Ticked Off Ticas and Angsty Argentines

Pegamequemegusta is as prejudiced as the next faceless fool peddling nonsense plagued by a disheartening abuse of the royal ‘we’. Most days as we hunt sea urchins for their pocket money or sit gazing menacingly at the surf threading cork after the cork together to make a groundbreaking winter vest-cum-raft, our thoughts rarely progress beyond the same tired few themes, the same gripes and exasperated polemics against society’s hopelessly misconstrued repertoire of idées recues. Like all good wannabe demagogues, a reflexive self-lacerating bent is rarely missing from these musings: we recognise we may be wrong on some things. Yet these brief solstices of self-examination are almost never long or profound enough for real progress to be made, and the cycle of error inevitably begins another round, nothing gained and nothing lost, save time.

However, not once in all these mental orbitings did we ever stop to consider the prevailing attitude of the Costa Rican sporting press. Not once did it ever occur to us that they would be in any way particular or peculiar regarding the aspirations and, indeed, demands placed upon their sports men and women. Far from being yet more evidence of our arrogance and ignorance, this speaks well of us, we feel. For we thought they would be just as bland as everyone else: recognising their team’s limitations, and only occasionally engaging in low intensity sniping when they feel it’s time to engineer a change.

This is not enough for the Costa Rican press corps, however. The country evidently did not get to number three on the Happy Planet Index without setting some pretty high standards for itself. For while we can only dream as to what the media is like in Vanutu, pegamequemegusta was quite taken aback by the harshness of the tica reaction to La Selé‘s 1-0 defeat to Colombia in the Copa América on Saturday.

The Al Día newspaper’s tagline is ‘For sports-loving families’, yet its report on the game must have made for some serious puckering at the nation’s breakfast tables on Sunday morning. ‘La Sele frozen to the spot’, reads the headline, while they go on to praise Colombia for ‘showing mercy’ by not thumping them 9-0. “[Costa Rica] decided not to attack so as not to leave themselves open to another humiliation [such as the Gold Cup Mexico debacle]. In any case, la Sele doesn’t have any decent forwards.” They go on to posit a hypothetical exchange between their manager, Ricky LaVolpe, and his Colombian counterpart at half-time where the former Argentine goalkeeper implores his rival in supposedly typical rioplatense patois to show a little consideration for his charges: “Che, tell your lads to take it easy on us, would ya?”

To our delicate ears, it all seemed a little unfair. After, all, Costa Rica were only ‘called up’ to the competition at the last minute after some uppity German administrators put the kybosh on Japan’s participation by refusing to let some of their subs miss a few weeks of pre-season training. The Ticas themselves lost out on few players due to greedy clubs not affording the Copa América much respect. Indeed, they lost another few players in even more dramatic circumstances: one of the defenders died in a car accident in June, while their goalkeeper, who plays with Az Alkmaar, was accused of attempted murder by his missus, who claimed he’d Drederik Tatumed her down the stairs. (The DA hadn’t made any decision on the matter at the time of going to press as he received the file last thing on a Friday as he was closing up the office).

Of course the clubs were reluctant to release some of their players owing to Costa Rica’s participation in the Gold Cup, in June. At that competition, the senior players suffered an opening day 1-4 trouncing at the hands of the Mexicans but still managed to get through the group stage by drawing 1-1 with El Salvador and thumping the hapless Cubans 5-0. They eventually went out to Honduras on penalties. The players’ clubs clearly felt one international competition was enough. Hence, whereas Japan were expected to bring a scintillating blend of sexiness and otherness, the Copa América had to do with a debilitated Costa Rican under-23 team. Nonetheless, the Tica press would tolerate nothing other than total victory. 

Unfortunately, the much anticipated Costa Rican neutron bomb failed to materialise. Apart from the mitigating circumstances, however, what really surprised pegamequemegusta about the reaction of the media in Costa Rica was that they hadn’t even played that badly. Far from being humiliated, they struggled quite bravely to get back into the game considering one of their forwards was sent off after only 30mins. (Needless to say, in this respect the press came down heavier than a ton of lead-painted bricks on the sun, embracing the referee’s sanction like a guilty Quaker after a jumbo-sized horsebag of butterscotch skittles: “The sending off was unquestionable and irrevocably condemned the Tricolor”). Clearly the Cafeteros had much more of the ball but Costa Rica managed to stifle them manfully enough and even go on the odd foray upfield from time to time. We’ve seen far worse performances from lots of teams many a time, and we’ve seen plenty of bad games put down to poor refereeing, a blip, bad luck, or whatever other reason the paper decides upon to use as its line to sell a few more copies. However, the concept of a moral victory is apparently unknown to the Costa Ricans. They’re made of sterner stuff than us.

Then again, so are most. Now, pegamequemegusta has never considered the Argentine sporting press a model of impeccable high standards. We could never accuse them of stripping away the layers of hype to take a long hard look at itself. If the normal Argentine had a quite different outlook, the press was always ready to avert its gaze or sob openly in the face of misfortune. In the last few days, however, since Friday’s lame 1-1 draw with Bolivia, we have been quite taken aback by a phenomenon that had quite passed us by over the last few years – if the Ticas are a tetchy, demanding bunch, the Argentines are riven by an acute case of angst. 

Olé‘s headline after the Bolivia match was the pointed question ‘Who are ya?’ Ostensibly it referred to the lack of ‘respect’ Bolivia had shown la Selección – damn Bolivians, they refused to keel over! Deep down, however, it was a cry for help, an existential crisis brought on by a sudden (but was it sudden? Hasn’t it really been like this for the longest time but we were too blind to see it? Ay!) loss of their sense of self. Descartes spent years moping in bed playing with burning wax, yet even so he managed to find the impenetrable rock upon which to build his metaphysics and save himself from solipsism. For Argentina, the cogito was beating the bolitas. It was truth, it was beauty. It was almost 2-0 to Bolivia!

With this certainty gone, the newspapers have become difficult to read owing to the shower of dead skin raining down from the journalists fidgity, scratching hands; not to mention the great streaks of black across the page. Pegamequemegusta was briefly concerned that the crudest form of censorship was back in force, but it was merely that black was back in vogue as the lost scribes gave vent to their inner darkness. Who are we? What are we doing? What is our real place in the game? Are we worse or are others better? We know there’s a D10S, but is there life after he succumbs to a debilitating cocaine addiction and is reincarnated as an angry caller on phone-in shows? What is the point of it all? If we win, do we really win? Should we lose, should we… end it all?

Don Julio weighed in amongst the furrowed brows and self-harming, spiky-haired hacks with an epistemological teaser of his own: “Messi never plays badly,” he said, “it’s those around him.” This had the academy up in arms. Messi only makes a sound if he’s wearing a Barcelona jersey, concluded some. No, countered others, he only falls over in the first place if he’s wearing the colours of the albiceleste. The room fell silent. A dog coughed. A mouse looked up from its knitting. Journalists started rummaging nervously for their ezcema ointment. Finally a lone voice asked: “If Messi is not in a wood, is standing upright and he’s wearing an Argentina jersey, why do his teammates insist on falling over at the most inopportune times? How does this affect Ezequiel Lavezzi’s ability to cross the ball? Why does the great leader Zanetti hide at left back instead of doing something to help or encourage his team? If Messi is wearing his Barcelona pyjamas and Argentina are playing Bolivia 2,000 miles away, will Banega find it in himself to stop a ball with his foot instead of letting it trickle between his legs like an incontinent child?” 

Just then Messi himself came in. He explained that Argentina’s problem against Bolivia was that they had been too nervous from the outset, too eager to score. A gloss, but okay. What was needed, he said, for tomorrow’s game against Colombia, was for the team to stay calm, to take its time. He then rubbed his nose as if to say: your identity comes from what you do, not from the actions of your forebears or certain ideas you might have of what you should be. Once again, silence descended upon the great hall. Soon people began to look each other in the eye and even smile wryly. Of course he’s right, they said, and they soon felt silly for having invested so heavily in dark cloaks, black eye-liner and gaudy rings. Things were going to be alright. Until a member of the Costa Rican press corps slammed his whisky down in disgust and boomed in an inexplicable Scottish accent: “Ye flamin bunch of numpties! A bunch of bampots, so ye are! Ger over yerserls!” 

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Checho, Tevez and the five-foot sub

Despite the lore that surrounds Carlitos Tevez as el jugador del pueblo,  the champion of the common man, the heart, soul and, most importantly, ballsy player around, he’s been involved in more sagas than a Norse nobleman. Indeed, in our own quest, or in any case a strange compulsion to begin on a digression, it occurs to us that perhaps this is not so far-fetched. After all, his constant harping as to the paramount importance of R.E.S.P.E.C.T, or staðr as the Norse would say, testifies to a keenly felt and dearly held moral code – though his estranged wife might have something to say about that, oho. 

Vikingo es, no cornudo

While most of the stories about and quotes attributed to Tevez in the English-speaking press are either utterly bogus fabrications or are based on translations so garbled they’d make a thumbless, i-phone-wielding chimp look like Dr. Johnson, he does only have himself to blame for his continued association with the evil, shape-shifting, self-interested, strife-sowing Kveldúlfr, aka Kia Joorabchian. While the squabbles feature many a fearsome, foul-smelling beast, however, and are usually, in the manner of all great bloody slogs, kicked off by something apparently innocuous like a witless, semi-literate Reuters report, they rarely leave our hero looking particularly radiant. The dye runs in the Charyibdian whirlpool of spin, you see. Pegamequemegusta is happy, nonetheless, to bring you the news that the latest Carlitos Tevez saga, in which our brave Apache was accused of refusing to fight the hated Brazilians in a mock battle in the icy wastes of Dubai last Novembertide, has come to an end. 

Carlitos being feted somewhat today in the Bombonera

All media men seem quite convinced now that Carlitos will indeed be included in the squad for the Copa América – the 30-man squad at the very least. About ten days ago, this did not seem at all possible. While making his desire to be part of Batista’s team clearer than a melted Polar Mint, and insisting he had no personal beef with the manager, Tevez nevertheless took a couple of swipes that did not go down well at all. He hit Checho where it hurts – his twitter account. “If he has a problem, he should tell me face to face rather than banging on about it on twitter,” Carlitos had said.

The following night Checho was still smarting, moping about on the couch in a thick black cloud of Parisienne puchos, crankily challenging the world to find anything about Tevez in his status updates:

Me oh my, I looked back through all my tweets to find what I might have said on a certain matter, and I couldn’t find a thing…

True, but valhella disingenuous of him. He even spoke of how tired he was with the ‘insolence’ and ‘lies’ that were going round.

Batista was still tetchy enough after the Selección local’s 4-2 25 de mayo triumph over ‘Paraguay’. Tevez’s balls had come in for quite a bit of praise from the faithful in Chaco, his football skills being quite by the by. Olé olé olé, Tevez, Tevez, they sang (apparently… pegamequemegusta was eating fried apple treats and drinking champagne – generosa la patria postiza, eh) all round the ground. Checho came as close as he ever had to actually saying something coherent on the matter after the game:

“I understand why the people were calling for Tevez today. He’s a great player […] but in December he said some things on the back of which he probably won’t be at the Copa América. […] You’ve got to think of the group as a whole. At the moment it’s not looking likely.”

Yet by Friday night it was all sorted! Curiously, both Norsemen and Argieballmen share exactly the same tradition concerning the resolution of disputes: two men, circle, face to face, oil, bear fur loinskin, coordinated media presentations, no-one loses face, exchange of (expired) delousing coupons. We’ll let Tevez tell the tale, but we can’t help but wonder if Diego’s accusations of don Julio/Thor’s complicity in the Australia dope scandal (more of which soonish) didn’t weaken previously fortified opposition to Carlitos’s return. After all, though he refuses to go into detail, Tevez clearly states that football had nothing to do with his possible exclusion.

Maybe it was all just a question of miscommunication. Pegamequemegusta doubts it, though: after the chaos of World Cup qualification and Diego’s propensity to exabruptos, there’s been a conscious move towards docility, towards sickly European pacifism – a disgustingly sarmentino approach epitomised by the I believe in Barca mantra. A revolution from above, as we said last week. Thankfully, though, the pueblo have spoken. We don’t care if he doesn’t like the name – el Apache is back!

 

The interview is from Olé. It was done by Marcelo Sottile. You can read the Spanish here.

  • “What’s up, buddy?” Carlitos Tevez gets the move under way.
  • Sounds like you’re in good form.
  • Yeah, mainly because of the chat with Checho, ’cause we were able to talk man to man, straight up, face to face, as there had been plenty of dodgy rumours doing the rounds. But we were able to sort them out, for the good of the Selección.
  • How did it all come about?
  • I talked to Tata (Brown) and Chirola (Rodríguez) around noon [on Friday]. I told them what I made of it all. They agreed that I should talk to Checho, too, and so another meeting was organised for that night.
  • And what did you talk about?
  • There were a couple of things both of us had our doubts about and needed clearing up. As I had said already, I didn’t understand why I was being left out. Checho told me how he saw it, I gave him my version… Like, for example, that it had looked like I hadn’t wanted to play against Brazil. And I insisted that I don’t have any problem with him personally, that every time I spoke out about something it was with the group in mind, not just for my own sake.
  • Checho, i’m sure, was quick to point out that you didn’t show up for the Brazil friendly?
  • No, but he did mention some things that hadn’t sat too well with him. So I said: ‘Checho, I did this, this and this’ and he said: ‘Grand, now that we’ve had the chance to talk, things are clearer. Before there were things that didn’t add up.’
  • Was one of those things the fact that you didn’t play for Argentina but did four days later against Fulham?
  • I’ve got the results of the scans, all the medical stuff. They gave me an injection on the Thursday that left me out of training on Friday and Saturday. I remember because I fainted I had the runs so bad, man… Checho knew that I hadn’t played because of injury as City let the Selección know about these things. But he tried to protect me, and i’m grateful for that…
  • So the things you talked about were the Brazil friendly and your complaints about the travel arrangements in Japan?
  • No, there were plenty more… But what we talked about stays between us. Let’s get things straight, man: all this started because of a lot of Chinese whispers before we actually got to speak to one another. But now we’ve both said our piece and we were able to sort it out.
  • You swore you were on board with him?
  • I made that especially clear: that he could count on me for anything, whenever and wherever… That i’m always ready to drop anything for the Selección, do whatever he needs. And that i’m ready to play. That he can trust me, that i’m always going to do my best for the Selección.
  • What did ye make of the now infamous meeting with Brown and what he said about the [good of] the group?
  • We talked about it a good deal. ‘This is what I heard,’ i’d say. ‘This is what I heard,’ he’d say. But always relaxed, no ill will or anything. That’s why I decided to clear things up: ‘Look Checho, I don’t have any beef with you. I’m ready to do whatever I can for the Selección.’ And he said he appreciated it. Sorted.
  • He must have been happy that it was you who sought out the meeting?
  • Sure, but it’s not about who asked who. It’s not about who’s got a bigger cock. This is just about two men getting together and sorting things out for the good of the squad and the Selección. It’s not about Tevez or Checho… The only thing that matters is the team. And the Copa América.
  • You told him you were eager to be called up to the squad?
  • It was hardly necessary. I give my all for that jersey. It’s up to the manager whether to put me in the team or not. I’m happy ’cause I got the chance to explain myself and now have the same chance as the rest of my teammates.
  • He didn’t give you any hints? The list is coming out on Monday, you know.
  • No, we didn’t discuss the squad.
  • Was it all just about clearing the air or did you have to apologise, too?
  • No, no, it was just a question of tying up loose ends; no apologies. Same for him, eh.
  • You didn’t have to apologise for anything?
  • No, man. We just had to talk and sort things out. I had nothing to be sorry for. What I did need was the chance to say my piece.
  • Was your relationship with Messi discussed?
  • Checho knows I get along grand with the little fella, that he’s one of the players I speak with most often.
  • And you were happy with the meeting overall?
  • I respect him as he’s the manager of the Selección. He always said [my absence] was solely due to footballing reasons. It’s abundantly clear that it was more than that, but that stays between us. It’s all cleared up.
  • Were there any other witnesses or is this going to rumble on and on?
  • His assistant, Chirola, was there. I’ve always been close to him.
  • And how did ye part?
  • Just like normal. Sure I don’t have any problem with him.
  • So you can tell your mates now that you’re going to be playing at the Copa América?
  • I don’t know, that’s up to Checho. Whether i’m included or not, I reckoned now was the moment to talk. I backed him 100%. I think we both deserved the opportunity to straighten things out.
  • Are you going on holidays, then, as you said you were?
  • I’m not going to ask the manager if I have to stay in Buenos Aires… He’ll weigh it all up.
  • Well, just to be sure, don’t book your tickets just yet…
  • Haha, yeah, I don’t know, man. I don’t know if i’ll be at the Copa América or not, but Checho and I were due a meeting face to face. I told him he could trust me. Whether things work out afterwards, who knows, but that’s how I am. I’ll be waiting to hear what comes next…

Carlitos Tevez, Larry David & Zeus

Only last July Grondona’s administration had found itself under serious threat with the perennial cheerleaders Olé openly calling for massive changes. Then, once a pliable and, crucially, not financially secure manager was installed, they looked to deflect attention away from the urgent reform needed by continually flogging the idea of Messi as the Messiah, the panacea to all our ills, footballing, spiritual, economic. They adopted Barcelona’s Make Messi Happy policy but altered it ingeniously to Messi IS Happy So You Should Be, Too. And by September, after the Spain win, they clearly felt strong enough to chastise Mascherano and the rest of the players, referring to the scandalous nature of the qualifying campaign and the humiliating fifth act in South Africa. Chief FPT stooge and Grondona ally Marcelo Araujo identified Maradona and Mascherano as Argieball’s most vicious powermongers, ruthlessly thwarting the meek visionaries of the AFA, who had only wanted to put mints on their pillows in Pretoria. The captain was but a brief candle next to the AFA’s eternal flame; a spindly, pitiful urchin of dubious origin compared with the heroic, muscular achievements of the bearded founding fathers. There had been a revolution from above: ‘Messi is the new boss of the AFA,’ Araujo declared.

It was always going to be something concerning Carlitos Tevez that roused us from our six-week slumber. Pegamequemegusta loves Carlitos. Indeed, ’twas an injustice involving el Apache that saw our conception some years ago – though not, we hasten to add, of the kind common to busy-handed Frenchmen.

We’ve been waiting to hear from him over the last few months since he was dropped. In the meantime, his partner in inexplicable exile from el Checho Batista’s squads, el Kun Agüero, has been welcomed back. Batista had given another round of interviews this week where he failed to explain the decision to anyone’s satisfaction. He was even made squirm on one radio show as Mariano Closs confronted him with the undeniable brilliance of Tevez’s two goals against Stoke: when Checho claimed he hadn’t seen them, Closs told him to turn on the tv quickly as they were being shown on Fox. Despite acknowledging they were golazos, the Argentina manager continued to mutter incoherently about how he wanted the Boca-era Tevez and that, failing that, Messi was his number nine, with Higuaín and Agüero as back-up. His stubbornness prompted a front cover in Olé under the headline Apachau [‘So long, Apache’]. And so, with his absence from the Copa América assured, the season pretty much over and a case-boosting FA Cup in the bag, Carlitos finally decided to speak.

There are many interesting aspects to what is an extensive interview. Chief among them is Messi’s nickname: Tevez refers to him as el Enano, the Dwarf. Pegamequemegusta had never heard that before. Also, we found it quite plausible that Messi and Tevez qouldn’t get on, but Tevez reveals Lionel is one of the players he talks most to. Likewise, we were inclined to believe that Tevez had indeed caused a bit of a ruckus at the World Cup last year over the fuss made for Messi’s birthday while Pastore’s was roundly ignored, yet after hearing him we changed our mind.

The interview, conducted over the phone late on Wednesday night by two of Olé‘s better journalists, Marcelo Sottile and Adrián Piedrabuena, addresses all the spats, real and rumoured, and for the most part we find Tevez to be quite convincing. Inevitably it’s quite repetitive as Carlitos keeps coming back to the same point: he doesn’t understand why he has been excluded. When you step back from what exactly happened in each case, however, it’s hard to escape the impression that – besides the fact you’re wasting your life – Tevez probably is a bit of a pain in the hole to deal with. Why is it always him who’s involved in these little scrapes and run-ins? He’s honest, yeah, and in the Japan episode he seems to have been a lot less ‘selfish‘ than Roy Keane in Saipan, say, insofar as he wasn’t looking to score points against the manager as much as he was genuinely sticking up for his teammates. The cumulative effect, though, is that he’s a bit of a Larry David character, and it’s hard to escape the impression the affronted AFA men (wretched folk all) got tired of him and decided to cut him loose.

Since Maradona’s departure, the main men in the sick world of Argieball have been preoccupied with consolidating and extending their power. This land grab was a happy consequence of the delay in officially appointing Batista. They let him hang, weakening his hand deliberately. After all, let’s not forget it was Grondona who decided to declare Tevez was being punished for not playing against Brazil – a statement that directly contradicted Batista’s assertions up to that point. It seems highly unlikely don Julio would have taken such liberties had the man it is said they initially wanted, Marcelo Bielsa, been in the post.

Only last July Grondona’s administration had found itself under serious threat with the perennial cheerleaders Olé openly calling for massive changes. Then, once a pliable and, crucially, not financially secure manager was installed, they looked to deflect attention away from the urgent reform needed by continually flogging the idea of Messi as the Messiah, the panacea to all our ills, footballing, spiritual, economic. They adopted Barcelona’s Make Messi Happy policy but altered it ingeniously to Messi IS Happy So You Should Be, Too. And by September, after the Spain win, they clearly felt strong enough to chastise Mascherano and the rest of the players, referring to the scandalous nature of the qualifying campaign and the humiliating fifth act in South Africa. Chief FPT stooge and Grondona ally Marcelo Araujo identified Maradona and Mascherano as Argieball’s most vicious powermongers, ruthlessly thwarting the meek visionaries of the AFA, who had only wanted to put mints on their pillows in Pretoria. The captain was but a brief candle next to the AFA’s eternal flame; a spindly, pitiful urchin of dubious origin compared with the heroic, muscular achievements of the bearded founding fathers. There had been a revolution from above: ‘Messi is the new boss of the AFA,’ Araujo declared.

Yet much like Batista, Messi is just a front; he’s a manikin. What he actually wants is pretty much irrelevant; and what would actually be good for him, were it identified to be contrary to the interests of those running the AFA, would be doubly so. The insistence on Making Messi Happy has taken a sinister turn, become a ploy to root out real and imagined enemies, as if the Barca player were indeed some kind of ogre whose every whim must be satisfied. The policy has seen the manager’s hand weakened (what’s Bilardo for?) and the coffers filled as lucrative deals are signed promising Messi will grace fields in New York and Tokyo, injured or not. It has seen the captain’s position undermined repeatedly by talk of it only being a matter of time before Messi gets the armband. While Zanetti, despite his vast experience, is a docile meekling. From the 2006 squad, only Mascherano, Messi, Cambiasso and Burdisso remain. None of those players are likely to pipe up on any matter or provide any leadership on the pitch. Though leadership is generally a bogus issue, at 27 and with two World Cups already, Tevez should be one of the senior players in the squad, and pegamequemegusta reckons he could only do Messi good. In a squad featured such bland figures as Higuaín, Di María, Banega, BIGLIA, Lavezzi, and a series of other players just hoping to keep their places, an establshed player with a bit of a tough head on him is exactly what is necessary. The power vacuum has been filled instead, however, with an empty presence: Messi’s vapid, lifeless stare.

This is the backdrop to the Tevez story. While admittedly skull-thumpingly tiresome, and despite the fact that Tevez’s talk of respect is tedious in the extreme (even when he’s right), it gives you an impression of just how rotten Argieball is these days.

As regards the text, its repetitiveness alone testifies to the lack of meddling on Olé‘s part. Unlike other interviews, this one reads like the questions were in fact asked in the order they are presented, following a natural progression from spluttering indignation through to a wearied lullaby sadness at the end, sniff sniff. Having said that, there’s a surprising absence of any bad words: carajo doesn’t even make an appearance. The only concessions the text makes to Tevez’s way of speaking are the epithets máquina and monstruo [lit. ‘machine’ and ‘monster’], which we’ve conservatively rendered as man.

Here it is in full,  including the introductory scene-setting. You can read the original Spanish here.

  • Do you swear you didn’t duck out of the friendly against Brazil last November?
  • Yeah, I swear.

Although in Manchester it’s 01:30am this Thursday, that is today, Carlos Tevez’s house is far from quiet. Yet tonight it’s not because of the infectious laughter of Valentino Ruocco, his agent’s kid. The buzz has an altogether different origin… The day he decided to break his silence, after having been on the radio and cable tv, the most famous absentee from Checho Batista’s squad still has plenty to say. Relaxed now after dinner, he gladly accepts a call from Olé

“Ask me whatever you want, lads,” he insists.

  • You swear you didn’t dodge the friendly. Then why did Julio Grondona declare in public that you claimed to have been injured only to play for City four days later?
  • I don’t know why Grondona said that… At that time, the time of the call-up, I spoke to Checho and told him I wasn’t 100%, that I had a problem with my back, but that I could go anyway. Sure I played through injury against Spain. But he said it wasn’t necessary. ‘Let’s just be sure we get our stories straight with the media,’ he told me. ‘That i’m injured, nothing else to it,’ I said. And there you have it. That was the last time we spoke.
  • And that’s what you said to Grondona when you rang him last week? He was the one who brought the whole matter out into the open in the first place.
  • Yeah it was him, but i’m telling you, I don’t know why. To be honest, this time when I spoke to him all I asked was ‘Is there some problem with me, Don Julio?’ ‘Nooo, not at all. Now, Carlitos, I don’t know if Checho has or not. When he gets back from Europe i’m sure i’ll be meeting up with him. I’ll ask him and give you a call,’ he said.
  • If you hadn’t played 73 minutes against Fulham, would all this have happened?
  • I played because I was fit to do so, that’s the truth. It’s not that I said one thing and did another. Besides, I tend to recover quite quickly from injuries. If you look back at my career you’ll see that’s always been the case. Just recently I got over a nasty hamstring injury in 20 days. My conscience is clear: I know what I did and didn’t do…
  • But you have to explain yourself, Carlitos.
  • Yeah I do because there’ve been plenty of lies going round regarding my not being in the squad. I’m just as puzzled as to why i’m not in the squad, but I haven’t gotten any answers from the other side.
  • It’s hard to escape the feeling that someone here is telling fibs. Who is it?
  • Someone definitely is, but I don’t know who. I’m telling you how I see it. They say the manager has other priorities, and I can respect that. I don’t know if the word’s coming down from on high… It could be Grondona, Bilardo, I don’t know. I don’t think it has much to do with football.
  • Is it true that you were annoyed that you didn’t get a call when the manager came to Europe to see the players?
  • Yeah, because the least he could have done was give me a call and say ‘Look, Carlitos, i’m not happy with how you’ve been playing and you’re not part of my plans.’ Nothing more. One of his assistants [Alberto Rodríguez] came to Manchester and spoke to Pablo Zabaleta, but no-one spoke to me.
  • Why do you think Batista won’t talk to you. He’s not the kind of guy to pick fights with anyone.
  • I don’t know, man. I called Checho, my agent left him a message, too, but he never got back to me. We didn’t argue on the phone or anything. Same with Grondona.
  • At any point have you thought ‘feck it, i’m not going to play for Argentina anymore’? Because you did say something like that after the Spain friendly in the Monumental.
  • Nah, I was just in a bit of a huff that day. You know me by now. I never really considered retiring from international football; my country is very important to me. I’m always willing to play.
  • Why did you keep quiet these last six months? Or are you speaking now, four months later, because you know now there’s no chance you’ll play at the Copa América?
  • I’ve known for a while now I wouldn’t be at the Copa América. You needn’t look any further than the manager leaving Manchester out of his trip to Europe; and on top of that you have the fact that he didn’t call me, or answer the phone when I rang him… There were plenty of indicators. Yet I was waiting for a reason, and I still am. That’s all, because you have to respect the coach’s decision. And if it’s a footballing decision, i’m fine with that. I can’t do anything about that. But i’d like to know why.
  • What would you say to Batista if you talked to him?
  • I’d ask him what the problem is. And if there is one, we’d sort it out, as it should be. If he said ‘Carlitos, it’s just football’, grand, I can take that. But at the least I deserve an explanation.
  • Do you need that chat to work out whether you really believe him or not or do you just want the chance to tell him what you think face to face?
  • For the moment I have to believe him. Sure i’ve never had any run-ins with Checho… I just think I deserved a call saying ‘Carlitos, you’re not going to be part of my plans’. If you’ve been a player, you know how a squad works… If I don’t want you around, I get a hold of you and let you know. Or if he really did think I didn’t want to play against Brazil, he could say that, too. “You weren’t happy about that, then,” i’d answer. Nothing else to it. But not to make any contact and then talk about it repeatedly with the press, that’s not right.
  • If it was purely a footballing matter, could you be playing any better?
  • How do you mean, better? [He appears to get annoyed] I was in Argentina and I won everything. I go to Brazil and win everything there. I come to England and win everything. How am I supposed to do any better?
  • I wasn’t questioning your achievements. On the contrary. I was getting at the 21 goals you’ve scored this season.
  • That’s how I play, with or without all the fuss. I can be the Tevez who scores goals like Messi or Maradona or the Tevez who doesn’t get anything right [on the pitch – our note]. But I give my all… That’s why I say I respect the manager’s decision not to include me. And of course i’ll be behind the team like any another Argentinian. But he should have said it to me in person, not over the internet or on Twitter, not to the journalists or anyone else.
  • We didn’t imagine you on Twitter following everything Checho says…
  • No, but now i’m going to tell my agent [Adrián Ruocco] to set one up so we can follow him [laughs].
  • Seriously, though, what you’re looking for is a meeting.
  • That’s how it has to be. You’re the manager of the Selección… Ring me up and say: ‘You’re not in the team ’cause you refused to play against Brazil’. Knowing me, you know full well that’s not the case, but fine… I respect your decision. Cheers for calling and good luck.
  • Might he avoided calling you as he knew you’d get annoyed?
  • But sure he’s the manager of the Selección, isn’t he? This has never happened to me with any other manager in my whole career.
  • What do your teammates make of it all?
  • I spoke to Messi and he asked me if i’d spoken… Nah, what we spoke about stays between us. The little fella’s the guy I speak most to. And then they say we don’t get on, you know?! How the hell am I going to fight with him?
  • You didn’t think of asking Messi to step in on your behalf with Checho?
  • No, no, I get on grand with the little fella but I don’t think he or anyone else in the squad has that kind of influence over el Checho. Not even Grondona or Bilardo… I don’t think Lío would do it, either, and I wouldn’t ask him to… It wouldn’t be right.
  • During the World Cup a rumour went round that you had gotten quite angry over the fact that they celebrated Messi’s birthday but not Pastore’s, which had been four days before. Is that true?
  • No, not at all. There were no problems at the World Cup. I talk to Lío a great deal – he’s one of the lads I speak most to. But that thing with Pastore was just me taking the piss out of Tucho [Villani, the team doctor]. I said: ‘So Tucho, you get Messi a cake but not Pastore?’ All the lads had a laugh… People go looking for problems… Either to get rid of me or to try to explain why i’m not there. Who are they going to say has a problem with me? Messi or Mascherano… ’cause they’re the only two players in the team whose places are guaranteed. I played with Masche at Corinthians and West Ham and they know we get along fine. So they make up stuff about me and the best player in the world. Complete rubbish. I’ve never caused problems in any dressing room.
  • Would you be willing to be a sub for Messi? Another line doing the rounds is that you’d be a time bomb on the bench. Before the World Cup you made it clear to Diego through the media that you wanted to play.
  • How could I not accept being a sub for Messi? Sure he’s the best player in the world. And it’s a good idea to set up the team around him. It has to be Messi + 10. How could you not be a sub for Messi when you know he’s better than you?
  • Do you know who said this: ‘You’d have to be out of your mind [alcoholizado] not to call up Tevez’?
  • Yeah, Diego.
  • Yesterday. He’s in Spain at the minute. You must have been pleased.
  • I’m always happy to listen to Diego, and he always sticks up for me. But, you know, everyone has their own opinion.
  • But…
  • [He interrupts] But that’s all there is to it. Nothing’s going to change now, even if I score a thousand goals. That’s been made quite clear.
  • If you had the chance, would you defend Diego again the way you did in Ireland? You got into hot water with Grondona, and he went to see you in your hotel room.
  • Of course i’d do the same thing again as I had my reasons to defend Diego. I always try to be as honest as I can, with whoever i’m dealing with, whatever the consequences. As regards Grondona that time, we sorted everything out – even if i ended up looking like a bit of a jackass [boludo].
  • Have you considered that you might be reaping the consequences of your complaints regarding the logistical problems of the trip to Japan?
  • I, just like Heinze, who also spoke to those [AFA – our note] officials, would definitely do the same again because we did it to stick up for our teammates. Though it’s something to think about as these days me and him are the only two players who’ve been left out ever since…. Still, I have a clear conscience and I don’t lose any sleep over it. I felt I had to stick up for my teammates as afterwards, when we lose, we’re the ones who cop the flak. People start saying we’re lazy and all sorts of things… that day we told them what was what and I think we were right to.
  • But what happened exactly?
  • Well first of all I told el Gringo [Heinze] that i’d go with him to talk to the directors if he wanted but he said no. So he went to talk to Crespi and Segura, the people in charge of the delegation. El Gringo said the organization couldn’t be so shoddy. The hotel we were in was two hours from the stadium. And afterwards I went and told them the hotel was shite. It was really poor: after all the travelling we had done, the distances we had to cover, that’s why Milito and Cambiasso got injured. And it was no coincidence I pulled up afterwards, too.
  • But do you reckon you have a fight on your hands if you’re going to get back in with Batista?
  • I don’t know if i’m going to play under Checho again. But I insist: I don’t have any personal problem with Checho. And if he calls me tomorrow and says: ‘Carlitos, i’m calling you up to the squad’, i’ll be happy to go. And if he doesn’t call me, I wish him well. What else can I do? My way of playing isn’t going to change; that’s how I am. Anyone who knows me knows how I am. He might not like that, I don’t know, but i’m always ready to play for Argentina. And to really bring something to the group, not just to make up the numbers.
  • When you talked to Checho, at the first few friendlies, did he say anything to you about your style of play or ask you to change anything?
  • No, both times he asked me to play on the left, against both Spain and Japan. And I played on the left, played quite well, no problems. He says he wants the Boca Tevez, the number 9 Tevez, but under him I always played out wide.
  • Can you play out wide in a 4-3-3 with Messi as number nine?
  • Well we’ve played that way many times and never had any problems. I never said I didn’t want to play out wide. I’ve never refused to play in any particular position. I play where the manager tells me. Whether it works or not is another question, but I always do what they ask of me.
  • Will you go to watch Argentina play?
  • Nooo. I’m going on holidays now.
  • Because you want a rest or because…?
  • [Interrupts] No, no, I can’t. I mean it, I couldn’t watch the games.
  • Too painful?
  • Well, yeah. I saw the other matches, against Portugal and Brazil, on TV, but I won’t watch the Copa América games – not even on the telly.
  • When did you realise things had gone this far?
  • Today [for yesterday, Wednesday]. It finally dawned on me when I decided to speak.
  • Because Checho spoke over the last few hours and let it be understood you wouldn’t be called up?
  • No, no, Checho has been saying the same thing for a while now… I never spoke out against him. I’ve said it before and i’ll repeat the same thing a thousand times: it’s his decision. But I felt that now was the time to speak.
  • So this is your lowest ebb?
  • Are you crazy? What are you talking about? [he gets angry for the second time] City have just won the cup; i’m the captain; God willing, i’ll be top scorer in the league; we’ve qualified for the Champion’s League; City hadn’t won a trophy for 35 years… No, i’m very pleased. This is an incredible time for me. Everyone adores me, they love me, and that now i’m no longer part of the national team isn’t going to change my opinion regarding the fans.
  • But you’re not where you want to be.
  • Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t always be where you want to be, but I understand that. It saddens me not to be there, to enjoy it with my family… But beyond trying to play as best I can, scoring goals, being top scorer and winning the cup with my club, there’s not much I can do. It’s up to the manager…
  • Are you more likely to put your fist through a wall or shed a tear?
  • To be honest i’m feeling so down the latter’s more likely, ’cause I want to play for Argentina. And i’m not just saying that for the sake of it… Though on the other hand my conscience is clear; I know I gave my all for the Selección. And I know now that even if I score a thousand goals I won’t be called up. I gave my all. I don’t know why I won’t be called up.
  • Do you think now that you’ve spoken, Batista will call you to clear things up?
  • I don’t know, I don’t know what he’s thinking… I don’t really know Checho that well to be honest. I’ve only spoken to him four or five times. I don’t know what he’s thinking, what he wants, what he doesn’t want. Nor do I don’t need him to talk about me or to ring me up… If he calls me up to the squad i’ll be happy to go, no doubt about it. And if he doesn’t call me, I wish him and the rest of the lads well.
  • What do the Argentines you see in Manchester make of it all?
  • They ask me why i’m not in the squad, say they don’t understand it. They say I should be there. But it’s not up to me.
  • And your teammates at City, are they surprised?
  • They ask me what the story is and I tell them the same thing I said to you: I don’t know. They’re just surprised, that’s all.
  • And your mates? Are they in on some theory that you can’t talk about in public?
  • I tell them the same thing, that i don’t know why i’m not involved. If I knew i’d tell you. But I don’t, man.

Finally, it appears Carlitos will get his wish: Batista was on the radio again today (Friday) and said that he was going to ring Tevez to straighten a few things out. He didn’t go so far as to call him a liar but claimed: “He said some things that don’t square with the facts.” Chief amongst these, according to Hernán Claus of Olé, is a heretofore unmentioned visit by two of Checho’s assistants, Tocalli and Brown, to Manchester last December. The saga continues.

It’s all so much piffle, though, whorish claim and counter claim. And twill be so until Grondona is got.