“Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!”
– Moby Dick, Herman Melville
By now you’ll all have read the list, I imagine. Despite the talk of ‘no surprises’ that was coming from the telly and most of the media, the surprise was enough to provoke pegamequemegusta to the dramatic gesture of actually getting out of the plastic piece of garden furniture on which rests our ample behind before our legs, in an advanced state of atrophy after an extended ‘Summer of George‘, gave way and the long-suffering cat licked its face.
By the time pegamequemegusta came to, the names Juan Mercier, Sebastian Blanco, José Sosa, Juan Insaurralde, Clemente Rodriguez and Ariel Garcé were swimming around our poor contaminated mind with a nausea and discombobulation akin to that of a Sperm whale with the bends. Why, oh why not pick good players? Why this blind devotion to the local league? No-one else in the world would have picked this squad! It doesn’t make you a greater patriot! These aren’t even the best players in the league!
Yet after sucking on some stones, pegamequemegusta felt revived. Maradona did not call up 108 players to his various squads heretofore because he thought that his selections were worth a damn. Well, maybe he did, but his actions proved otherwise. Even the lesser offences, such as Maxi Rodriguez, Dátolo, Lavezzi and Coloccini, bear witness to this: Maradona has time and again called up players only to discard them immediately, with as little cause for their appearance as for their dismissal. The for-one-night-only appearance of 36-year old Rolando Schiavi playing up front Robbie Huth-style against Paraguay was, perhaps, the apotheosis of Maradona’s farcical call-ups.
For a more illustrative case, however, let’s look at that of Jesús Dátolo. Given his competitive début against Brazil, he had such little participation in the game it appeared his teammates had not been made aware as to his presence, let alone his role, on the pitch. Nonetheless, in the second half, he got the ball somehow and blasted in a screamer. For the next game he was not even on the bench, and he was not called up again. Go figure.
The answer to the question, then, of whether these players have any chance at all of going to the World Cup appears to be in the negative. This raises the further question of whether it is not rather cruel to give these, for the most part, young players false hope. Judging by their delighted grins on TV this evening, it seemed to be an unqualified boon. Sebastián Blanco, in an interview with Olé speaks of goosebumps, about God, about his faith and hard work, about how he rang his dad when he was on the subway on his way home from work to tell him the news, of tears and laughter with his family. Best day of his life. But will their performances over the next seven days (the final list is due on the 19th) really carry the weight of one of Trap’s legendary training camps? Blanco seems to think so: “I understand there’s a training session on the 19th of May where the final squad places will be decided.” Yet it’s unlikely; the six players from Primera are probably just fillers, chosen for the very fact that they are such lightweights in order to make discarding them easier.
According to canchallena, however, they do have some chance. “Several of the names cut themselves,” they say on their mini podcast Destino Sudáfrica, referring to those named above. Yet after the Germany match Maradona said he had a list of twenty players in his head. It would appear that that list has not changed at all and that besides the six players above there are four more who do not have their places assured: Coloccini, Maxi Rodriguez, Dátolo and Lavezzi. So all is not lost for the locally based players. They could yet pip any of the above four for their place in South Africa.
Yet one could hardly believe, no matter what he says, that Maradona is really waiting to see how the players look in the jersey to make his final decision, that he’s waiting to see if they put it on back to front or try to stuff their legs through the neck hole. He must know who he’s going to bring. And for the players he’s chosen and the obvious starters he’s left out, either he’s named those locally based players for no reason whatsoever or he’s going to bring them for no reason whatsoever. We’ll see next week yet in the meantime the thought that ran so many times through pegamequemegusta’s yellow fingers yesterday seems more justified than ever: why not just name the bloody 23 man squad first time out?