“It’s aliiiiive!” screamed el Checho. After several disastrous experiments, Dr Batistenstein’s monster finally bore some resemblance to animated flesh on Monday night as it clubbed a contingent of Costa Rican children to death 3-0 in the fog-enveloped, crag-nesting castle of horrors that is the Copa América. The mad scientist, bent on doing away with Nature’s cruel monopoly on life, was left transfixed, his once noble mouth contorted into a rictus of psychotic ecstasy, as can be seen in exhibit A:
As is well known, Dr Batistenstein began his investigations last year by stealing a corpse from a a cemetery in Barcelona. The theft sparked outrage not just because of the affront to public morals but because the cadaver in question turned out to be alive. He was spared, however, when those in charge of the Montjuic necropolis agreed not to press charges after the victim, one Andrés Iniesta, declared that it was an easy mistake to make.
Not one to be easily deterred, this scientific Olympian went back to his lab in Ezeiza and worked tirelessly compiling dvds of the finest specimens of Argentine manhood, which, unlike its beef, seems to develop best on a poor diet in what would appear to be unfavourable, cramped conditions. Foiled in his plans to use the dead, he set about surveying the finest living body parts for a monster that would do away once and for all with the constraints that, according to Dr Batistenstein, “have mired the execrable human race in an infernal anxiety to produce, like twisted horticulturists, ever more rotten fruit.” If this first success is propagated, this could well spell the end of long-abhorred Progress, of the blind, excruciating repetition of the Same; it could be the end of futile longing for a future that never comes, the end of capitalism, of slavery, of war, the end of Sorrow with the end of Love; the end, in short, of Time. For, as Dr Batistenstein explains in his new book, The Biglia Paradox, the only viable and desirable future of the human race lies not in its perfection, but its subversion. “The future, that is the immediate future,” el Checho declared on Monday night post-game in Córdoba, “is the sub-human.”
Heretofore, despite the great expectation surrounding his project, evinced by the enormous interest taken by banks and other companies eager to clothe the stitch-lined flesh of the creature and provide it with the tools of communication so necessary in today’s most advanced of all worlds, the results had been disappointing to say the least. Having amassed all the necessary parts and assembled them in a matter guaranteed, we were assured, to bring success, it immediately became clear that the opening night had been rushed.
Dr Batistenstein’s monster was technically alive alright, but it could do little more than jerk and twitch. It struggled to overcome the band of Bolivian mountain men who had only been sent out into the spanking new arena in La Plata as a training exercise for the galvanised leviathan. When the beast tried to kick, invariably it would lose its balance and fall over. When it attempted to clap, the arms would swing apishly, missing each other by a ticketable margin. Its legs even wobbled and oft’times refused to function as a pair. Its eyes were cloudy, its faculties extinguished; it did nothing but drool, slobber and moan. Indeed, the vindication of Dr Batistenstein’s decision to increase the monster’s size in order to overcome the difficulties inherent in a normal body’s micro-circuitry was the only positive that could be taken from the affair: for only after halting the encounter in the second half to attach what many consider to be the monster’s most vital element, its schwanzstucker (or the Kun, as it’s known in these parts), could any reputable kind of thrust or purpose be attributed to its wretched bumbling. The contest was eventually called a draw, but not even that was enough to satisfy the bloodthirsty public, who departed feeling most cheated and dismayed.
Nonetheless, thousands of people turned out once again to see it at its next appearance in Santa Fe a few days later. Befitting the name of their noble city, they were sure el Checho’s creation would rise to the occasion and choke the life out of the Colombian upstarts. The less said about that ghastly evening, the better, however. Dr Batistenstein himself, with uncharacteristic humility, gave an adequate summary of events:
Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.
On Monday night, though, after all the disappointment, the monster finally came to life. Finally did it manage to stand upright, to focus and rain blows upon the heads of the Costa Rican goat-boys offered to it in sacrifice. The replacement of Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi by el Kun Agüero and el Pipita Higuaín did wonders for its appearance. What’s more, it became clear that the charges of many following its first two presentations, namely that Dr Batistenstein had not in fact created life but a semi-mobile vegetable, were no longer valid. For the creature had become self-aware. The pineal gland, harvested from one L. Messi, sparkled as it soldered the numinous and the physical; while the heart, oh the heart, freshly taken from one F. Gago, maintained a martial rhythm, never missing a beat.
Yes, Dr Batistenstein’s monster finally woke up. Yet it looked oddly familiar. Some claimed to have seen its likes stalking the veldt of South Africa last year. Had Checho gone back to his grave-robbing ways and pilfered his plans from the tomb of the late Professor Maradona? For the resemblance was striking: weak spindly legs, thin in the middle but a massive bulk up top, with one shoulder out of all proportion with the other. To date, however, no copyright claims have been filed. Besides, if anything, Batistenstein had made a poor copy of the blueprint: the original had as a key concept the use of Menottian engaño – a by-pass facilitating deception, guile – where Messi would effectively function as a decoy for Di María. Batista’s model, however, lacks such subtlety. It positions Messi in the pineal gland in the centre of the brain – a straight number 10 in football parlance -, a central hub upon which other areas of the body depend almost exclusively like alms-seeking children, helpless once their benefactor is put out of action by a vicious Uruguayan virus.
Let there be no mistake about it, however. For all its vastly improved co-ordination, its newfound grace, Batistenstein’s creation is still a monster of hideous aspect. Bah, enough of this silly monster metaphor! It took Di María all of 11 seconds to lose the ball the other night. Despite his goal, he played badly. Indeed, his position on the pitch was quite puzzling in that he spent most of the game on the left side of midfield, while Agüero occupied the more advanced position on the same side. After the game, lest we attribute this rather strange arrangement to the whims of the players, Batista explicitly stated that this had been his plan. Pegamequemegusta doesn’t understand at all why he would do this, though. Why not let Di María and Agüero both do what they do best? El Kun’s goals in themselves were a fine demonstration of what he can contribute when he’s in and around the box. He said himself the other day: “When Lío gets the ball, I start running.” If he’s out wide, though, he quite simply has a lot more work to do to get near the goal. Plus, the angles are more difficult, as could be seen from several of the chances he blasted wide and over from acute angles on Monday night.
Strange though it may sound, we were far more pleased with the performance of Higuaín. Despite missing a plethora of chances, his contribution, especially in the first half, was far greater than that of either Agüero or Di María. His movement was excellent and went beyond simply providing a ‘pivot’ around which the others could whirl. He constantly picked up the right positions, moving out to the right, dropping deep, making the right runs, etc. The contrast with Lavezzi and Tevez, who repeatedly made the wrong decisions, was enormous. His finishing was just as wayward as their’s, though, and arguably Batista made a mistake by taking him off. He was the one player you got the impression really needed a goal – ton convince himself as much as anything else that he had done well.
The performance of the night, however, and really one of the most surprising things we’ve seen since Marathon became Snickers, belonged to Fernando Gago. Sweet Jaysus he was magnificent. Against Colombia he had come on and made a few simple passes whilst the rest were stood in tears midst the alien corn. Soon, however, he was swallowed up into the general confusion and lost his way. On Monday, though, and here it really doesn’t matter who the opposition were, every touch of the ball radiated intelligence. He didn’t lose it once and always chose correctly. He was even winning headers in defence! At one point in the first half, he took a ball down out of the air with his chest and, without looking, volleyed it over to the left wing to the waiting Agüero, who scurried off on a long run before eventually shooting wide. No-other midfielder had attempted such a thing in the other games. While they’re more than capable of it, of course, judging by their appearances so far, either Cambiasso or Banega would have – presuming they managed to control the ball at all – just layed it off to Messi, even if that wasn’t the best option. Gago, of course, combined with Messi several times, but by no means did he slavishly shrink before him, as that’s not what Messi needs. It was delightful. He showed balls, skill and smarts all night. We have no idea where this came from or whether it will be repeated tomorrow, but it was arguably Gago’s brilliance that allowed the team to grow in confidence to the point where they actually looked like footballers again in the second half and Messi started to run the show.
There were plenty of errors in the first half, though, when the game was still a contest. Argentina were slow to start and conceded two corners in the first eight minutes. Despite many of the positive signs in Monday’s game, we cannot forget that the defence is an absolute joke. Batista sticking with Milito brings back horrid memories of the Demichelis affair last year. Meanwhile, we have to hope Diego Forlán continues to be as wasteful as he has been so far in the tournament, and that Romero continues to leave us all dumbfounded with another fine performance.
A win tomorrow for Argentina won’t be the vindication of Batistenstein’s fiendish plan any more than it would be a condemnation of the intriguingly, the gloriously-named Washington Tábarez. Both of these Prometheans have seen their respective creations give some performances recently that have left science well and truly baffled. Indeed, despite Dr Batistenstein’s attempt to claim all the kudos for Monday’s successful test run, some reports suggest he actually activated the machine accidentally when he mistook the control panel for his remote. Some claim it was divine intervention, God having had quite enough of this attempted encroachment on his powers and decided to beat Man to it.
The monster was unconcerned. Having seen a little of life, it spent most of the week in Ezeiza giving interviews where it expressed considerable scorn for human society: “I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.” It also demanded a mate from its creator: “My companion will be of the same nature as myself and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man and will ripen our food.” Dr Batistenstein looked on nervously. Will he be able to do it again?