El Tata Martino´s Incontinent Cat

Ever tried to live with an incontinent animal? It’s trying. It tries to poop, but cannot, yet poop is all there is. It’s trying, trickle-down economics.

Mapa vaticano

Pegamequemegusta suspects Gerardo Martino has, or has had, an incontinent cat. Not a dog, for they vary too much as a species for a consistent image of Incontinent Dog to present itself to us; nor a budgee or a parrot, wherein comedy trumps tragedy every time. No, it must be, or have been, a cat, for incontinence in a cat is a curious phenomenon. The cat seems happy, only to redefine the idea of happiness you had assigned to the cat-happiness category. It runs, jumps, attacks stuff; it engages its various demons, as cats do. Grooming, as always, takes up a grand part of the day; only now it’s ineffectual. Likewise, the instinctual crap-concealing cats get up to, even the most domesticated ones who’ve never brought home a trophy of any size or consequence, convinced they’re Schwarzneggerarily invisible to both predator and prey, is no more, the burier diminished. Oh it will scrape around the water bowl as if digging a well, but the litter tray is no more recognisable than Radamel Falcao. The tail – the fluffy, expressive tail – is no longer under its control. Wet and limp it hangs; an unregulated sluice gate. At a poke drops will fall like merciless rain, yet the bowels ignore the thrum of the full emptying’s rhyme, reduced instead to the fragmentary inconsequentiality of the occasional blog post, seeping monotonously without ever truly delivering the payload.

Safety precautions must be taken, and firmly adhered to, as Martino found out the hard way one morning at the Camp Nou, we speculate. He had taken the Wrong Bag, the one that had been left within her grasp and was so perched upon as a nice change from her less than hygienic box. It was a gesture of possession, (semi-)loyalty, proximity in absence, a tribute, in a way. These considerations were lost on the back room staff, however, who scrunched up their noses. It was an accident. My cat, you see, her tail doesn’t… But Dani Alves just would not leave the matter be: “Caca Matino, Caca Martino!” It was the beginning of the end.

Yet his year-long sabbatical was not a waste. Martino most definitely discovered that the cat, so lorded as independent, disdainful, even, needs contact for validation. “Hello, I’m here. You – whatever you are – are here. If left with little other choice, I would eat you. For now, though, you are my anchor.” Now, post-Alves, such encounters were impossible except for brief comminglings when seated at the back step. Down at her level, things made more sense: a look, a caress, the odd purr, like in the old days when taking Spain to the wire, or all those Sundays of Maxi Rodriguez, Scocco, gol! A thought began to form: why even have a creature like this around if it’s banished out of sight like a mad ex-wife in the attic?

The question returned over and over, perhaps long ago but conceivably during this past year, as Argentina lost their way in the final and Sabella figured hanging around this team would leave him the world’s oldest man in his early sixties; even as months of pointless words and even less useful friendlies ticked by. The cat was distant but must be present. Never mind its schizoid state – the front half expressive, clean and occasionally vicious; the back a futile exercise in scatology – it’s still a cat. Besides, you’re stuck with it, Gerardo, he doubtlessly reflected, so no more Messi as a false 9, no more Messi as the crowded, beset-upon number 10, no more playing crocked players or putting on names to please the papers or hoping to get kudos for derring-do – at least not after Paraguay. Let’s not pick Palacio. Let’s just play Pastore in and around some decent midfielders. He now seems to have maturity on par with his ability, and balls to, say, not lay the ball off to Messi but instead Cruyff-turn a ¡Uruguayan! Let’s let Messi do his mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma thing, waiting for space and/or a ball of yarn. Distant but present. Yes, Pastore will be the bearded little face of this team, Aguero the incisors, Biglia the whiskers, Mascherano the rasping tongue. And the back? Well, we can’t be sure, but Martino probably stared into space for a while here before muttering: You know, market forces.

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¡Crisis!

Suarez Delaney masks

Ecuador lose 10-1 to Switzerland despite simultaneously losing 2-0 to Chile in the Copa América. ¡Crisis! Four Ecuadors – dimensional, gravitational, ethical ¡crisis! It was the Women’s World Cup, you say, dear bequiffèd one? Nevertheless, many a noisy ¡crisis! has beset Argentine football over these last months of silence, and now over in Chile all the different strands seem to be massing together like so many disaster-loving bacteria to form some kind of mega ¡crisis! Pegamequemegusta recalls.

Back in December 2012, with River finger-drummingly convalescent from their relegation ¡crisis! Boca finally succumb to their ever-throbbing nostalgia twitch and reappoint club legend Carlos El Virrey Bianchi as manager. Not to be outdone, River get rid of Almeyda, who stepped in in aforementioned ¡crisis! and got them promoted and secure in the top division once again, and reappoint Ramón Díaz, who had won their last Libertadores with Crespo and the likes in the mid-1990s, when ¡crisis! was but a whisper on the horizon. A year and a half later, in which time El Tata Martino has won the league in great style with Newell’s and gone off to Barcelona, making everyone feel more than a little silly about their earlier nostalgia, Bianchi leaves under an utterly forgettable cloud of sub Santa Rosa drizzle, as Riquelme will a few months later, too, after one too many a dressing/boardroom ¡crisis! River are vindicated somewhat by Ramón winning the Torneo Inicial in 2014, yet he leaves abruptly, quitting while he’s ahead, being replaced by uppity young tyro Marcelo Gallardo, former playmaker, who was an unused substitute in his last game for the club in May 2010, when they lost 5-1 to Tigre in the Monumental.

¡Crisis averted! River go on to play some of the finest football seen in these parts for quite a while, with at least two months of sublime dreamball seeing them unanimously regarded as uncrowned champions before ¡crisis! losing to Racing, on a one-nil, one-nil, one-nil eight-game streak of a stomp towards the title led and inspired by Diego Milito; Racing, ¿no? who had their very own mini ¡crisis! of their own earlier in the season after losing the clásico to Independiente but got back on track by coming from one down in the Bombonera in a twenty-five-minute instalment of a match previously suspended due to a storm to win two-one, leaving Boca’s new manager El Vasco Arrubarrena with ¡crisis!-flavoured egg on his face. Racing will go on to the quarter finals of this year’s Libertadores, scoring fifteen in the group phase before ¡crisis! inexplicably losing to a bunch of try-hards in the quarters. River, in the meantime, win the (Uefa cuppy) Sudamericana, knocking out Boca in the semis, but then in the Libertadores will, arguably, continue to suffer the fallout from Racing’s impetuous licking, and stutter into the second round as the worst-placed qualifier, leaving them to face the suddenly irrepressible Boca for the first time in living(?) memory, or at least since before Carlitos Tevez met Kia Joorabchian and did that chicken dance before an, as usual, screeching ¡crisis!-seething Monumental; and they’ll win the first leg one-nil (a penalty), then peck with majestic indifference at the Bombonera turf in the first half of the return (still nil-nil, nothing doing) until on emerging from the inflatable tunnel on the half-way line that protects the subterranean exit from the bowels of the ground they are assailed by a quite simply insane homemade, liquefied concoction of Mustard Gas (¡crisis!) poured into the air duct or whatever of what is fast becoming the angriest bouncy castle in the world; and the water they feverishly apply to cleanse themselves, as well as providing added fluidity, makes the gas mutate into an even stronger, lacerating compound that gives them third-degree burns on their chests and backs; and only after about an hour of confusion and River’s president invading the pitch and the head of CONMEBOL’s TV wing marching about in a very lovely white scarf and making dark threats, are they allowed to leave the pitch under a funeral guard of riot shields to protect them from the few malcontents who haven’t been driven home by sheer boredom and embarrassment. Mother of ¡crises! Boca are disqualified, fined and ridiculed, and the few people who still take this nonsense seriously wonder, apparently in earnest, if all this ¡crisis! would have happened were don Julio still around. River march into the next round, though, improving as they make the semis, e’en as Racing lose their way and lose to Guaraní of Paraguay.

Ah yes, Paraguay, where while much of this has been going on Ramón Díaz decided to copy Martino and get on board the new continental fashion and become an Argentine manager abroad – with Sampaoli in Chile, Pekerman in Colombia, Gareca in Perú, Quinteros in Ecuador, Argentine managers have swept into positions in nearly all hispanohablante, Tordesillian South America, no doubt on Papal influence, except for plucky little Bolivia, playing the part of Gaul, as part of a fiendish plan to somehow, some way thwart Dunga, unstoppable Dunga the Merciless, whose defenders are mean and soar for corners like killer whales for snacks at Sea World, whose midfields tend to be malevolent, eye-popping vices; Dunga who even has the daring to cock a snook at Brazil’s little ¡crisis! last Summer by calling up another striker named Fred –; unfancied Paraguay, who, despite getting to the final last time and still counting amongst their numbers a fair number of players with more than a hundred caps – Haedo Valdez, Roque Santa Cruz, Néstor Ortigoza, Paulo da Silva, Justo Villar – have suffered somewhat of late; Paraguay, where, as is vogue, talk has been less about Ball than money, with Chilavert coming out against Ramón’s arrival as a money-grabbing “adventure”, since he’s “lazy” and his gaddabout son does the little work required. Yet then, no matter how vicious Chilavert’s tongue, on Saturday Paraguay get one back on their former manager, Martino, who melts into ¡crisis! mode and guts his midfield, deciding to play Tevez alongside Mascherano behind Di María, Messi and Higuaín, despite being one goal up with less than twenty minutes to play.

After all the non-Carlitos-selection ¡crises! of the last few years, since his own post-City-exile, post Copa América 2011 penalty miss eating binge – already hefty before, ¡ojo! – pegamequemegusta almost wishes he wasn’t around, if only to avoid some insecure manager gurning to do something silly like shoehorn him into the back seat of a Smartcar at the first sign of ¡crisis! beads coagulating on his lower back. Yet here we are again, just as against Bolivia four years ago – play like Barcelona, with Tevez and Agüero on the wings! -, with a complacent pick-and-mix poster-boy approach that glows with the unholy halo of Checho Batistenstein’s ghost. ¡Crisis!

Ramón’s Paraguay, of course, equalised in the last minute. Messi refused to accept the Man of the Match award. The players said they were angry, said they were sorry and that it wouldn’t happen again. In truth, even a real ¡crisis! is unlikely as even finishing third doesn’t necessarily get you knocked out in a twelve-team competition. Tonight they play stubborn Uruguay, who are without Suarez (banned from training with his teammates at the World Cup, banned from being at the ground, banned even from setting foot in the team hotel, seven game international ban = ¡scandal!). Martino will repeat the shape of the team that started against Paraguay – with Zabaleta in for Roncaglia and Biglia for the already ‘tired’ Banega – but yet, it’s hard to take these personnel changes any more seriously than our own analytic quibblings. We insist on thinking problems have definitive solutions, situations round dénouments, people personalities and our acts meaning. Reason can only get you so far. The Lord gave us the Testaments but we didn’t learn and he had to morph into his own Son to make the message more explicit. Maradona came, but then he fell, before the prohets Aimar y Riquelme announced Messi, a further exegesis. Yea, his hair has grown ever shorter no doubt to accomodate the crown of thorns pressing in on his temples. Neither reason nor revelation suffice, and Good Lady Fortune is a bow-leggèd lurching clutz. ¡Crisis! always looms.