A Love Letter
6 July 2011
Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro
Viggo and a talk you cannot miss with writer Fabián Casas.
Hello, Fabián.* Thanks for joining me in this conversation. Like so many who follow Argentinian soccer, I´ve been thinking these last few days about the intense feelings and the state of deep mourning that some supporters experience when they have to bear their club dropping down. As it happened to our dear San Lorenzo in 1982, it´s now the turn for Quilmes, Huracán, River Plate and Gimnasia y Esgrima. Being one of the five "Greats", and the third to drop [tr. note: demoted to a lower division] (along with Racing and San Lorenzo), the fall of River stood out in the media last week. The lies and manipulation of the media, despising and at the same time taking advantage of the supporters' pain, also stood out in the media, as usual. Yesterday I read a poem by Cortázar that I hadn´t looked at for years. Suddenly, it seemed to me a part of the poem was touching the feelings of the suffering supporter and pointing at the cynicism in the media.
Deep down all I would like from you
it's so little
because deep down it's everything
all that is so little,
I want it from you because I love you
That you should look beyond me,
that you should love me with violent disregard
for tomorrow, that the shout
of your deliverance should clash
on the face of an office boss,
and the pleasure we both invented
be another sign of freedom.
Considering what happened to Huracán in this last tournament, it seemed very unfair to me that River should have permission to play in front of an audience after the disturbances caused by the Gallinas [tr. note: River Plate supporters] who invaded the pitch to curse their players in the return game. I immediately thought of el Globo [tr. note: the nickname for Huracán], and the three games they had to play without an audience after the riot some of their supporters caused during the match with Estudiantes. Although the Quemeros [tr. note: Huracán's supporters are called "los Quemeros" ("the Burners") because the stadium is located in a former garbage burning area] didn't invade the pitch, they certainly caused damage to their stadium and attacked visiting supporters. In contrast, River was allowed to play in a packed Monumental Stadium for the second leg of their playoff against Belgrano, and on top of that, with some 14,000 spectators more than the stadium was authorized to hold. Some Gallinas - the barra bravas [tr. note: organized soccer hooligan groups] and the club officials who provided the admission tickets, I suppose - must have made a pretty penny from those illegal admissions. Well, just like always. Out-of-control passion hand in hand with unleashed corruption. Did you see the game? Watching it with an unprejudiced eye, it looked to me like Belgrano played a ballsy game in a complicated environment.
You suffered through San Lorenzo's relegation, and for your old man, a diehard cuervo, it was really hard, wasn't it? I still hadn't returned to Argentina then, but I know the story of our fall and the immediate, glorious return to the top in 1982. La Chancha Rinaldi was an important player for that heroic team. You've told me a little about him.
Dear Viggo: Yes, I saw the match between River and Belgrano at a cuervo friend´s home. Now, reading your e-mail, Cortázar´s poem, what you say about club officials and barras, brings to mind many things I´ve been thinking about these days when it seems that our country entered ass backwards in that unreal thing sports journalists call "River World", a term they also use to explain the internal rules of "Boca World". It seems that these two mainstream clubs, because of the quantity of members, nominations or whatever, managed to be designated as a world of its own. But the truth is that each person is an unfathomable world, that each brain potentially carries the infinity of the universe. What does my mind carry when I remember our drop? It was thirty years ago, I was a bit distant from soccer but I remember my old man arriving from the field devastated, the way he put on pajamas that made him look like a beggar and the way he sat on the double bed, staring at a fixed point in space. We (my two younger brothers and I) were peeking at him, through the half-closed door, from outside their room. My old lady was telling us to keep an eye on him, maybe thinking he could do something crazy. But no... he remained there thinking, like a flesh statue... maybe he was thinking about afternoons spent in the Viejo Gasómetro, titles, players. All that mental and spiritual archive that he repeated to me time and again after dinner or climbing the stands in different fields to see CASLA together, one more time. I'll confess something to you: when I saw how Huracán was going to the B [division] because of the major defeat that Independiente inflicted on them, when I saw the scenes where [Independiente coach] El Turco Mohamed put his head in his hands on the bench, my eyes filled with tears. I have a great deal of respect for the opponent. I wanted Cappa's Huracán to take the championship and never, not from any point of view, for El Globo to go down to the B [division]. What for? It seems to me that in our country we don't have a positive cult of the Adversary, something that even the Catholic Church has with the devil. Without the Adversary, we're nothing. That same adversity is what strengthens us. Comfort weakens you as well. I think about the soldiers who fought in the Great War, they were already familiar with ice, and they missed it when they were given warm water. On the other hand, those who fought before it was invented didn't suffer from that. I was born at the corner of Boedo and Estados Unidos, in a very big and humble house without central heating or hot water. And I cannot remember a happier time in my life. I think that something about not being able to tolerate adversity is happening to River. Something encouraged in the media by sports journalists who have filled their heads with serious words like shame, tragedy, terror, sickness to describe their latest games. A journalist, known for having his wages increased by an envelope given by Aguilar, came out saying that "one is prepared for his parents' death but not for that of a child or the drop of River." Incredible. I don´t know if that idiot celebrated Father´s Day. As for what you ask me about Rinaldi, I think that La Chancha was the greatest player I´ve seen in my life. Because of his way of placing himself on the pitch - very aggressive - and his energy, when you saw him playing, you felt like playing, too. Just like when you read Roberto Bolaño and instantly you want to write something, anything. Have you read Bolaño?. Well V, a big cuervo hug.
I think that the Huracán directed by Cappa in 2009 was the Argentinian [team] that in the recent years most resembled Guardiola´s Barcelona. They played beautiful soccer and should have been the Torneo Clausura champion that year. Vélez was favoured by disgraceful refereeing in the decisive match against Huracán. Of course Vélez players are not to blame for that, but the best team didn´t win the match or the tournament that day. That´s how things are in life sometimes. Creative excellence doesn´t always win. As Heidegger wrote,"What´s left as a task is seeing the enigma". It can sound strange that being Cuervos we talk so much and in such favourable terms about Huracán. As you say, we have to respect the adversary. When playing well, it deserves to be recognized.
I absolutely agree - Roberto Bolaño is great. He once said, "My homeland is my son and my library." During the last shooting stages of the three films which make up The Lord of the Rings, I had a lot of fun reading another trilogy, Los detectives salvajes (The Wild Detectives) by Bolaño. Amazing.
Nano Areán is gone. I don´t know if your daddy or you ever met him. I had the honour of greeting him in Bajo Flores some years ago. He seemed to me a complete gentleman. I remember him very well as a key part of Los Carasucias. In the mid-sixties I was starting to seriously follow San Lorenzo. Areán was playing in the eye of the storm, setting up things like a "9" with La Oveja Telch who was pushing from behind, for the talented players with insatiable attack who had come up with them from the CASLA junior teams: El Bambino Veira, El Loco Doval and El Manco Casa. They, among others, established the foundation of what came to be the Matadores cool style, the great undefeated champions of 1968. Those who came after Areán and his teammates, outstanding players like El Sapo Villar, El Lobo Fischer, Batman Buticce, El Toscano Rendo, Tojo, Albrecht, Veglio, Cocco, Calics, González, Rosl - knew how to take advantage of the initial work by the Carasucias. Under the steady hand of Elba de Pádua Lima (Tim) the Matadores´ technical manager (and previously a great player in Flamengo and the Brazilian National Team), they fine-tuned the gutsy and attractive way of playing by their predecessors in the Gasómetro. They say that El Nano was more plain and "serious" than his attacking mates, especially Doval and Veira, but they were great friends and together they made a fearsome forward.
A warm greeting to Fernando Areán, his family and to his numerous admirers. A Cuervo who was the greatest on and off the field has gone.
Another great thing that Bolaño said was: "Humour and curiosity are the purest form of intelligence." This brings to mind what you told me lately about your experience with Kara-Te. The idea of going out every day with an open mind, wanting to learn, paying attention, eliminating as much as possible the limitations from the past that we invent all the time. The past that doesn´t exist but, paradoxically, sometimes threatens to paralyze and swallow us alive like a great viper. The past that we adore but must respectfully leave along the way. Forward, Forward! What´s happening RIGHT NOW ? Do we play or not?. The game is everything, the game, the game... I think that the Carasucias, the Matadores, Los Ángeles de Cappa, Guardiola´s Barça - every consistently efficient team - has something of the joy of the continuous discovery, the desire to simply play soccer. In a recent interview, Cappa said that in Argentina they play so badly, in spite of the great talent available, that in the next tournament they should play all the matches without a ball. An excellent idea. This really would be a "jogo bonito" [tr. note: In the original Brazilian: "a beautiful game"]
Dear Viggo: a day of intense cold yesterday. This is what happened to me: every Sunday, we have lunch with my brothers and my old man. At his home, mine or that of my brothers. I, my brother the Dragón (a genius, Boedo´s chef Guevara) or all of us cook. Sometimes friends come, like Gustavo López when he is here. Yesterday I had to to go to my old man´s house to pick him up and, later, go to Dragón´s place. I phoned him to wake him up. My old man usually goes to dance tango around Boedo and sleeps until late. He wasn´t answering the phone and - since he´s 84 years old - I began to worry. He answered at last. I told him I´d pick him up in an hour. He told me to call him before starting out, so he would be ready (to my old man, ready means wearing a suit, hat, two handkerchiefs, chewing-gum and hearing aids in stereo). I started calling him before going out and, again, he wasn´t answering. I tried a thousand times. I called my brother and told him dad wasn´t answering and he suggested I should go with the car to see what happened. He suggested that maybe he had fallen sleep again. I took the car, crossed the 40 blocks that separate my home from that of my old man (I don´t know why I was thinking the worst), and when I opened the door to the house, he was impeccable, sitting reading the paper and waiting for me. I was so overjoyed that I hugged him and told him I had been really scared. My old man gave me honey caramels and we left for my brother´s. I cannot explain why the anguish lasted me all day, although my old man was there, whole, eating and chatting. I thought: I´m standing in a geographical place where I can see the sun coming out (Ana, my ten month old daughter) and the sunset (my old man at 84 ). In the evening, playing on the rug with my daughter and with Rita, my dog, I hear on the television that was on behind us that Nano Areán had died. I thought about the Carasucias, about the Matadores, about how my old man told me about them, of their incredible way of playing that I never saw but about which I have memories implanted by my old man. About the thick sideburns worn by Telch, Fisher, Cocco, Areán, Doval, Bambino... similar to those of the Beatles when they are playing on a London roof top in Let It Be, in a day of intense cold like yesterday in Buenos Aires. I´ve got - you´ve seen it - a poster from El Gráfico framed, with the players from the Matadores celebrating a goal in 1968, the day they became champions. It´s like Picasso´s Guernica, by the way they have thrown themselves on the ground, hugging; Cocco kneeling and with his hands in the air, Lobo Fisher, buried under the others. A Guernica of joy, of celebrating being young for only one time on earth... The Carasucias, the Matadores... something that has never been seen again.
Yes! The Matadores is an extraordinary photograph. I like your house very much, and I always have a good time there, but I think that photograph in your dining room is the detail I like the most!
Yesterday I had to work in the Delta from five in the afternoon on, and, unfortunately I couldn´t go to the rally for the return to Boedo. Wanting to be with the supporters at the Obelisco and the rally, I put on, under the character´s clothes, the San Lorenzo jersey that our great centre forward Jonathan Botinelli had given me, and hung all the banners, flags and scarves I´ve got in the woods by the stream where we shot all night long. That way I wasn´t so cold! When I woke up, I saw the images from the rally and read that 40 thousand cuervos and cuervas had attended to support the return to Boedo. A tremendous success! I hope that Macri, Filmus , and above all the president realize we have the right and we are not going to give up 'til the historical repatriation takes place. I feel proud to be a Cuervo. There are no supporters with more passion than ours.
Thanks for the chat, brother Cuervo. If you like, we can talk a bit more some other time. - A kiss - v.
[tr. note: "a kiss" or "a hug" is the Spanish equivalent of the English "love" at the end of a letter or e-mail]
Hold on Ciclón!
*Fabián Casas (Buenos Aires, 1965) is a talented poet, narrator, essayist and journalist and one of the prominent figures which are called "the 90's Generation" in Argentina and, of course, a fervent supporter of San Lorenzo.
Last edited: 22 July 2011 10:07:40