The Vulture & FútbolThursday, July 12, 2007
Last night I watched the Brazilians lose to the Spaniards in the FIFA Under 20 Tournament. With Juan Manuel Sanchez living in Buenos Aires permanently and with Rosemary not understanding or caring to watch the game I felt extremeley lonely. I had a longing for the presence of my mother. Perhaps it was her exposure to fútbol in Argentina. As a young man in Mexico my mother liked to watch fútbol with me. We both believed in the idea (shared with Juan Manuel Sanchez) that if we watched our favourite team play (mostly Argentina)it would lose. We agonized about watching Argentina play Mexico as we agonized watching the Argentine players lose their breath (and often the game) in the oxygen-rare Mexico City atmosphere. My mother and I shared a dislike for the play by play comments of Fernando Marcos. He was pompous and in our opinion not balanced at all in his comments. He had a fondness for saying that every minute had 60 seconds and that in fútbol anything could happen in that minute. My mother called him "el buitre" or the vulture. The Argentines might be losing a game and with a few minutes left for the game Marcos, with a smile on his face would utter his words of wisdom on the markings of time. We didn't dislike Marcos, we hated him.
Watching the Brazilians lose to the Spaniards was heart wrenching for me. My Spanish heritage had me rooting for the Spaniards but my heart was with the beautiful play of the Brazilians. It was unnerving to hear the commentators pronounce the Spanish names and make them sound not so. Barragán sounded like Berrigan.
I saw some of the best fútbol of my life as a sailor in Buenos Aires in the mid 60s. And in most cases it had to do with the Brazilian brand of the game. One of the few privileges a one-US Dollar-a-month conscript had was free entry to "partidos de futbol" if one wore one's uniform. I saw Santos of Brazil (in dazzling all-white uniforms) with Pelé (at his best) play in the cavernous Estadio River Plate. In fact in one of the games (from my vantage point high in the upper bleechers) I could see the tanks of the Argentine Army rumbling by on their way to town to a cuartelazo or coup d'état. For us the game was much more important so we ignored it all.
But watching the Brazilians lose was not so heart wrenching as Argentines and Brazilians have been fútbol rivals for almost a century. Argentines and Brazilians would always join forces in condemning the technical/strategic European playing particularly of the German variety. This was futbol at its most boring. The Brazilians and the Argentines would complain (while losing to them) that "No nos dejan jugar. " or they don't let us play our game.
With Brazil and Uruguay gone, the mantle of futbol latinoamericano (in the Under 20 FIFA) lies at the feet of the Argentines and the Mexicans. I would welcome the comments of Fernando Marcos if they only brought the presence of my mother. And even if the Argentines or the Mexicans were to lose to the Spaniards I know that, in the very least with Marcos, Barragán would sound like a Spanish name.