Checho Checks Out of the Overlook Hotel

For the last year the Selección has been all about image, an insubstantial rebranding exercise with about as much chance of success as getting rid of a tape worm by rougeing yourself up. Batista constantly tried to give the impression that he was feelin’ fine, that he was a nice, simple guy, just a football man – nothing like the media whore Maradona. Yet in reality he was far worse. His laconic, laid-back style was just as vacuous as Diego’s occasional diatribes. Lest we forget, however, Maradona is a real sociopath whereas Batista is a poser. His desperate attempts to convince us of his self-assurance never once rang true. His endless harping on about his idea futbolística was as cringeworthy as the holiday snaps he’d take with startled and/or bored footballers and show the world on twitter. The craven little captions remind us of a hip priest trying to get down with the kids.

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The stubbly wonder Sergio Batista had just taken his seat before the gang of shivering pressmen. Serious questions needed to be asked; serious answers needed to be given. This was very serious. A 1-1 draw at home against Bolivia is a serious matter at the best of times, but, seriously, when you’re looking to kickstart a long-term project of reinstating Argentina among the serious teams of the world, a project so serious even stopping to pick up the gaudy bauble that is the over-sized Copa América along the way needs to be given some serious thought, an emphatic win is hardly even sufficient – you need a serious declaration of serious principles, you need to finally see the much-vaunted footballing philosophy manifest itself on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, you need to produce a display of such earth-scorching fantasy that a mere footballing humiliation of the kind not seen since Maradona’s boys last went to La Paz does serious harm to the normally chummy relations between the Silver Surfer and the Tin Man. But a lame, frustrating, heart-chilling farce of a performance, a desperately humdrum, plodding, exasperating showing from your boys, no, that’s a very serious matter indeed.

Checho had just got into his opening mumbles about how happy he was with the group, however, when the grave atmosphere was interrupted whimsically by some unseen announcer. The Man of the Match award had to be given out. The LG Man of the Match award had priority and Batista could damn well wait. The camera zoomed out jerkily, taken unawares much like Banega at the near post, and Messi shuffled in from the right, as he once did for Barcelona. All hunched shoulders and darting eyes, Lionel had to walk across the front of the table where Checho sat statue-like in a vain attempt to maintain his dignity. The best way to do this, he seemed to suggest, was to try and put the few feet of the universe immediately surrounding him on pause.

Messi wasn’t having such a great time of it either. Although posing gormlessly for photos must be a reflex at this stage, the seconds he spent holding what looked like a giant cheque seemed seriously vexing. Not for the first time watching Messi suffer in South America, we were reminded of Kevin Kilbane, in particular his bewilderment at being named man of the match after the 1-2 win over San Marino a few years back. He tried to exit swiftly, but he was stopped by some LG stooges, who gestured to him to put his hand on or near one of their new line of phones.

Checho continued to sit upright, passive in attitude, impassive in aspect. It was only a matter of some thirty seconds but by the time Messi scuttled back across the front of the podium and straight out the door on the far side, icicles were hanging from his stately nose, the Jack Torrance impression reinforced by the greasy slicked-back hair.

Checho Batista at the post-game press conference

That would never have happened to Maradona. Or if it had, he would have dealt with it so differently, as after the now-foreboding Germany friendly in March 2010.

Poor Checho, he never really had a chance, did he? Tonight, if the carefully orchestrated ‘rumour’ mill is to believed, he’ll become the first manager to be fired in don Julio Grondona’s thirty-two year reign. He’ll also have the ignominious distinction of having been in charge for less time than any Argentina manager since the early 1970s. The fact is, however, that Batista was never really in charge. He was just the caretaker. He has always been the caretaker.

The evil spirits at the Overlook Hotel/AFA have been calling the shots all along. We’ve been through all this before: ghouls like Humbertito Grondona and Bilardo deliberately delayed Batista’s appointment in order to accommodate themselves in their respective positions in the turmoil that threatened to engulf them following the World Cup last year. This strategy carried the extra bonus of weakening the new man’s hand. After Diego had spent a year and a half giving them wedgies and indian burns, it was imperative the next man be a pushover – someone willing to lead a band of nobodies on a Tour of Shame round Nigeria and Belgium a few weeks before the first Copa América on home soil in a quarter of a century; someone whose ear could be bent so that players bound to certain agents could get some potentially-lucrative game-time in the prestigious albiceleste jersey. A financially-secure national team coach with his own ideas about what games will be played where and with which players is merely a hindrance, an eyesore on an otherwise delightful, lush, dollar-green prairie. Besides, what’s the point of racking one’s brains for the perfect candidate anyway? Sure with better men than Batista, the results in World Cups and Copas were always the same: quarter finals or lose to Brazil. Unlike Delbert Grady, the AFA aren’t even too interested if the job gets done or not. People are not going to lose interest in football: they’ll keep painting their faces and playing for tickets. A new man can be brought in. They’re not worried about any ‘nigger cook’. 

What is important, though, is that the illusion is maintained; the pueblo loves an idol, an image. And so Messi was thrust to the fore – the Messiah presented as a strong man whose every whim must be met, the man to whom the rest must bow and cower if anything is to be achieved. It was irrelevant whether Messi actually wanted any of this, – pegamequemegusta has it on good authority that lil Lionel’s only real concerns as he roamed the halls of the hotel on his tricycle was to avoid the terrifying spectre of the Milito-Burdisso sisters – but someone had to be seen to be occupying the vacuum the mumbling Checho clearly couldn’t fill. 

Messi enjoying some downtime during the Copa América earlier this month

For the last year the Selección has been all about image, an insubstantial rebranding exercise with about as much chance of success as getting rid of a tape worm by rougeing yourself up. Batista constantly tried to give the impression that he was feelin’ fine, that he was a nice, simple guy, just a football man – nothing like the media whore Maradona. Yet in reality he was far worse. His laconic, laid-back style was just as vacuous as Diego’s occasional diatribes. Lest we forget, however, Maradona is a real sociopath whereas Batista  is a poser. His desperate attempts to convince us of his self-assurance never once rang true. His endless harping on about his idea futbolística was as cringeworthy as the holiday snaps he’d take with startled and/or bored footballers and show the world on twitter. The craven little captions remind us of a hip priest trying to get down with the kids.

May 6th: 'We gave Nico the folio. He's really psyched! Always a pleasure to talk footie with him.'
11th May: 'With Otamendi watching the Barcelona game. We talked football and what lies ahead.'
April 28th: 'Meeting over with Lucas Biglia. We spoke of the future and our footballing idea.'
May 4th: 'At an Inter Milan training session. I was received very well by Leonardo. Later I had lunch with the players.'

It’s a still-frame version of An Impossible Job – but without the sympathy. Do you, dear handsome reader, think for one minute the players didn’t take the piss out of him for it?

He was isolated and alone from the start, then, but he did himself no favours. The shallowness of the ‘project’ was reflected in the gutless displays on the pitch. For all his talk of a plan, of folios, DVDs and analysis to ensure success, it immediately became clear in the Copa América that, far from producing something novel, he may as well have spent the previous few months rattling out the same sentence over and over again on a beat-up Underwood. His one innovation, playing Messi as the central striker, he abandoned after 45 goalless minutes against Bolivia. The Uruguayans bashed him on the head with a bat and locked him in the pantry. The ghouls were none too pleased. 

Over the last few days, the brave administrators at the AFA have been calling for his head. Yes, in the great democracy that is Argentine football, the same people who apparently voted Batista in last October 19-1 are now, according to a report in Olé today, 16-4 against him staying on. They regard the Copa América campaign as an unremitting disaster and have lost all faith in the man who only last month signed his contract taking him through to the end of the World Cup qualifiers. Most importantly, however, some are upset they were not allowed into the dressing room in Santa Fe, while Checho’s brothers were. Now it’s Batista’s turn to stay out in the freezing cold, lost in a maze midst a blizzard of bullshit as the little pigs at the AFA yet again seek to save the hairs on their chinny-chin-chins.

Humbertito & Bilardo

The favourite for the job is Alejandro Sabella. He spent much of his career as Passarella’s assistant before winning the Libertadores and a few league titles with Estudiantes in 2009. It’s really quite irrelevant, however. Humbertito Grondona and Bilardo look  likely to stay on in their posts, looking out for their own interests, messing about in team affairs, undermining the manager and generally helping to bring out the worst in the players available. Don Julio, of course, will remain untouched and will continue to sate the ghouls at the AFA with the blood of Argieball. Great party, isn’t it?

Batista, Messi & the Popul Vuh Part II

Carlitos was summoned for a meeting and left a chastened man, like Howard Beale after meeting Jensen in Network: “You have meddled with the primal forces of Nature, Mr Beale, and I will not have it!” Olé, which Grondona owns a great share of, forgot their childish ideals and started cheerleading for Chechinho 2014.

Now, even the inocuous things that had gone on while Maradona was in charge were being compared to the new sanity, the pleasantness of life with the serene, the mild-mannered, the easy-going Checho Batista, a man who shirks ‘explosive words’ and victory dances, the ‘anti-Maradona’. The pieces in Olé in the aftermath of the 4-1 friendly win against Spain, who then went on to lose 5-0 against Portugal, are notable for their obsession with don Julio’s smile and Checho’s suit – even after the game his tie was still in place! My word, sign him up. They also proclaim in a banner headline that there was no chanting of Diego’s name during the game, while muttering under their breath that tickets cost AR$450 (25-30% of a normal monthly wage).

Despite the fact that the AFA was arguably more responsible, for example, there was a piece comparing the Selección’s tumultuous, hooligan-infested flight to South Africa with the chilled out love-in that was the journey to Dublin for the August friendly. Cheap, cheap stuff.

Part II

Back in the throes of July when pegamequemegusta was still but a shivering wreck on the bathroom floor, things were quite different. If there was no particular cause for any ill-feeling towards Checho Batista, coverage of Maradona’s divorce from the AFA was indeed characterised by anger and some degree of sincerity.  Of course, El Diego was still thrashing around accusing Bilardo and Grondona of betrayal most foul, as in the best it is. Carlitos Tevez, too, spoke out in Dublin at Grondona’s hypocrisy and some of the other nonsense affecting Argieball.  Olé, unsure whose tune to call, quite rightly decided to lambast everyone. They spoke of farce, of shame, of disgrace heaped upon disgrace; there was talk of revolution, ¡afuera todos! Bilardo appeared on one cover crudely photoshopped as Osama bin Laden:

The storm clouds were dissipated, however, as don Julio intervened, spreading a beautiful rainbow across the sky. Carlitos was summoned for a meeting and left a chastened man, like Howard Beale after meeting Jensen in Network: “You have meddled with the primal forces of Nature, Mr Beale, and I will not have it!” Olé, which Grondona owns a great share of, forgot their childish ideals and started cheerleading for Chechinho 2014.

Now, even the inocuous things that had gone on while Maradona was in charge were being compared to the new sanity, the pleasantness of life with the  serene, the mild-mannered, the easy-going Checho Batista, a man who shirks ‘explosive words’ and victory dances, the ‘anti-Maradona’. The pieces in Olé in the aftermath of the 4-1 friendly win against Spain (who then went on to lose 5-0 against Portugal) are notable for their obsession with don Julio’s smile and Checho’s suit – even after the game his tie was still in place! My word, sign him up. They also proclaim in a banner headline that there was no chanting of Diego’s name during the game, while muttering under their breath that tickets cost AR$450 (25-30% of a normal monthly wage). A different kind of public, plus an early goal, will do that for you; only someone with a keenly-felt agenda would splash it across a page. Despite the fact that the AFA was arguably more responsible, for example, there was a piece comparing the Selección‘s tumultuous, hooligan-infested flight to South Africa with the chilled out love-in that was the journey to Dublin for the August friendly. Cheap, cheap stuff.

Even when decent writers for Olé like Marcelo Sottile dare to nag, criticism of the AFA never goes any further than mere implication:

When Basile left they accused Maradona of betrayal. When Maradona leaves, he calls Bilardo a traitor. Grondona? Nothing. He’s the World Champ at keeping himself spick and span. And so we have scandal after scandal after scandal concerning the Selección and tomorrow they have to do with such and such a thing and the day after that with such and such a person, but always, without fail, the goings on give you the impression that the truth is being handed out in doses. We find out about everything in a roundabout way, an ambiguous way, never directly. Everything we learn has great big red lines through it, it’s been interfered with, or they’re mere murky surmisings. It’s half-truths and doublethink. We never know what it would be healthy to know. And the Great Houdini soldiers on.

Sottile here, though, is arguably engaged in the same kind of roundabout nonsense. He singles out the common denominator to what he correctly denotes as scandals yet then backs off. ‘Great Houdini’, jaysus. Either call him an incestuous, adulterate beast, a satyr to the Hyperionic spirit of long-suffering Argieball, call him out as the canker in the sapstream of a host whose survival is due only to a miraculous, Bruce Willis-style resilience as genius players keep sprouting from rotten branches. Follow through or go work for someone else.

It’s not all whitewash, then, it’s not barefaced propaganda, but there’s a clear refusal to stick to any idea of what should be done with regard to football in the country, let alone take on the AFA. Insofar as there exists any kind of editorial policy or conscience, it’s that of a capricious, mouthy,  somewhat misogynistic, manic-depressive. The personages of Argieball are disparaged or rehabilitated according to the needs of the day, according to the valence shell of their orbit round the nucleus, don Julio. It will come of no surprise that Dr Bilardo soon found himself the subject of pieces in Olé where they marvelled dopily at his ability to come out of the power struggle with Diego with more influence than before. Whereas relatively recently, it had been clear that, traitor or no, he should just feck off, the Doc now found himself reincarnated as some kind of Jorge Valdano figure. Indeed, he should probably just feck off, too, but still seems to be propped up by Marca.

And here we shall take up the demonstration,

revelation, and account of how things were put

in shadow and brought to light

by the Maker, Modeler, named Bearer,

Begetter,

Hunahpu Possum, Hunahpu

Coyote,

Great White Peccary, Tapir,

Sovereign Plumed Serpent,

Heart of the Lake, Heart of

the Sea,

Maker of the Blue-Green

Plate,

Maker of the Blue-Green

Bowl

As they are called, also named, also described

as

the midwife, matchmaker

named Xpiyacc, Xmucane,

defender, protector,

twice a midwife, twice a

matchmaker,

as is said in the words of Quiche. They

accounted for everything, and did it, too as

enlightened beings, in enlightened words. We

shall write about this now amide the preaching

of God, in Christendom now. We shall bring it

out because

there is no longer a place to see it, a Council

Book (‘Popul Vuh’)

a place to see ‘The Light That Came From

Across the Sea’

the account of ‘Our Place in the Shadows’,

a place to see: ‘The Dawn of

Life.’

Batista, Messi and the Popul Vuh Part I

And the creation of all the four-footed animals and the birds being finished, they were told by the Creator and the Maker and the Forefathers: “Speak, cry, warble, call, speak each one according to your variety, each, according to your kind.” So was it said to the deer, the birds, pumas, jaguars, and serpents.

But they could not make them speak like men; they only hissed and screamed and cackled; they were unable to make words, and each screamed in a different way.

And so it was in South Africa in early July (too early in July!) as Tevez hissed and screamed, Demichelissss slithered ‘pon the ground as Muller skipped by, a doe-eyed Di María froze yet again in the headlights of the German juggernaut. They could not speak like men, it was impossible for them to say the names of their Creators and Makers: “This is not well,” said the Forefathers to each other.

And the creation of all the four-footed animals and the birds being finished, they were told by the Creator and the Maker and the Forefathers: “Speak, cry, warble, call, speak each one according to your variety, each, according to your kind.” So was it said to the deer, the birds, pumas, jaguars, and serpents.

But they could not make them speak like men; they only hissed and screamed and cackled; they were unable to make words, and each screamed in a different way.

And so it was in South Africa in early July (too early in July!) as Tevez hissed and screamed, Demichelissss slithered ‘pon the ground as Muller skipped by, a doe-eyed Di María froze yet again in the headlights of the German juggernaut. They could not speak like men, it was impossible for them to say the names of their Creators and Makers: “This is not well,” said the Forefathers to each other.

Then they said to them: “Because it has not been possible for you to talk, you shall be changed. We have changed our minds: Your food, your pasture, your homes, and your nests you shall have; they shall be the ravines and the woods, because it has not been possible for you to adore us or invoke us.

So was don Julio Grondona, the light, the joy, the unmoved mover, the muppet master, the creator and (ahem) chief benefactor of Argieball, forced to intervene:

There shall be those who adore us, we shall make other [beings] who shall be obedient. Accept your destiny: your flesh shall be torn to pieces. So shall it be. This shall be your lot.” So they said, when they made known their will to the large and small animals which are on the face of the earth.

They wished to give them another trial; they wished to make another attempt; they wished to make [all living things] adore them.

According to Mayan mythology, the Creators and Makers had to have several goes at this creation lark. The first few attempts included animals, mud man, then wooden man. They failed as the by turns soggy, flinty creatures were either unable to speak, or remember, or reason – they had no souls, or were unable to praise their Makers, or worst of all, they forgot they existed altogether. Equanimity is not a quality that could be said to characterise the Quichés’ Creators: each time the negative results met with a frenzy of vengeful destruction:

Immediately the wooden figures were annihilated, destroyed, broken up, and killed. […] A flood was brought about by the Heart of Heaven; a great flood was formed which fell on the heads of the wooden creatures.

Yes, a flood. Indeed one wonders if our version of old Yahweh’s fleeting artistic phase doesn’t suppress all the botched previous versions (if we were 50 years younger we might think it would be cool to wonder if this wasn’t one of the botched versions, oooh). Yahweh shuffles about His celestial studio, traipsing through the darkness of His own omnipresent, eternal mind. The murkiness not being conducive to creation, He turns on the lights: ¡Hágase la luz! Only then can it be judged whether the output of that day is for the scrap heap or Eternity. A series of sketches, of experiments that we only read once He steps back from the canvas: Y Dios vio que era bueno.

Since the ousting/self-destruction of Maradona and the eventual succession of Checho Batista as manager of la Selección, however, there has been precious little probing of the Maker’s latest attempt at Man. Both ex-pat bloggers and Argiejournos so spineless they make the Popul Vuh mud man look like EBJT have been surprisingly eager to believe the laconic, stubbled Checho is their Messiah. The usual cynicism is conspicuous by its absence. It would appear the right formula has been found, as if there’s no chance of apocalyptic bouts of cleansing in the next few years:

And as they had the appearance of men, they were men; they talked, conversed, saw and heard, walked, grasped things; they were good and handsome men, and their figure was the figure of a man.

That’s what the next few posts are going to be about: Messi, Maradona, Bilardo, Olé, Grondona, yes-men, historical revisionism, etc. Stay tuned, you handsome bastards.