Salomé, Sugar Puffs, and River Plate

With many clubs and other representative bodies, whether it’s due to recklessness, stubborness, a bad attitude or plain old stupidity, one feels that if only such and such a person could be removed and smarter, more honest folk put in charge all would be right. Yet if smelling nice was a guarantor of success, pegamequemegusta would still be in possession of its buss pass.

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A great terrace in the Palace of Herod, set above the banqueting-hall. Some soldiers are leaning over the balcony. To the right there is a gigantic staircase, to the left, at the back, an old cistern surrounded by a wall of green bronze. The moon is shining very brightly.

Last month Pegamequemegusta brought you a piece on River which in its puffy optimism and hope for a better future – political and cultural reform, no less! – only lacked a hefty sprinkling of sugar and an ad campaign featuring an androgynous bear-cum-muppet. Not that we are looking to retract any of the remarks uttered at that heady time. Oh no, we still feel it’s a great thing that Passarella is the president of River Plate. Yet such a delicate flower is democracy that even when it gets things right its scent may still be too faint for even the most determined and cultured nose.

Well, I still live, but thou art dead, and thy head belongs to me. I can do with it what I will. I can throw it to the dogs and to the birds of the air.

With many clubs and other representative bodies, whether it’s due to recklessness, stubbornness, a bad attitude or plain old stupidity, one feels that if only such and such a person could be removed and smarter, more honest folk put in charge all would be right. Yet if smelling nice was a guarantor of success, pegamequemegusta would still be in possession of its buss pass.

The Tetrarch has a sombre look.

Hence as Passarella looks out from the Monumental over the sludgy waters of the River Plate, it is with thunderclouded eyes he surveys the skies. Not even the sight of la Presidenta’s helicopter, once so hideously common over these waters, winglessly winging its way to oliveless Olivos, can alter the course of his thought’s flow. Despite the Cristina’s claims for the relief Fútbol para todos would bring to cash-strapped clubs, even institutions as large as the Kaiser’s River still struggle, in Grondona’s phrase, with “trying to business with a worthless currency”. Life under the peso is tough; it’s rough at and on the bottom.

Angels exist, but I do not believe that this Man has talked with them.

Although Passarella assumed in December saying he would not interfere in the manager’s work, last month the pathetic campaign overseen by Leo Astrada forced him to act. River were lying in 18th position with 7 defeats in 13 games. The Kaiser felt obliged to intervene. Astrada was cut and Ángel Cappa took over. The latter, a well-respected coach of ‘progressive’ philosophy, a blogger, indeed, whose previous job had been in charge of the excellent Huracán team of last year (brutally dismantled once the scouts got wind), spoke of sexy football and seemed to be the perfect fit for River’s long-hoped for revolution under Passarella.

Daughter of adultery, there is but one who can save thee. It is He of whom I spake. Go seek Him. He is in a boat on the sea of Galilee, and He talketh with His disciples.

And indeed results in the following games indicated that the squad had finally found some direction, some confidence. Despite ultimately losing due to an unlucky deflection, a freak goal really, River played well against big boys like Estudiantes, especially considering how el Pincha had made Racing their fag in a 4-0 trouncing just two weeks before. They came back to win against a Godoy Cruz that was flying at the time, they beat Vélez away and when they came against a Racing team unbeaten in four they stuffed them 3-0 in Avellaneda. Funes Mori, a boy taken from a Chelsea trial who hadn’t scored in his 14 game career, suddenly banged in three in 23 minutes.

Behold! the Lord hath come. The Son of Man is at hand. The centaurs have hidden themselves in the rivers, and the nymphs have left the rivers, and are lying beneath the leaves in the forests.

Buonanotte had recovered from his car accident and Ortega was back from his latest indulgences, too. He was fit and had been chosen as part of the Selección local to play against Haiti. He would play up front with Palermo. Would Maradona bring him to South Africa, too? What’s more, River were talking about reversing the course of a decade and actually bringing in players from overseas. There was talk of repatriating the likes of Carrizo and D’Alessandro, Bolatti, Camoranesi and Trezeguet! There was talk of American investors. Passarella was doing his stuff. Carrizo; Ferrari, Ferrero, Goltz o Coates, Villagra; Camoranesi, Bolatti, D’Alessandro; Ortega, Buonanotte y Trezeguet. The prophecies were true!

Daughter of Sodom, come not near me! But cover thy face with a veil, and scatter ashes upon thine head, and get thee to the desert, and seek out the Son of Man.

Domingo Cavallo

However, then there did come on the scene the devil himself. Domingo Carvallo, one time president of the Central Bank and Minister for Finance during the three most disastrous reigns the country has ever known – the last dictatorship, the Menem era and the royal fuck up that was Fernando “And they say i’m boring” De la Rua – the man who came up with the idea to tie the peso to the dollar and steer the country into the collapse of 2001, popped up as an advisor for the American investors. No, he said, River Plate does not look like making any money at all in the short to medium term. All revenue, from percentages of players’ rights to money from TV deals and concerts, has already been spent. We knew all this already, Passarella had said so, but there is no reason why an institution with 17 million fans cannot make money once there is no corruption. That’s what Passarella was there to sort out. With some trust, an initial investment, River could become successful – and somewhat solvent.

Give me the head of Iokanaan!

With these blows other plans started to evaporate. Passarella met with Camoranesi’s agent, Sergio Fortunato, on Friday to discuss the matter. The meeting lasted just four minutes. Fortunato smiled when he heard River’s $1,000,000 offer, thinking it was a piss-take. Passarella moaned afterwards that these people don’t understand how things are in Argentina. “They say they’re dying to play in such and such a place but when you start talking about money […] I know Camoranesi earns three or four times more in Italy but this is Argentina.” Damn straight, Danny. The same soon seemed to be the case with all the other names mooted just so recently.

Note found on Cavallo's desk before leaving for meeting at the Monumental

Ah, Iokanaan, Iokanaan, thou wert the man that I loved alone among men! All other men were hateful to me. But thou wert beautiful! There was nothing in the world so white as thy body. There was nothing in the world so black as thy hair. In the whole world there was nothing so red as thy mouth.

Now even the ‘big names’ that were already at the club seemed to be on the way out. A press conference was called and El Muñeco Gallardo announced he would be leaving the club, again. Fellow Spring chicken Almeyda, on the other hand, reassured everyone he would be going nowhere for at least six months. Groans were said to have been heard amongst the cheers.

Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Iokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on thy lips. Was it the taste of blood? . . . Nay; but perchance it was the taste of love. . They say that love hath a bitter taste.

In any case, Saturday night was to be Gallardo’s send off from the Monumental. Last game of the season, nothing at stake for either team, a party of sorts was in order, despite the set backs and humiliations of recent days. Gallardo stood for pictures with the Kaiser and was presented with a plaque before kick off against Tigre, a club that despite being from that side of Buenos aires are too small to be considered a real rival, a team that had never won in the Monumental. After 43 minutes, the party was not going great, however, River were 5-0 down. In the second half, young Funes Mori got a consolation goal. Yet Gallardo was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he would have not wanted any part in this farce but the choice was taken away when, with two subs used, an injured defender had to be replaced. With no substitutions left, Gallardo had to sit out his last match with the club, a 5-1 defeat at home against a team who had never won a game there. Oh the humanity.


In that day the sun shall become black like sackcloth of hair, and the moon shall become like blood, and the stars of the heaven shall fall upon the earth like unripe figs that fall from the fig-tree, and the kings of the earth shall be afraid.

Oh poor River. As the prophet says, democracy doesn’t work. The mob vote fro Carlos ‘Mammon’ Menem and he brings you Cavallo, death and ruin. The populace back a righteous man, a true Kaiser who will lower taxes, brutalise criminals and rule them like a king, and the same man comes back and scuppers your revival before it gets off the ground. Uncertainty come a-swarming like locusts to block out the sun, the moon becomes likes blood over what will surely now be a winter of discontent and horribly mangled quotations.

Well said, my daughter! As for you, you are ridiculous with your peacocks.

Sugar puffs, she might well have said.

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