorenzo loses. Almost. Despite the deep distrust that nationalism and conservative speeches, filled with religious and patriotic references to divide the people, cause me, I am practically an unconditional supporter of CASLA, Det Danske Landshold, and la Selección [tr. note: The national teams of Denmark and Argentina.] Like you, I can applaud good play by the opponent; I don't hate anyone; I want to live a good game and a life that challenges me and teaches me all kinds of things But I want San Lorenzo and the national teams I've adopted as mine to win. A Danish journalist once asked me what I would do if Denmark and Argentina were facing each other in a World Cup. I said I would make a shirt, half and half, from the two teams' colors. The following year a gentleman gave me one like that. I'll use it someday, and amuse myself by rooting for both teams. Although I wish the U.S. National Team luck when they play, I would never be able to support them against Argentina or Denmark. Absurd things from my upbringing and the personal ties that I have with these countries, although I was born in New York.
Boca Jrs. borrowed the colors of the Swedish flag flying on a boat in the port of Buenos Aires. Any match between Denmark and Sweden is like one between River and Boca and because of that, also, I love having the Bosteros as our children. I like beating River, but not as much as beating Boca. Brazil is almost the same for me as Boca and Sweden, in soccer, because of their yellow shirts and blue pants. I wish that Argentina, San Lorenzo and Denmark could always play very well in their clásicos [translator's note: the name given to certain matches between two teams which are great rivals] and that they could always win. It's ridiculously childish, I know, but I can also say that I feel this kind of tribalism without rancor. I have dear Brazilian, Swedish, and Bostero friends. Brazil and Sweden are countries that have some of the most beautiful places in the world, and Boca has a lot of history and charm. It's the pure game that moves me. Like any child, I take the games very seriously sometimes, but without wanting to hurt anyone or wanting to be hurt myself. Also, I always want the All Blacks of New Zealand to win at rugby, even against the Pumas, but especially against Australia and England, but that's a subject for another day....
The Argentinian national anthem and almost all the others, except those without lyrics, like the one from Spain, all seem more or less terrible to me because of their words. The idea that a country is the one chosen by some god, the supposed value of dying while killing to access a blood-soaked glory, and the celebration of warmongering in general are just dangerous bullshit. I know that many Spaniards, Catalans, Basques and others don´t like the Spanish national anthem that much for what it reminds them of the Franco legacy, but as a musical theme I don't think it sounds all that bad. I love that Messi doesn´t sing the national anthem -- screw all those who criticise him for that -- but I want him to be world champion with the number 10 shirt from the national team.
After all, it seems to me we are creatures from an incomprehensible universe, united for the most part by our ignorance of infinite mysteries. We don´t belong to anybody, nor anywhere, but some of us are Cuervos forever. That way we fly.
When the generals sent all the Argentinian kids to invade Las Malvinas, the day after CASLA´s 74th birthday, I was beginning acting. I was in London where I had been sent to do my first screen test for a starring role in an American film. I hadn´t the slightest idea of what one should do in such a test and I didn´t get the job in that one or in the twenty-some other tests for important characters I did in the first years of my career as an actor. But I took it very seriously, and I did my job the best I could at that moment. It was fun and a total luxury to spend some days in London in a hotel room paid for by others while I rehearsed and shot the scenes for the test. I went to see Taxi Driver three times in a row one Sunday at a tiny little theatre in Soho. That's a brilliant film with extraordinary work by Robert De Niro. I had never seen it before and it really impressed me very much. I walked a lot around London, visiting a few of their parks, museums and pubs. In short, a lovely English adventure for me until I went out one morning very early and bought the paper and found posters near the kiosks calling Argentinians scoundrels and Nazis. War had broken out over the Malvinas. I bought all of the papers. The most right-wing or sensationalistic glorified Prime Minister Thatcher (who dramatically improved her lack of popularity with her forceful military response to the Argentine invasion) and showed a kind of desperation to provoke blind patriotism. Something that you always see in any country at the beginning of a war - especially a country that has stopped being a dominant empire, as was the case in Great Britain and as is beginning to occur with U.S. in the last 10 or 15 years in spite of its immense war arsenal.
In Argentina, many people, including those that were against the dictatorship, fell ill for a while with that thirst for war and the desire to snatch the islands back from the English by force instead of diplomacy and reason. The hatred toward the Argentinians in general was palpable in the streets of London that April in 1982, as well as the British delight at making war again in the world. "We're going to give a drubbing to those shitty sudacas." [tr. note: sudaca is a pejorative word for South Americans.] It bothered me a lot. And the use of the name "Falkland Islands" instead of what I'd learned in school in my childhood also f***ed me up. That´s why at that moment I loved "The Hand of God" in the 1986 World Cup (but not now because, as I say, I don´t like cheating) and even more Diego´s second goal against the English - the "cosmic kite" one. Ultimately, it´s not fulfilling, the negative emotional abstraction, that unloading of hostility, doesn´t add anything to your life. Savater was absolutely right when he wrote, "To be an internationalist is to be rationally convinced that the division between nations - which has nothing natural about it - does nothing but prevent human emancipation and that the national-patriotic myth is always used to legitimize the most abject and rapacious oligarchy in power."