Yes! We are in the Final! Agonizing, unlikely, longed-for. I wasn't very surprised, but when I was watching the last minutes of the match between San Martín de San Juan and Godoy Cruz, I almost died. We should have scored another goal in our match against Banfield, but that match had already ended minutes ago. I endured the last in depth attacks by Tomba standing up, as well as the heroic efforts by the Green and Black to protect their victory in the Cuyo Clásico
. When they scored 2-0 to clinch it, I went crazy.
When he was sent off, the Equatorian dumb-ass, Ayoví from Godoy Cruz, indicated to his opponent and the whole world his opinion that San Lorenzo bought the efforts of Pablo Lavallén's guys [tr. note: Club Atlético San Martín coach]. I'm just saying that anyone puts a supreme effort into a Clásico; the clásicos are fought hand to hand. They are not bought. Go to a church to mourn Ayovi, bad loser. Actually neither the gestures of that moron nor what the envious gossips say bother me that much. What bothers me is that they compare our board of directors with the corrupt manipulations of Boca Juniors and the Grondona family, that have no equal in soccer history for their blatant consistency and duration.
Now we are again playing a Final at the Monumental, 48 years after we won there, in August 1968, against Estudiantes de la Plata, the Metropolitano championship. Estudiantes was ahead by 12 points in their zone, and for many fans they were the favourite. Like Lanús will be next Sunday in the final to be played in the Gallinero [tr. note: River Plate stadium]. This time we don't have a coach like the legendary leader that "Tim" (Elba de Pádua Lima) was, nor a predator when it comes to the box like Lobo Fischer. It´s going to be difficult, almost impossible, to defeat the Granate [tr. note: Club Atético Lanús] who have played a great tournament. But...as a Cuervo, I live off optimism.
Hello Cuervo: Here in my pajamas at Gastón Gaudio's home, who lent it to me so I can drop my bags and write the script for which he hired me. I'm hoarse and taught my classes in a very low voice because I shouted out Blanco's goal in a desperate way. We spent a beautiful Sunday, my brother Juan, my friend Alejandro and my old man. We had an asado on my old man's terrace - the one you know - for his birthday, and then we watched the match. Today I'm getting my ticket for Sunday. I think that without Ortigoza and Mercier our chances are slim, but I will go with my friend Gordo Sergio, and we'll enter the Gallinero like the Wild Bunch do at the end of Peckinpah's movie, knowing they are going to their death. In any case, if we win, I will be, as usual, in Boedo and San Juan, two blocks away from where I was born, celebrating until the next day. Cuervo hug.
How nice that you could celebrate the agonizing qualifying for the great Final with your old man! I'm very happy with what happened. It was hard, but I'm still very optimistic regarding CASLA's chances this Sunday. No one can cure me of that. I've been looking at some voting in Olé where only 38% of the people say that San Lorenzo is going to win against Lanús. I think they are wrong, because I believe we´ll be champions. I think that based on sports realities at the moment. It doesn't really bode well, but I can only imagine San Lorenzo as champion. As usual, I will call you during the match, and will be with you somehow. I've had a very hectic week. My old man continues more or less physically well, but his mind is working worse all the time. I've also learned that I have problems with my pancreas and that they'll have to operate on me. I hope that that doesn't screw up the possibility for me of helping release the Captain Fantastic
movie in the US in two weeks time. If I can travel after leaving the hospital, I'll arrive just in time. Last week we presented this lovely movie at the Cannes Film Festival and we won the best director award in the Un Certain Regard
section, the same one in which we won the best film award two years ago for Jauja
. That time we asked for the Copa Libertadores
, and we got it. This time I asked to reach the Final against Granate, and it also happened. Now, either way, we have to win one more game. They say Pichi is coming back, and Pipi will also be available to provide his winning magic if Guede includes him. It's a pity , as you say, that Ortigoza won't be able to play. It's an important absence, him being a crucial piece for the proper functioning of the midfield and the impulse of the Cuervo attack. Argentine media and the supporters of other teams think we are as good as dead. That's fine with me. On Sunday the taste of victory will be all the sweeter if it happens. At the hospital, while I was waiting to be scanned from head to toe and to have my blood drawn for all their tests, I was reading Leopoldo Lugones´ collected short stories called La lluvia de fuego (The Rain of Fire
.) I´m sure you know it. In many ways, that guy was as much of a genius as Borges was. Studious, weird and romantic.
Hello Cuervo, I'm here already with my ticket, in my pajamas, waiting for the fine rain that's falling on the city to stop so I can once again go through the same ordeal on Sunday - do you remember the championship against Vélez we saw together that day of suffocating heat, with power shortages - it was more difficult because not only did we depend on ourselves but on top of that we were playing in Vélez.
I don't want to bother or worry you, but you are a loved one and I want to know a little more about your operation. I've had that in my head since yesterday. Anyway, I would like to help you in any way in your operation, but only from the distance. I'm going to send you power, as Spinoza said. I love you, my friend.
Tomorrow, at eleven in the morning, I'm off to the Gallinero. Let's synchronize our hearts on the same wavelength, brother. Yesterday my whole family, including Rita, left for the countryside. I came back home alone to sleep under the bell jar of their beautiful smell. I'm going on and on with the script for Gastón. I already survived three match points.
Ordeal! Yes, we will suffer in any case. Hopefully it will be for a good final result. It was lovely to speak with you on the phone just now. Thanks, brother. 2016 is bringing surprises to both of us, but we are alive and we are men free to enjoy life and the world.
You are going to knock Djokovic out with that script. You are Nadal at his best moment.
Here I am in Madrid on Friday night feeling what it must feel like in Boedo right now. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep tonight or tomorrow. They are playing The Champions Final tomorrow and I honestly think that Cholo and his team have the psychological advantage. I´m going to enjoy this weekend, no matter what happens. Monday medical procedures begin. And afterwards, if I can, I'm going to see my old man before presenting the movie in the USA. A big hug, Cuervo.
Nine Colchoneros friends [tr. note: Atlético de Madrid supporters] are coming over to our house this afternoon to watch today's Final between the two teams from Madrid. Even our little dog Nina is a Colchonera, so ten in all. I'm looking at her while I'm preparing the snacks and uncorking the wine for guests. The only time Nina has sat down to watch TV - a whole match, without blinking, at one metre from the screen - was the victory in the semi-finals against Pep's [Guardiola] Bayern. This morning she bit the woman from the news kiosk after that kind-hearted woman gave her a cookie, as usual. That woman is very much for Real Madrid. We were talking with some nervousness about Atleti and Simeone when Nina bit the hand with which she was petting the dog. I told the kiosk woman that "...today is not a good day to mess with the beast." Nina growled at me when I challenged her, so I bent down and bit her neck with some tenderness, right there on the street. And she calmed down. There are things that can't be allowed.
Sunday 5/29: Are you in the stadium? I'm calling and calling. What the hell is going on??? Now we are doing well, after half an hour of completely inept play, horrible passes, without the slightest sign of collective play, without ideas to confront the Granate [tr. note: Club Atlético Lanús] storm. We have to tie this match before it becomes a knockout punch. But Pitu and Pipi have to play, please. Pichi is slow, he's not doing well, although he´s trying anyway. Mussi is not doing well either. Barrientos should enter the game. And Buffarini doesn´t have the usual speed, his usual handling of the ball. We are not playing well at all. Second half: Ach! Now comes the deluge. We saved the worst match of the year for the Final. I can't believe it. And here they go, three goals by a fast, strong, super-focused, relentless Lanús. Like us against Bosta [tr. note: Boca Juniors] in the Supercopa, like Pep Guardiola´s best Barcelona. We are going through hell in the Gallinero. It could easily be six goals already. Put Pipi in, Guede! Put Romagnoli in, please. As much as I want to look away, I can't stop watching this match, surrounded by mute Cuervo friends and all the t-shirts, flags, scarves and any Cuervo relic in my possession. It's a total disaster, a massive accident on the Panamericana, in a slow motion playback. As Cholo Simeone said last night after the tough defeat against Real Madrid, nobody remembers the second. All the good things from the past seven dates, the 4-0 against Boca in the Supercopa, everything is forgotten, disappears. As Homero Manzi, that Quemero [tr. note: Huracán supporter] tango genius, wrote: "...Oblivion will come or not come, and I will lie in order to laugh and I will lie in order to cry..." Our neighbour cousins will make fun of us brutally tonight and tomorrow and the day after for our schadenfreude, the Bosteros because they are ill-mannered, the Gallinas because they resent our using their shitty stadium for the Final (the pitch is in very bad condition, actually), everybody will laugh at us this week and later. Until we win something important again. It doesn't matter. We are going to win the Copa Argentina and then the Libertadores. I say it now, in CASLA´s worst moment since the 1-7 at the hands of our favourite son in 2006.
We must find hope, we must cultivate it, rebuild it. To begin this, I take refuge in the wise thought of another Argentine poet, the same Lugones, who spoke very well about this:
"Don't be afraid of autumn. Although the flower falls, the branch remains. The branch remains to make a nest."
On Saturday night I was in a bookshop in Palermo. Fernando, the owner, is a great friend, and a Lanús fan. In fact, when you enter the bookshop there´s a deep-red emblem on one of the shelves. When we said goodbye, quite late, that rainy Saturday he said to me: "May the best one win." I said to him: "No, may the worst one win," that is to say, San Lorenzo. I think we didn't know that in spite of those seven straight games, San Lorenzo barely got there and with a little less when Ortigoza, our best player for how he plays, commands, organizes and leads a match, was injured. Anyway, I went, stoic, to the Gallinero, because you have to be prepared, not only when you think you are going to win. But I never thought that Lanús were going to roll over us in such a way. We were like that team that accompanies the Globetrotters around the world, for sparring, so those brilliant black men from Harlem can joke about them. That´s what I felt. Except for Buffarini, not one other player played the Final. It was a tactical and spiritual beating. Actually, Lanús is a big team. Here they are always talking, in soccer jargon, whether one is a big or small team, according to the number of people that follow you. That's stupid; you are big or small according to how you play. Yesterday San Lorenzo was a small team and Lanús a huge team. Right? I fell asleep with a couple of Clonazepams in a row.
The Reuters English headline said it all: "Lanús crushes San Lorenzo in Argentine final." That doesn't mean that suddenly we are not an important club. It means that we didn't play well and that Lanús was much better. If we had played our best match of the year, with our engine working at maximum efficiency as we did in the recent Supercopa, we could have lost with a certain dignity or perhaps scratch together a provisional tie, but the truth is that the Granate has been, as Rosario Central was in the last tournament, the best team in the First Division. There's no arguing that. Belluschi played quite well, and Mercier, lame, did what he could. The rest of CASLA looked like a herd of ponies running awkwardly around behind thoroughbreds. And poor Godoy Cruz that also played a spectacular tournament, fell in Córdoba against The Pincharrata in the game for the third place in the championship. Now they'll have to wait to see if San Lorenzo wins the Copa Argentina to be able to get into the 2017 Libertadores. Let's not forget that the guys from Mendoza deserved much more in this tournament. Soccer is a cruel bloodletting for so many brave guys.
Those for Atlético de Madrid are hurting like us or more. The thing is that in the Champions Final on Saturday they did play better than the opponent. They played to win. And lost by very little, having to put up with Cristiano´s stupid narcissism, the Waxed King in the exact moment of the debacle, celebrating his fateful goal in the penalty shootout in such a hurry to get out of his white shirt in a manner so lacking in spontaneity that he almost strangled himself. And they had to endure the shameful dramatics from Pepe, a shit-faced cheater who was disgusting yesterday. The last time he pretended to have been hit, to try to harm the great Carrasco, they should have sent the Portuguese defender out of the match. And that would have changed everything; perhaps that would have given Atleti the definitive lead. I'm happy for Real Madrid's victory, but I recognize that the Colchoneros had very bad luck. Despite that, they behaved with dignity in spite of the tremendous pain that a second defeat in a Champions' Final at the hands of their eternal Madrid rivals brought them. A defeat as cruel as the one in Lisbon in 2014. What Almudena Grandes wrote today in El País is for the Atleti supporter as much as for the San Lorenzo supporter.
by Almudena Grandes
30 May 2016
Happy is the tree, which is barely sensitive, and even more the hard stone because it no longer feels... On Saturday night, after the match, the first verses from Lo Fatal echoed in my head like a very dear friend who chooses the worst moment to make a visit. Happy the tree, my memory reminded me against my will, and even more the hard stone, which has no skin or heart, which has no illusions, no feelings.
My favourite poem by Rubén Darío kept me from falling asleep more than the Madrid fans who were singing in the street, but at last I fell asleep, because I'm not a tree, not a hard stone. And on waking up, I remembered that blood is red. Like our sunrises. Like the revolutions. And that the best things in this world are never of a single colour. I thought I was mistaken, that I had unwillingly activated an automatic protective mechanism against defeat, a clumsy machinery of self-deception, but I got up, made myself a coffee, enjoyed my breakfast and realised that I was still in good spirits. From then on until the moment of writing this column arrived, I discreetly kept an eye on myself and caught myself combining the old words in a new way. Because I'm not a tree or a stone, there´s no misfortune capable of breaking me. The story of my team, like that of humanity, is divided in two great periods. BC and AC. Before Cholo, Rubén's title floated like an unsolved curse over every failure. But after Cholo, misfortune is an incomprehensible term, an alien, extravagant word reminiscent of a language that we no longer know how to speak. The skin and the heart are intact. My memory picked the wrong poem because the trees and the stones don't know how to shout "Up with Atléti!"
As I told you, on Saturday I watched the match at home with nine friends who are Atléti supporters. I felt very sad for them. They left in silence, without a reproach, without being able to be comforted with hugs or words of empathy. In silence. One of them, who was returning home with his wife and two kids, all dressed in red and white, was stopped for a breathalyser test. "Sir, have you been drinking?," the Guardia Civil asked him. "No..." answered my friend Juan, unconvincingly. After a long pause, staring at the sad Colchonero, the policeman said "Up Atleti." So simple, pure compassion. I can't even imagine the fines that Merengue [tr. note: Real Madrid supporters] drivers must have received from this officer on Saturday night. The pain that our Colchonero friends left here has become Cuervo pain today. Our house is mute, in mourning. On the other hand, here on the balconies and in the bay window of the kitchen, oak, walnut, maple, and chestnut trees that sprouted from their acorns and seeds continue to grow. This is a lovely specimen of the maple that seemed almost dead and now is growing like crazy, next to an oak that has also taken on new life. They only needed a change of position, of point of view, a change of light. Like you and I.
P.S. Speaking of changing our light, look what my good friend, the great Billy Boyd, one of the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings
did at the recent Comic-Con (a great meeting of fans of comics and superhero movies) in Buenos Aires! He's so great.
And now that I think about him, about what we lived through making that trilogy under the direction of Peter Jackson, I have to apologize for what I said to an English journalist about the trilogy that talented director made later based on the other famous novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
. A couple of years ago, in the middle of an interview about another film, they asked me for the umpteenth time what I thought of the new trilogy. I was a little tired and I said that I preferred the first part of the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings
, since it had less special effects and was more faithful to Tolkien's original work, that it seemed to me that with each new chapter of those two sagas, the director, by making ever greater use of computer-generated images, had moved away from what was essential from Tolkien's world. I went too far with my tone and showed a lack of respect for Peter and, by association, all of his crew. I also spoke well of him to the journalist and, as always, recognized the unpayable debt that I owe him for having chosen me to play the character of 'Aragorn.' Although those appreciations were not included in the article that appeared in the English newspaper, The Telegraph
, I did something wrong. I'm very sorry. Life is short and we have to behave the best we can with those that give us help and love. With everyone, really. Jackson has achieved something unique by adapting two very complicated novels and has given a lot of happiness to Tolkien aficionados.
Peter, I am sorry for not always showing you the respect you deserve, in tone and in substance, and the appreciation for the debt I owe you. No excuses.