Japan & the Copa América Part II – His Satanic Majesty’s Request

Yo te quisiera salvar,
te voy a atornillar,
te voy a herir un poquito más.

We here at pegamequemegusta have always prided ourselves on having a fine nose for a farce. Lesser mortals make this their default setting and end up with their faces twisted into permanent leers, contorted by cynicism and bad faith. But not us, oh no. We spend out days gently curling our ringlets into formations that will bring joy to those who see them flutter in the breeze as we play with toy boats in the municipal pond. Only when we’re sure a real noxious farce is bubbling its way to a thoroughly unwholesome broth do we substitute kite and doll for cannon and ball. And sad though it is to say, preparations for this year’s Copa América are making our nose twitch in a way we haven’t experienced since being AOFed by Sgt Pepper.

For you see it appears rumours of Japan’s withdrawal from the competition have been greatly exaggerated. Or rather: Japan wanted to withdraw, they withdrew, their withdrawal was accepted by CONMEBOL… and now CONMEBOL have asked them to reconsider their withdrawal. Or did they?

This latest unforeseen turn of events came about this afternoon when JFA President Junji Ogura arrived in Buenos Aires to have what he thought was going to be a nice little chat with the jovial old sports administrator who happens to occupy the most senior position in the Argentine Football Association. Don Julio they call him, right? Pegamequemegusta can only imagine his surprise when just before entering the unusually smoky office he was handed a special pair of heat goggles and instructed not to stare at the hooves.

For don Julio was not alone in the room. While the AFA president sat in an ornate velvet throne in front of a raging fire flicking through a deck of cards, the walls were lined by thin men in polo necks with tridents and pointed little beards. PR flunkies, hipster barras, he couldn’t be sure, but they seemed almost plastered to the wall, only flickering, snarling, into three dimensions in the vermilion gloom whenever don Julio drew the Jack of Hearts.

Upon leaving, Mr Ogura felt shaken but he had almost no recollection of what had transpired. He had started off by thanking Mr Grondona for receiving him at such short notice and apologising for the disruption the tragic events in his homeland had forced his own football association to cause the Copa América organisers. Then he was informed by the honourable FIFA Vice President that the rakish gentlemen lining the walls were from the television rights holders, Traffic Sports. After that, he couldn’t be sure. He had no idea how he had got back to his hotel. Certain words and images stood out in his mind: the Jack of Hearts flitted past repeatedly, as did CONMEBOL, whose obnoxious capitals swarmed his processing facilities like unruly obese children; as well as the phrases ‘market forces’, ‘advertising’ and ‘sacred promise’.

He had only travelled to Buenos Aires as a courtesy call to inform his Argentine counterpart personally of a firmly-held resolution. However, upon waking he found a document signed in his own hand ensuring he do ‘everything in his mortal power’ to respect the deals signed for the heavily-marketed tv rights already sold to broadcasters in Asia. The document stated that the JFA had ten days to decide on the matter. It bore both the insignias of the AFA and the Jack of Hearts, which he also discovered was tattooed on his right buttock.

So yeah, Japan aren’t quite out of the Copa América yet. It is unclear whether this was a solo mission by Grondona following the CONMEBOL meeting in Asunción the previous day, or whether it was already planned. It doesn’t really matter, though. In any case. we’ll know for sure on April the 15th. Junji Ogura needs a few days to make a few fellows in Japan see the error of their ways. Pegamequemegusta has already outlined why we think the JFA’s reasons for pulling out aren’t actually that convincing. And while we spoke of farce above, and a straightforward clash of priorities between club v country in an earlier post, it would appear that Traffic’s prima facie cold-hearted insistence on Japan taking part is no worse than the demands placed on the JFA by the J-League’s own vested interests. The only difference would seem to be that the latter got their oar in first. Shock horror, football’s a business.

In this regard, farce really was imminent over the last few days, however, as noxious tweetclouds of enthusiastic rumour did the rounds concerning what team would be invited to take Japan’s place in the competition. For the teams being mentioned presented a craw-jamming mixture of unfeasibility and embarrassment. The invitation (what does the ‘official invitation’ to the Copa América look like anyway? We like to think it’s just a postcard of Messi in an albiceleste top hat) allegedly extended to the RFEF by Grondona himself, for example, would have meant the children of at least 23-30 Spanish footballers growing up essentially fatherless. Pegamequemegusta suspects the Spanish FA president was just playing nice when he talked about his country being indebted to South American football for all the players they’ve provided over the years. Besides anything else, the clubs would never allow it.

Meanwhile, the newswires were barely cooling down from last week’s nasty spat between the AFA and the Costa Rican FA over Messi’s failing to turn out in a lucrative friendly (with $500 tickets organised by an outside company – with a contract promising at least five stars – in a brand new stadium built with Chinese money as a favour for their government withdrawing recognition of Taiwan as an independent state – psyche), when the latter were already announcing their enthusiasm regarding a possible call-up to the Copa América. We’ll play the Gold Cup and the Copa América, they said, we don’t care. Perhaps their Argentine coach La Volpe giving the project the thumbs up is what gave don Julio the added impetus to put the screws on Ogura. Who knows.

Farce is probably too harsh a judgement on this affair, however, On Off the Ball last night they spoke of ‘amateur hour’. In fairness, everything was sorted: along with Mexico, Japan had been invited as the ten member nations of CONMEBOL are not sufficient to hold a knock out competition without a galling system of byes; and they were going to bring added competition, great skill and money to a cash-strapped land. Moreover, although the ticket situation is still frustratingly vague, all the stadiums have been built and it really looks like the competition will be good – especially for fans, who will have free choice regarding both beverages and the colour of their clothes, rights denied in Blatter’s Flying Circus.

It’s hardly as big a farce, for example, as FIFA’s raping of South Africa last year. Besides the financial shenanigans, after all, there was the small matter of the European play-offs being seeded at the last minute to favour larger markets sorry associations in which one team actually scored the winning goal after their striker had caught the ball in his hands! Farce.

No, while CONMEBOL may have been a tad slow in clearing up the matter, they’re hardly obliged to answer every rumour that does the rounds on the breathless-e’en-while-seated internet. What they must ensure now, however, is that the matter be resolved definitively by April 15th: either Japan play or another team is lined up to take their place. More delays and confusion really would be farcical. His Satanic Majesty’s request to the JFA to think things over buys everyone some time, both forces for evil and those few forces for good. Oh dear, pegamequemegusta suddenly has some sympathy for the devil of Sarandí! Farce.

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