Quem quer passar além do Bojador, Tem que passar além da dor
Back when River were relegated at the end of June, we didn’t have any time to write about it. Pegamequemegusta was laughing too hard anyway. Besides, we were sure the suck from that sinking ship would continue to stir the waters for some considerable time to come.
And so it has been. Given that we’re far from God’s firm earth, given we’ve rounded the Cape of Bojador and are far out on unchartered, treacherous waters, ’tis no surprise that strange sea monsters should loom out of the dark water like Satan’s fist, flashing teeth like manicured nails. Why, just like week we had Cherquis Bialo, the AFA spokesman, openly admitting the plans for the new megatournament were only rushed through congress in order to ensure the return of River to the first division.
The widespread discontent with the plan saw the brine boil and almost immediately sailors began to throw themselves from the rigging in dismay. The ship’s wheel rolled unchecked from side to side as everyone bickered and denied they were responsible for charting the course in the first place. The thirst for untold quantities of dear spices had certainly been the motivation for the trip, but how they had ended up adrift in this hell hole no-one was able or willing to say. Some blamed the king for sticking his oar in when the good ship AFA was most certainly not a Roman galley. Others expressed wonder that the captain, an admiral in fact, usually so sturdy, could have proposed such a plan. The incompetent officers, in no mood to analyse their own role in the fracas, passed the time talking with the ship’s abundant parrot population and taking turns atop the crow’s nest lighting candles and sending smoke signals, though nobody was quite sure what they meant. Further confusion arose when the ship’s doctor, Bilardo, complained that there was no way he would work in an office, when most presumed that’s what he had been doing the past few years. Biscuits and rhum were running low. For the first time in all their sailing careers there was some talk of mutiny. Agin the capt’n?! Are you mad, sonny? By Aunt Gunning’s prize gunwhales, sure that thar’d be akin to paintin’ o’er the Stella Maris.
Enough with your barbarous chatter, sea dog. For hate’s sake I spit my last scone at thee. So far there has been no mutiny. Yet the mere murmurings of one are cause enough for giving pause. The sailors, who for so long only stirred from their poppy-besmattered bunks to carouse and switch to grog-fuelled mayhem, finally took it upon themselves to do something about the continual mismanagement of the ship’s affairs. A march was planned to the captain’s quarters demanding changes. It was to take place this evening and such was the fear of what they might do, the admiral last night decided to row back on plans to promote the scurvy-ridden curs he was trying to curry favour with erstwhile. The course remains unclear but for the moment the fury has been quelled. Some sailors insist they will march nonetheless, but the most remarkable fact in all this is not just that they have remained compos mentis long enough to even make a real threat, but that many have begun to wonder openly if the admiral is not in fact in league with the evil sea monster that harrasses them so and seems to be the only one who really controls their fate.
Perhaps it will be another Kronstadt, who knows.
In any case, even if we suppose the superstitious sailors are correct in their suspicions that the admiral and the sea monster are one and the same, it is still true that many a ship has sunk down to the murky depths owing to seamanship so reckless it was tantamount to skuttling the vessel. After all, the paralysis that affected the once awesome battleship River Plate last month was so sublime precisely because even with the rocks dead ahead the mariners seemed determined to maintain their course. No treacherous fog enveloped them, no whirlpools formed suddenly off the bow. The sky was clear Belgrano blue and the ripples on the green sea carpet were no more pronounced than the muscles on a robust stevedore’s torso. With morbid fascination we watched from the shore as they seemed to will themselves below the waves.
Among us there was one who suffered more than most; a man whose forebears sprung from a land with a distinguished seafaring tradition, el Tano Pasman. Oh how he suffered as he watched his once illustrious frigate struggle feebly with some poorly-armed piratas from Córdoba. Sure it was well known that the SS River Plate had traded in their sails for magic beans and had replaced the mast with empty bottles of rhum, but no-one expected such a collapse. The dear mothers of our town had to lead their bonny children away by the hand as the expletives rained from his seething gob like foam from the mouth of the opprobrious kracken. Luckily it was filmed for posterity, dear handsome reader, and while we make no claims to novelty we feel it’s worthwhile including it here if not for your edification at least for your titillation.
The video went viral, becoming what they call in the village an internet sensation. El Tano Pasman was hotter property than the throne of a flatulent arsonist. Pain sells, and when it comes with this many bad words it’s worth a shipload of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Only coming to light about two weeks after River went down, the video constituted a sort of national catharsis, for many had thus far kept quiet given the seriousness of what had befallen what had once been one of the proudest institutions on sea or land. In short, it finally allowed people to openly take the piss. An interview in Olé was but one of the many media outlets keen to exploit the old man’s distress.
Hence it was with some misgivings that pegamequemegusta greeted the news that there was going to be an interview with el tano on one of our favourite shows on Argiewireless, Perros de la calle. Uy, we said in our default snobby way, this is a bit low, a bit cheap. And indeed at first it was. The usually excellent hosts don’t seem too sure where to bring the interview. They look for soundbites and encourage the old geezer to repeat his famous lines cursing River’s drunken sailors. It’s brought home that he’s just a normal bloke caught up in truly odd circumstances. Indeed, he’s giving the interview from the bus on his way to work. It drifts.
Then he mentions that the great Beto Alonso is his favourite ever River player and the production team duly get him on to exchange a few words, not expecting much more than a novel piece of flimsy. Yet it turns out there’s a lot more to the caricature of el Tano Pasman we’ve all formed in our minds. There’s nothing stulted in the conversation of el Tano and Beto. They begin to chat as if they’re not even on air. It turns out el Tano has a Johnny Giles-type memory of every River match of all time. Besides referring to famous goals and games, which any fan might do, he also recalls starting line-ups as well as individual substitutions and yellow cards from more than 30 years ago; he remembers certain passes from summer friendlies in the 70s. He even corrects Beto Alonso once or twice on things his idol once did himself.
Clearly embarrassed at the situation he has found himself in, he takes the opportunity to apologise for taking his father’s name in vain during the match. The whole of his childhood, you realise, is inextricably bound up with the club. Without wanting to go too far, it appears his relationship with his father revolved almost exclusively around going to games and all the rituals that entailed. It is, dear handsome reader, quite moving. What began as a fluff piece, has suddenly become brilliant radio, surpassing itself, full of insight. Bizarrely the most famous symbol of River at an infamous time, we immediately take this buffoon as the prime example of the typical fan. Yet the radio interview shows us the other side of the caricature. He’s not a cartoon after all. From the video it’s clear he’s a massive River fan but we’ve become accustomed to dismissing such figures as mindless fools. It’s only as he speaks, as he’s given a voice, that it becomes clear he’s anything but. We’ve seen passion marketed so lamely so many times we’re wont to forget what it is. In the interview, el Tano Pasman reminds us indirectly that it’s people like him who make Argieball great, not the clowns in charge of the clubs.
At a time when Argentine football is in a terrible mess, both in institutional and sporting terms, with serious concern even being expressed with regard to the heretofore fruitful youth ranks, it is revitalising for this weary would-be hack to be reminded of the intensity that really keeps the air in the sails of the floundering schooner Nuestra Señora de Argieball. Indeed, it’s doubly pleasing to be reflect on this in these days when the drunken sailors look like they might well topple the evil admiral Grondona and rescue themselves and their ship from the monsters off Bojador, for a while at least.