Ah yes, Marca. For you see all these lies, this wanton hypocrisy and puerile belly-scratching masquerading as journalism (“Checho, when you travel around the world can you feel the respect people have for you as a World Cup winner?” Yeuch), they remind pegamquemegusta of the Marca-Sport divide in Spain. No sane person would actually take any of that stuff seriously, would they? It’s a mere caress of one’s amour propre, a gentle stroking of the ego, a happy reinforcing of those little prejudices that make us who we are. No-one really wants to see Cristiano Ronaldo in his underpants but there he is and he plays for us, yey! As for those lousy Catalans, they’ve got all the referees on their side, etc.
In Argentina, however, this divide is not confined to a few consciously flag-waving sports papers; a similar fault line runs down the middle of the country’s entire media apparatus pretty much. On the one hand you have Clarín, the BSkyB-style media monopoly who do everything they can to foment paranoia and undermine the Kirchner government; while on the other hand you have state TV and Página 12, which has some fnie writers but is as smug as Barcelona. Supporters of the president decry the evil monopoly and back her moves to expropriate as much of Clarín‘s power base as possible, while their more than a little disingenuous adversaries style themselves as freedom fighters. the only ‘independent media’ in the land in the face of this disgraceful, illegal government onslaught, which they assert is a flagrant abuse of power. The K activists claim they’re debunking the lies of the powerful and protecting the pueblo from a vicious, pernicious organisation that established its current dominance through collusion with the dictatorship of the late 1970s (when Grondona took over, too, ahem). One could assert with just as much justification, however, that the Kirchner drive to dismantle Grupo Clarín is less motivated by a desire to protect the people than it is a replay of the Dissolution of the Monasteries: in the event that a program such as the revoking of the license to Clarín‘s ISP arm, Fibertel, succeeds, it is to be expected that the new contracts will go to parties, shall we say, sympathetic to the current administration.
While the Fibertel case remains open (surprisingly, the courts blocked it for being insane), this war has been going on for some time now. Parts of the Clarín apparatus which bring in money but in no way are used for any campaigning purposes, their cash cows, were taken out first; football and the internet. It’s been a brilliant campaign, slyly managed, stage-managed and time-managed; the gaps in the assault filled in with popular, ‘forward-looking’ measures such as the Bicentennial, celebrated six years early and complete with a few extra ‘once off’ holidays, and the Gay Marriage Bill. This last measure also provided ample opportunity to knock the Catholic Church, another surprisingly powerful old foe certainly guilty of collusion in the 1970s, which was threatened with massive cuts to the state grants to the [private] schools under their sway.
The initial blitzkrieg, though, was a move on the monopoly’s cash cow, TyC, the cable sports channel. In August 2009 the start of the Clausura was delayed as the players’ union demanded that outstanding wages be paid. The clubs put on the poor mouth and started muttering things about the rains being late and the crops failing; their mothers were all sick and needed medicine; badgers had stolen their favourite cheque-signing pen. Their accounting procedures, of course, were impeccable, so there was nothing to look into there. Yet they could hardly be accused of having held on to too many players over the years – the trafficking of promising young talent . major leagues such as Portugal, Greece, Belgium and the Ukraine having continued unabated. So where had the money gone?
Well, it was clear the TV deal with the evil monopoly wasn’t paying enough! Cristina and Nestor Kirchner and erstwhile foe don Julio sat down together and tore up the existing agreement. Gone was the pernicious entity that had been ruining Argieball by denying it the precious funds needed for it to keep up the fantastic work it had been doing; discarded the ludicrous idea that people should have to pay to see the most popular games on TV (TyC had been showing the clashes between the ‘smaller’ teams and other largely unappealing Friday night clashes on free-to-air telly). Now every match would be on tv and people wouldn’t have to wait for the brilliant Fútbol de Primera (the now defunct Argentine Match of the Day, on Sunday nights) to see the goals. Said la Presidenta:
They kidknapped our goals until Sunday, just as they kidnapped 30,000 of us.
Oh, pero oh dear. Sorry, Cristina, you know pegamequemegusta loathes the idea of reducing all your work to one extremely poor choice of words, but such a crass, inept, pathetic analogy, linking a football highlights programme to the abduction, torture and murder of 30,000 people some 30 years before, is Absolute Zero in terms of political credibility. Despite all the good work done by the Kirchners, especially the late Nestor Kirchner, in the field of human rights and facing up to the past, lines like that disclose the opportunism in an otherwise noble enterprise, the cheap while-we’re-at-it-why-don’t-we-carve-ourselves-and-our-mates-out-a-little-fiefdom side to righting the wrongs of the past. It was billed as the democratisation of football, the end of the dictatorship, again. Fútbol para todos, football for everyone! A socialist paradise of nationalised football. Anything that costs money is evil, after all, even in a land where money’s ability to decline in value would shock even Joleon Lescott, oho.
In order to sort out the clubs’ balance sheets, the government would now be paying two or three times more what the tightwad TyC had begrudgingly tossed the poor, starving clubs. The money for this would be no problem: the government had already earmarked some $400m for advertising, which, rather happily for us, in castellano translates as propaganda. There would be no silly ads or anything during the matches, just extended messages to the grateful people about what a good job the government are doing and how did you know Clarín actually eats babies and uses the pieces of skin that come out in their excrement to print newspapers, honest.
Dear, handsome readers, you won’t have forgotten that don Julio Grondona, the president of the AFA for the last 30 odd years and Argieball’s very own festering brain tumour, the canker on its breast, its debilitating leprosy, is a Clarín man. How the Kirchners sat down with him to sign that deal still leads pegamequemegusta to scream obscenities at street lamps when the moon is waxing thin. There was no crisis, it was all engineered to force the moment to a resolution; but even granted there had been a crisis, the universe was there to be squeezed into a ball and rolled towards the overwhelming question. The harping on about the bank crisis and the global recession that went on at the time actually offers an interesting parallel. If some clubs really were going to the wall, as even we saw in the balls-up over the bank guarantees, the person who saves them always gains some control over the wonky but important institutions whose shirt tails they are clinging on to e’en as they head over the cliff. You take the thorn out of the lion’s paw and he grants you a wish, no?
Here, though, the new deal that was Fútbol para todos just cemented the old goings-on; there was no audit, no investigation into how the clubs were hemorrhaging so much money, how a team like Boca could sell at least US$50m worth of players in a year (Gago and Banega) and still be struggling for cash; no reform of the AFA; not even a sideward glance at the fact that the hooligan violence is motivated precisely because there’s so much money to be creamed off of the clubs they claim to love; no questioning of the very common practice for groups of third-party investors to own the players therefore meaning the clubs’ hold on a player is weakened even in the rare case they actually considered his development ahead of a quick injection of cash and in the case that they sell him they don’t even get most of the money; no mention of the rife match-fixing, the shoddy refereeing, allegations that players have to pay to get their place, the run-down state of many of the stadiums (which certainly keeps some people away, not likely to be helped indeed by the provision of free games on telly, indeed), the farcical manager-go-round, the short tournaments, the complicated relegation and Libertadores qualification system, both of which are due to and contribute to the Argieball’s myopia. None of those things were focused on. It was the dictatorship’s fault, che.
Oh but football’s just a tool to bring down Clarín, who are keeping the AFA as they are through Olé. It’s sick, twisted, incestuous, corrupt nonsense. It’s in this context that our rage against the cheerleading for Batista arises.: the whole rotten edifice is glossed over with platitudes from a wooden man about ‘playing like Spain’. The Gods’ latest creation is definitive, there will be no revolution, though he football will be televised, yey.
The Popul Vuh says of the Wu-Tang-style destruction of the Wooden Men:
There came a resin of rain from the sky.
There came the one named Gouger of Faces: he gouged out their eyeballs.
There cane Sudden Bloodletter: he snapped off their heads.
There came Crunching Jaguar: he ate their flesh.
There came Tearing Jaguar: he tore them open.
They were pounded down to the bones and tendons, smashed and pulverised
even to the bone. Their faces were smashed because they were incompetent before
their mother and father, the Heart of the Sky, named Hurricane. The earth was blackened
because of this: the black rainstorm began, rain all day, and rain all night. Into their houses
came the animals, small and big. Their faces were crushed by things of wood and stone.
Everything spoke:their water jars, their tortilla griddles, their plates, their cooking pots,
their dogs, their grinding stone, each and everything crushed their faces. Their dogs and
turkeys told them:
“You caused us pain, you ate us, but now it is you whom we shall eat.”