Wolfie howled. A dark, freezing madrugada of a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Villagers huddled in their hovels hoovering up the healing warmth of their football-boxes. A cock crowed, confused; confused, too, pegamequemegusta, its claws in its tiny laptop hands, groaning long, low nooooooos that eventually subsided to a kind of sick-sounding gurgle. Luisferato had struck again. It was a bad day for vamp apologists, yet the vampires were but rising from their caskets, all creaking dust. There was still blood to be spilt.
Yes, dear handsome reader, stricken times. A plague of sanctimony was rotting the minds of otherwise lovely people. Have you heard the news, my toothless brother? Wright Thompson predicted this! How prescient his phophesy, RT, RT, RT! The town crier urged the purchase of stakes. This is the poison in our water, the phox on our game. Sails torn, the ship sailed on, inertia (and scandal-porn) its eternal current. You see, a few weeks back Friar Thompson had hammered some theses into the cathedral door, this time in the form of a syllogism: Proposition the first: Luis Suárez is from South America (wherever, it’s all very samey south of Juárez). Proposition the second: South America is a dump. Conclusion: Suárez would do anything to avoid being sent back there. Maybe that’s unfair; he was slightly more eloquent. Yet he has nuns who fetch him berries and in the mortar and pestle of his prose he beats out a tasty and digestible mush, even though it says far more about him than vice versa.
If it wasn’t for the exceptional woodcuts that accompanied the theses, there would have been nothing in Thompson’s door vandalism that had the least bit of relevance to Suárez’ truly idiosyncratic habit of biting people. That’s the weird thing here, because most people seemt agree there is nothing too violent about it. Of all these things we’ve learned that go on among football players, be they soggy biscuit, ritual humiliations, putting shit in each others’ shoes, shagging each others’ missuses, they’re all group activities. This is perverse insofar as it’s private. One man, one coffin.
Is it just because he has very prominent teeth? Did Freddy Mercury ever bite anyone? Was the Prince of Wales’ penchant for a nibble the real reason the royal marriage didn’t work out and his subsequent liaison with a horse? According to the precepts of fung shui, “Your teeth offer clues to your personality and attitudes.” People with sharp teeth, like those of a mouse, tend to be mathematical and indicate good breeding; having too much gum on show “in an uneven oral struture” means a person is not to be trusted; a person with uneven teeth is usually unlucky in love and “his/her thought patterns and actions appear ‘unsynchronized’”; while concave teeth indicate a person may have inherited a genetic disease. Plenty to think about there, dear reader, but perhaps harmony is an overrated quality in this confused world of ours, and the truth of the matter is skulking somewhere nearer the unfathomable nuclei of neuroses that constitute our varying personalities: ‘To the man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,’ as was ventured on Second Captains the other day.
After all, which of us can hope to probe with questioning finger the thoughts that flit in a fool’s head? While wondering why Suárez bites may be an amusing parlour game, the more important question here concerns the responsible use of Power. With the amount of said energy surging through a World Cup, whether it be ESPN, the BBC, Visa or Neymar’s da, who it elevates and who it destroys is a pretty big deal. From the battlements, midst wolfie’s howl, when not delighting in Hamez’ thunderbastard we see thunderbolts, positive and negative, flying back and forth through the sky, blessing some in blinding illuminations and condemning others, like mere paddies, to months and months of darkness. For Power is a-flow, folks, and the laws of media physics dictate that at least five percent of power’s beam must be obscured by a shadowy freckle, a blind spot.
Step forward Victor Hugo and Diego Maradona. Their show De zurda (‘with your left [peg]’), lags a bit at times and seems to have a smaller budget than Wayne’s World. Yet it has the virtue of, while not being overtly political, seeking to tap into – and so further foment – a sense of Latin American fraternity (tho we dislike both those phrases). In this respect, it’s quite apt that Maradona’s latest media vehicle is not a flash mega production. The other chief quality is that, given the exalted status of both its hosts, it can attract good quality guests, even those not trying to sell anything.
Last Thursday, for example, legendary Mexican striker Hugo Sanchez was on the show. Not just capillarly spectacular, el Hugo told of how in Mexican football players do not have freedom of movement, a Bosman ruling essentially: if a player wants to move from one club to another, the owners sit down and discuss it, no matter the player’s wishes. Moreover, considerable discontent has been brewing regarding the international team players’ appearance money, which, unlike squads such as Spain’s, he said, is far from being shared out 50-50 with the association. In fact, he argued, if the USA hadn’t scored that famous goal against Panama, Mexican football would probably have undergone a considerable overhaul. As things went, it was swept under the carpet somewhat. Concise, articulate, great hair, huge but-not-necessarily-standard-football-public, good tv.
Getting get back to the vampires, another interesting tidbit concerned the allegation that Fifa’s reluctance to indulge the Uruguayan FA, or at least Conmebol’s reluctance to back them, may have had something to do with the Uruguayan clubs’ questioning of the sharing of Copa Libertadores money. Uruguayan clubs almost went on strike during this year’s Copa Libertadores over Conmebol’s handling of the matter. Romario, Maradona reminded us, said on another edition of the show that a sit-down is scheduled to take place after the World Cup. All over Latin America, remember. Good tv.
The question also got a mention over on TyC the same evening, but what it lacked in Victor Hugo’s heart-warming, firebrand eloquence, it gained in rumour and intrigue: namely, one journalist alleged that on his way to the meeting to decide Suárez’ fate, Grondona – A Fifa vice president, remember – remarked that it had already been decided they were going to liquidarlo (‘liquidate him’, wipe him out, do him, etc.). Moreover, another journalist claimed don Julio had gone to the meeting to demand a change in Argentina’s kick-off times, which in the case they make the quarter-final will have been four straight one o’clock starts. As of going to press, he has been unsuccessful…
Liquidarlo. The third time he was asked about The Incident after the match, the Uruguay manager, Oscar Tabárez, said: “This is is a World Cup of football, not of cheap morality!” (In Spanish it was better as ‘cheap’ is the last word, and he fairly spat it). It turns out he was wrong. Suárez had clearly meddled with the forces of nature. Hence the ban from the hotel, from training. Fifa didn’t want one more image of Suárez appearing anywhere. Red blood cell counts now depend on tv minutes. Luisferatu would not suck another drop.
That’s what got everyone’s heckles up, almost as much over there as over here – that Fifa played the man and not the ball. A lack of consistency and transparency in any sanction will always lead to cries of injustice, especially when it concerns a small country that had knocked out two vocal, influential markets on the way. Or does anyone believe the outcome would have been the same had Uruguay lost?
Thus argued Uruguayan president Pepe Mujica on De zurda the other night. The full interview is here:
In the Irish Times on Saturday, however, Ken Early accused Mujica of bending logic in order to defend the indefensible. Bending language is similarly questionable, and whoever assisted him in concocting the translation certainly juiced things up as much as possible. For Mujica didn’t say Luisferatu “is a natural rebel and expresses his anger naturally.” President that he is, he uses Suárez as an example for all those who have to fight their way up. If, estimao, you’ll excuse the extended format:
The thing is we’re a small country… Tv rights, we’re a tiny portion of the pie… We feel that this is a kind of affront to kids from poor backgrounds. Because these people [Fifa] never forget, never forgave him where he came from. The fact that he never went to university or didn’t get a good education. That he grew up outside playing ball on the corner. That’s what breeds, naturally, the rebellious streak as much as the pain of the underprivileged. These people don’t understand a thing.
Changing ‘he’ to ‘you’ makes a significant change; try it. He’s talking about social determinism but not in relation to the act, as an excuse, rather in relation to the punishment. He’s saying that once a crime, an infraction is committed, those who tend to be in a position to judge it are so far removed from the perpetrator they may as well be from another planet. It’s not always a good thing that justice be so blind, for a scales, too, can be used to weigh a pound of flesh. Hence, their judgements can lack basic understanding and, even, humanity – even more so, when there’s one rule for one offender and another for the rest
The translation question is an important one, all the same. Vampires thrive on bad translations for they are the lifeblood of many a scandal. Interviews given by players in the off-season or when on international duty have been known to resurface weeks later rewritten an utterly alien context (such as comments about a national team being twisted so they refer to a club). Likewise, the tone of a person’s remarks can be ratcheted up a few degrees to make it wound like he’s a lunatic, such as when Maradona drove over a reporter’s foot and called him an arsehole before WC 2010. Neither was true, but hey. Even more common is the kind of awkward, stilted translation that makes Babelfish look poetic and the subject sound like an utter cretin. Again Maradona, this time regarding his magnificent WC beard: “‘I grew it because my dog almost ate my mouth and left me a big scar.”
It may not come as a surprise to learn that we’ve complained about this type of thing before. One newspaper representative expressed frustration with the fact that these errors so often originate with Reuters and AP. “I am always surprised at this,” he wrote, “as Reuters was once absolutely meticulous about translations, and indeed made a point of hiring people who were good linguists.” Of course, they don’t have the time or resources to go trawling through everything that comes down the wire, most of which is probably chunneled by far-flung interns around the globe anyway, dealing with fashion one minute, economics the next, then a piece on the Selección’s preparations for a routine qualifier… This how we get much of our news, and pegamequemegusta contends that – apart from other, grander sociological considerations – this chaotic, deeply-flawed system has a huge influence in the construction of British tabloid pantomime villains like Maradona, Tevez and Suárez. Not that they make the latter bite people, though…
That gloss may seem excessive, so we’d like to include another excerpt of the interview that we hope conveys his tone and manner of speaking. Towards the end, after Maradona’s contribution, he adds:
Look, I’m an old man. I remember when players used to prick each other with pins at corners, or when they’d throw dirt in each others’ eyes. Not to mention that the Italians are masters at winding you up… Older people will be well aware they’ve [Fifa] crossed a line here. Either we’re all equal or some are less important than others… We knocked out Italy and England. What a packet they lost, eh… Money, I mean. A looot of money.
Now, pegamequemgusta hates the word populist. It only ever seems to be used by hedge-fund sponsored newspapers when governments in heretofore pliable countries start doing things the citizens actually like. Still, it’s fair to say Mujica is playing to the gallery here, mixing genuine points with folksy jest. It’s the same in the sure-to-go-viral video of him greeting the players upon their return to Uruguay last night.
– How do you feel about the WC?
– That those Fifa lads are an auld shower of bastards!
He then puts his hand over his mouth in mock horror at his latest media faux pas. When asked her opinion, his wife laughs and says: “I second the President’s words.” Mujica then adds: “Naah, some kind of punishment is fine but not a fascist one like that!”
Of course they’re closing ranks. That’s what ranks do. If the Uruguayans decided to shun him for kind of letting the team down in one match, they’d hardly be a society at all. Vampirism is the opposite of that. It’s the scaldy agent that gets into the cracks; it’s every moralistic tabloid headline, every bit of churnalism, every ill-intentioned translation, every institutional stitch-up, every cranky pegame post, every misplaced Gago pass, every time el Kun gets injured; every time Lavezzi’s tats are front-page news and vulture funds get renamed ‘holdouts’ – but more on that tomorrow. The sun is coming up.