For It To Rain
19 October 2013
Before our key event against Arsenal this evening, a few words about the match Denmark played last night for the 2014 World Cup ranking. I got up early, and it´s still night in Algeria. I look through the hotel window towards where I know the sea is. I´m getting ready to go out and explore the city of Algiers a little more. I´m thinking about what I saw on my laptop broadcast from Copenhagen a few hours ago. The Danes had settled the match, and, for the time being, their problems with the Brazil World Cup rankings also. They were quite rightly winning 2-1, but at the 92nd minute, the Tanos [tr. note: idiom for "Italians" in Argentina] scored a goal by sheer luck and tied. Italy hadn't done much to deserve the point, but as is so many times the case with the Azurra [tr. note: Italy´s national team], they got away with it and pissed on the locals' parade. In other words, it´s not only San Lorenzo losing or tying matches when they are highly superior to their opponent. A real pity. Since Italy was already qualifying, they didn't need that clumsy goal, and the Morten Olsen guys' victory would have placed them in the playoffs. Now Landsholdet [tr. note: Denmark´s national team] will have to win their last match in a rout, and have a little luck with the results of other teams. The worse thing about this goal is that now the Danish are not in control of their destiny, and can also be left out of the World Cup even if they win their last match. The local supporters, who had been cheering and singing throughout the match, couldn't believe it. The Parken stadium went as silent as the Monumental [tr. note: River Plate´s stadium] after the azulgrana feat by Gonzalo Berguessio in 2008. And, in front of my laptop in a cafeteria in Algiers, so did I. The Danes played very well collectively, always seeking the goal. Italy didn't play a thing actually, almost all the time the boring, well-known "catenaccio" [tr. note: a defensive tactic typical of the Italians], and in addition Gianluigi Buffon, the great goalkeeper, was not so great either. But.... a question of luck, and now it´s the red and white Vikings' turn to suffer.
Bendtner, number 11, scored the two Danish goal....
After walking everywhere since dawn, listening to how Arabic sounds here, smelling the sea, the harbor, the streets, soaking up everything that catches my attention - actually fishing in what is a new river for me in view of the inexorably approaching shoot - I have returned to my room on the other side of this Mediterranean city to make myself some maté and catch (I hope) the match that is going to be played in Sarandi. It´s been a very interesting day, very inspiring. I've walked I don´t know how many kilometers, from alley to alley, going up and coming down thousands of steps around the Casbah and the old European neighborhoods, letting myself be drawn towards a nameless destination, going forward or retracing my steps according to noises and colors, mental associations, memories, questions I was asking myself. Everything perfect, everything inconclusive, everything valuable, the city came into me, and I into it. I always had the sea as a reference. At dusk, the downward slope to the great bay, with the calls to prayer from the mosques marking the passing time. I continuously left my more or less planned trajectory, with the luxury of not having an appointment with anybody, of being able to walk anywhere without a hurry. Sometimes I asked people I met on the street or in the cafes about things that could help me to finish building the character in the film we are soon going to shoot in the Atlas mountains. Specific things about phrases or historical references in our script - trying out my very limited Arabic vocabulary, mixed with the French that I'm refining for the shoot - but in general just seeking out human contact, to go along touching, even if it was only ephemeral brushing against, the history of the many cultures that have passed through this city. The character that I'm going to play grew up here and I want to imagine his childhood and adolescence as best I can. I've always liked research like this, letting places, the weather, people and my own physical condition inform the adventure.
© Viggo Mortensen.
Well, the hours have passed. I've watched the match that we ended by losing 2-1. Everything must have been said already: "the law of the ex" with Furch´s two goals, San Lorenzo´s courage winning the match with only nine [players] in the field after the big goal by Piatti in the second half, the lack of discretion by Alvarez (a referee who wasn´t up to the job and sometimes almost seemed to be another supporter of the local team,) that recently this gentleman had already harmed Tigre against the Viaducto guys [tr. note: Arsenal´s stadium] and shouldn´t have been the referee in this important match…
After San Lorenzo´s goal, I thought it was going to be an unforgettable feat. I knew we were going to defend ourselves fiercely and I believed that luck was going to smile on us. When in the second half Alvarez unjustly sent Gentiletti off, our guys continued being the true warriors, fearlessly looking for the victory, while the opponent was constantly placing themselves at the back and clearing the ball. Incredible situation, with CASLA getting greater all the time and the opposing team, even having numeric superiority and playing on their own field, trembling. An omen about something epic, it seemed to me at the moment. And then later, when the shot came out like a rocket from Piatti's left foot and crossed [the line] for the first goal of the match, Arsenal and its supporters went into a state of shock. I ran from one side of my hotel room to the other, jumping and shouting like a man possessed. I opened the window and shouted the goal at the crescent moon. "Let's go, damn it!" Everything was in place; something big was coming together. But it was not to be. Two mistakes, the fruits of mental and physical exhaustion, permitted Furch to tie and then win the match. Pizzi and his team have a right to be furious about the refereeing, but they need to hold their heads high. I hope that the Copa Argentina final against Arsenal next Wednesday will be just as exciting and the referee who blows the whistle will do it well. At least it won't be Luis Alvarez. Hold on, Ciclón!
Hello Viggo, it´s Monday and a holiday, seven in the evening and I´ve just come back from three days in the country with Guada, Ana and Rita. I´m dirty and tired but with that lovely tiredness when you´ve had a good time, like, for example, when I do karate like I did almost every day this past week. So much that on Thursday I fell asleep with my clothes on, destroyed. On Saturday night, I watched the match in Lobos with a bad connection which means that the signal arrived delayed and you can imagine the effect this had on me. Although the end - with those two goals by Furch, who never scored one for CASLA but already has scored three against us - killed me.
When we lost, it was not like other times. I shouted Piatti´s goal unrestrainedly, running, to the astonishment of Guada´s family, and, like you, I thought we were going for a match that would make history. It couldn´t be, but San Lorenzo played with steadfast dignity. Notice that just when we were left with nine, Arsenal decided to bring in Rolle and Furch, who were the best. Which means it never occurred to them to attack and they only did it because it would make them look foolish if they didn´t. San Lorenzo generates the trust certain friends give you, that you know that no matter what befalls them they will never let themselves be corrupted. That´s what I felt, and it made me feel very proud of CASLA. Because we continued attacking with nine as if we had eleven and we almost won. Pizzi said something cool at the end of the match. We have to metabolize this upset to achieve something good soon. We're playing Arsenal again shortly. With River, we lost the cup and won the championship. I think that with Arsenal, it's going to be the reverse. We just lost the championship and we're going to win the cup from them. The CASLA players deserve it. I'll wait until Friday and then I'm going to Bolivia to see Evo and the La Paz Book Fair. There's something about the high areas of Bolivia that resembles the place where you are now.
You don't know how glad it makes me to hear from you. What you say about San Lorenzo is very good, about the pride that one feels, being a Cuervo at heart, to see how the team and its coach play with such spirit. Pizzi is more of a samurai than Mifune.
the great Toshiro Mifune.
After several very interesting, but also exhausting, days, above all because of the constant crowds, the brutal traffic and all the noises that accompany it, I'm also a bit exhausted. Also, today I missed the flight that only leaves twice a week to get to where I have to work in Morocco, there in the mountains near the Sahara. A trip that should have been twenty minutes by taxi to the Algiers International Airport ended up being two hours because of some accidents and the resulting hellish traffic. As happens at peak moments of congestion on the crossword roads of Buenos Aires, a moment usually arrives of "every man for himself" in Algiers, and all hell breaks loose. Really I feel at times that I'm in a place that's half Buenos Aires and half Havana, because of the chaos, the daily desperation - and also, on the positive side, because of the neoclassical architecture, badly cared for but beautiful, and the geniality of the people. I believe that I'm a man of the hills, the woods, the angry sea, a somewhat solitary guy but sometimes I miss what it's like to soak up metropolitan poisons. I love and am terrified by the great cities of the world, sometimes simultaneously. So, anyway, I'm still here, in the city where Albert Camus was born. I´ll leave on another flight tomorrow, arriving at more than half of the way, and then I will continue by car to the final destination. Well, not final. I´m not ready for that yet. I still have legs and I like to think that I´ll be able to go further a little longer.
© Viggo Mortensen.
Here it´s also a holiday, the most important one in the Muslim year. The Eid al-Adha holiday, that translates from Arabic as "Celebration of the Sacrifice." It commemorates Ibrahim´s (Abraham to the Christians) will to sacrifice his son Ishmael, as God seems to have asked of him. Gods, you see, can seem as crazy as men - and I don´t say that out of lack of respect for anybody or anything, least of all God, whoever he is or whatever he is called. This holiday coincides with the Hajj, which is when innumerable people of faith make their pilgrimage to Mecca. In the predominantly Muslim countries, the preparations for this holiday take several days. Since I arrived in Algeria, I've seen people herding sheep, selling them, and the buyers examining them (they have to be creatures without visible blemish or sickness, pure for the sacrifice,) and transporting them everywhere. In the parks, in pick-up trucks, in the subway (seriously), in the downtown streets just like the ones in the villages. Sheep here, there and everywhere, taken on leads as if they were dogs. Children buying them with their parents, and making friends with the docile creatures. Well, I suppose some sheep deliver some well-deserved kicks and headbutts after being caged, manhandled and generally dragged from one place to another for days. Their adopted families have had a brief relationship with the pets, because tomorrow they´ll unsheath the long knives and blood runs universally, as God commands. They kill, eat, celebrate and most of the families even donate part of the meat to the poor and the old who are wandering around without any relatives or luck, also as God commands. It seems that in some places, as I've seen in the media, there´s a degree of corruption in the business with these animals, not-so-spiritual people who go to the countryside and steal sheep to sell them illegally in the cities. The police always catch some guy who goes too far with this illegal activity.
examining the teeth.
© Viggo Mortensen.
I think that the Algerian people know more about soccer, or at least they get thrilled as much or more than the citizens of any other nation, the Argentines included. Two days ago the Algerian national team played a match against Burkina-Faso in the African playoffs for the 2014 World Cup. The match was a mess, and the final penalty, a theft, whistled down by a referee more shameless if possible than Alvarez who gave the local [team] the 3-2 victory goal there in the capital, Ouagadougou. (Imagine having to pronounce this every day; I guess they go with "Ouaga" day to day in order to talk more easily.) I watched the match with some very passionate guys in the airport´s cafeteria, since I had to wait several additional hours due to the long delay of my flight to the east of the country. (I´m not lucky at all with planes lately.) I have to say that they took the defeat very well, maybe because they don´t drink alcohol (at least from what you see in public) in observance of the Muslim code. When I said to them "Bad luck, I´m sorry," they stared at me and said very calmly, "We´ll crush them in the second leg." I´m sure they will, playing here at home and with the supporters "The Desert Foxes," as they call their national team, have. They also gave that nickname to the famous Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, for his tenacity and warring strategy in this part of the world during the Second World War. By the way, one of those watching the match, a guy with eyes as blue as the sea here (he resembled the actor Jürgen Prochnow from the "Das Boot" flick) - who also was the one who made room for me to watch the broadcast on the bar´s TV - is the grandchild of a German soldier who, like many others, hid and remained in Algeria after the Nazi defeat at the hands of the allied armies of England, the USA and France. He then participated with the Algerian guerrillas against the colonial French army at the start of the armed struggle for the independence of the country that was achieved in 1962. Amazing how a human being moves, what occurs to him to do in life, though, after all, I guess it´s not so strange that a German would fight against the French. After losing the World War, it´s likely that German soldiers like him allied themselves with the Arab pro-independence fighters keeping in mind that "my enemy's enemy is my friend."
Nowhere in the world have I seen as many t-shirts from all the teams and the world´s national teams as [I have] in the cities and villages of this country. Besides seeing many t-shirts from Algerian clubs and local teams, I've seen t-shirts from all the big European clubs, with Rooney, Bale, Neymar, Xavi, Iniesta, Ribery, Ibrahimovic, Casillas, Lavezzi, Özil and many more - a lot with Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. When I saw the first and almost inevitable t-shirt from Boca at a fruit and vegetable market in the city of Constantine, I pointed my finger at the guy who was wearing it, a seller of pears and grapes, and he shouted at me in his lovely accent "Boca Juniors!" I answered him in Spanish, "Yes, son, yes." [tr. note: SL call Boca their sons] "Shnu?" ("What?") he says to me. "Boca Juniors," I say slowly and with little enthusiasm. "Boca, Boca!" the kid vehemently threw back at me. "Right. You are a Bostero. I´m sorry." He looked at me for a moment, possibly considering the fact that the gringo had spoken to him in Spanish, and asked me, "Argentina? Boca?""No," I said to him, "Those things are not synonymous.""Shnu?" ("What?") "San Lorenzo," I said to him, and I lowered my t-shirt collar to take out the little emblem I wear on a chain: "Boedo," I insisted.
© Viggo Mortensen.
"San Lorenzo no!" he exclaimed, "Riquelme yes! Riquelme, le meilleur!" [tr. note: 'Riquelme, the best!´ - a famous player for Boca] And then I explained to him in my best French that we would give a thrashing to Boca very soon, and one to Newell's too. He went crazy, laughing like the rat-eater Renfield in Dracula, and then, louder still, he shouted at me (I swear to you) "Newell´s! Tata!" "Yes, Tata Martino," I conceded, to please him, somewhat impressed by what the kid knew [tr. note: Tata Martino had been a player and then a coach for Newell's. He´s currently Barcelona´s coach.] "Barcelona champion!" he insisted to me. "Well, there I also have to say you are right, brother...," I said. What a world eh? We ended well, and we both laughed a lot, actually. Later he let me take his photo. Here is the portrait of the wretch.
Algerian Bostero .
© Viggo Mortensen.
I also went to the very beautiful church of Notre Dame d´Afrique. Built in the mid XIXth century, it´s at the top of a hill above the Bab el-Oued neighborhood, with a privileged view of the entire great bay of Algiers. On entering, I found a sentence I don´t think I've seen in any other Christian temple, an inscription on a piece of marble that includes a request for the Virgin to pray "...for us and for the Muslims." They hung this in 1954, almost a century after the foundation of our Lady of Africa, and right when the War of Independence was really getting going. It´s great, that feeling, that desire, especially here. It should be placed in all the chapels, churches and cathedrals of the world. For the Muslims, Jews, Hindus, for any person of faith, and for the atheists and agnostics too. We have to pray for everybody.
in Notre Dame d'Afrique.
© Viggo Mortensen.
The Boca supporter´s photo is great. He could be Arab, Algerian, but the t-shirt gives him that special touch that makes you imagine him, without any problem, in Boca, near the Bombonera [tr. note: Boca´s stadium]. Impressive the streets of Algiers, filled with people, animals, cars, a thousand things. It reminds me of a journey Guada and I made to Vietnam in 2000. I too like solitude and the immense fields, the mountains and that metaphysical stuff, but there´s also something about being solitary, losing yourself on those streets, among so many people. Today I had lunch at the Cuervo bar on Gorriti and Medrano, where you went too and at one time, I went several times with Kevin Power. And when I left, I told the young women, "Tomorrow we celebrate the first title with Pizzi; I'll see you at San Juan and Boedo to celebrate." I think that I said it with that conviction that the team gives you, that playing eleven against eleven they have to come out and shackle Arsenal and give them a dance like we gave to Gimnasia. That´s the way I´d like to win, comfortably. Although I know it´s a cup match and very difficult because of it. On the other hand, I could also say that I made that prediction with the same conviction César Vallejo has when he says in a poem that he "puts the raincoat on not because it´s raining but for it to rain.". That´s it, go Ciclón, let´s turn it around!
I could finally travel from Algiers to Morocco. A long day with a couple of stops and a car trip at night to cross the mountains, but I´m glad I've arrived. I went with the director, a very nice and learned guy called David Oelhoffen, to see the site where we will shoot the first scenes. In a little valley high up, far from everything (the ones I like best!), there´s a single building, the rural school where my character lives and teaches the children of the community. It´s a beautiful place, very solitary, in the midst of a mountain landscape, red and rocky like the Pampa desert where we shot part of Lisandro's movie.
© Viggo Mortensen.
I saw the broadcast of the Uruguay-Argentina match. Did you notice that Maxi [tr.note: a Newell´s player who is also on the national team] is playing in the World Cup? Well, the truth is that, apart from some individual brilliant plays from Sabella´s team, the Charrúas [tr. note: indigenous name for Uruguayans] taught us a lesson about passion and soccer. Edinson Cavani is a goal-scoring monster, tireless on defense, a great team player and an "all terrain" guy. When I see him playing, I always think of Lisandro, because of his look and the physical ease they share. They could be brothers. I loved how he played in Palermo and Napoli. He continues being great in Paris Saint Germain and his national team.
I also saw Denmark winning 6-0 (4-0 in the first half) its last match in the playoffs for Brazil 2014. They woke up too late, because the other matches in their group, and the other groups, didn't turn out as Morten Olsen´s team required. It's over. A pity, because they have a good-looking team. That sheer luck goal by the Italians in the previous match killed them. I feared as much. Now what matters most: tonight we play the final against Arsenal. With the time difference between Morocco and Argentina, it will be late for me, but I´m not going to miss this match. We´ll talk later. Strength, Cuervo!
Cuervo - The match just finished; I'm demolished. Arsenal played with discipline and was very focused in the match. They won well, which doesn't mean I couldn't shoot myself with a cap gun. I could hardly open this laptop to send you these lines; now begins a long night with my mind running at full speed. I'll write you later when I've cooled down enough to analyze the game more calmly. I also think that Piatti's expulsion is a symbol for what happened. He had to be the player who was different and he ended up being expelled immediately. Incredible. Well, hugs, Cuervo. The championship continues.
Thanks for such a quick response, brother. I remained mute in front of my computer at the end of the match. I saw your email arrive, but I couldn't immediately react. There's not much that can be said right now, except to congratulate Arsenal for winning the Copa Argentina. They did what they had to do and took advantage of the opportunities they had, playing their own way. We didn't. Now we have to put ourselves out 100% to get the best we can from the First Division tournament. A lot of matches remain and we have to face them.
P.S. To have to listen to Julito Grondona being such a show-off was unbearable. I shut off the computer right there.
There's a scene from 9/11 in which some security agents approach George W. Bush and whisper in his ear that the US is under attack by terrorists. The then president of that country was in a primary school, I think. The scene is on the internet. Bush goes autistic, staring into space, doing what protocol calls for, but thinking about other things. What was he thinking? About his country, his government, about a moment in history that had been handed to him, about the orders that he had to give immediately or about his personal life, about his physical fear? I don't know. But when Arsenal scored the third goal, I was just like him. I stared at the TV that no longer brought me any image from planet Earth.
A stadium full of Cuervos with immense passion that couldn't be interpreted or taken in by the players because yesterday they weren't at the high level of those supporters. It was immediately obvious that the Arsenal players were playing a final. Ours weren't. Why? What were they thinking? About their personal lives? About the rewards they were going to receive? About thecumbia [tr. note: popular Colombian dance music] they were listening to? The Arsenal players were focused, scoring. Alfaro is like those minor poets who, occasionally, have very good verses. Their teams are built up from back to front. They give you the ball and with mathematical discipline, they wait for you and they destroy you. They're humble and consequently, they flourish. Finally, with my lost look, I saw my daughter Anita come in with her toy doctor's bag and she says to me, "Papa, I'm going to check you over because it seems to me that you have something." "I'm sad because San Lorenzo lost, child," I tell her. She pulls out a toy stethoscope, checks my eyes with a toy flashlight that is light-activated and grabs a prescription pad and says to me, "You have to be for River or Boca." "I can't, child, I'm for San Lorenzo," I tell her. She says to me, "Well, me too. Then I'm going to give you some shots." Then she grabs a toy syringe that's in the bag and applies it to my arm. I laugh.
Goodbye watching Copa Libertadores with my old man next year, goodbye celebrations in San Juan y Boedo. This heat that until the third goal by Arsenal was invigorating for going out in the street and walking to Boedo is now a sterile and sticky sleep companion. It´s impossible to sleep. I feel like [I did] the first time a girl I liked told me she didn't like me. Horrible. I would need to attend a Gestalt self-help group and have a River supporter tell me his troubles: "I was in the Gallinero [tr. note: River´s stadium] on 8 May when Bergessio [tr. note: SL player] crushed us and I managed to get over it," and then a Boca supporter asks to speak and says "I was in the stadium when Estudiantes beat us in a championship when we only needed one point." And so, listening to other people´s misfortunes and seeing how they got over it, find some hope. Alfaro's Arsenal [tr. note: Gustavo Alfaro is their coach] gives you the ball, saying "Look, we are not interested in having this; use it yourself." And they wait obsessively for you, waiting for your mistakes. They don´t work creating, they work building anti-matter. But with that, they achieve a certain authority that San Lorenzo, at least yesterday, didn't have. What was Piatti thinking? And Correa? What´s Pizzi thinking today? Tomorrow I´m leaving for Bolivia, Cuervo. I was thinking of leaving happy but I feel like shit. They say they lack air there. I´m going to try to show them that you can read poetry at high altitudes. Sorry for this weepy mail.
I love you very much, Cuervo.
I´m sending you an old anonymous poem, an Algerian Berber song about exile (I´m translating the French version by Jean Amrouche into Spanish.) I´m sending it for your trip to Bolivia, and for the trip to the corner of San Juan and Boedo that we´ll make together, you and I:
I told my sorrow to someone who has not suffered
And he laughed at me.
I told my sorrow to someone who has suffered
And he leaned towards me.
His tears fell before mine.
He had a wounded heart.
© Kurt Lubinski.
Juan Antonio Pizzi was great with the press after the match in Catamarca. He assumed responsibility without complaining, without blaming anyone, and you could feel that the defeat hurt him as if he were just another supporter. He had the unusual nobility to offer the club [the opportunity to] terminate the contract they just signed with him if, after the embarrassing performance of the team in the finals, they saw his continuing as the coach in a different light. He´s the best. He must stay.
© VIVO/Viggo Mortensen.
And Romagnoli´s tears... there are no words. He is great. Strength Pipi! We are going for the championship.
Last edited: 16 November 2013 20:54:24