Triangulations

Great player appears, club happy. Club prefer money: there are plenty of good players. Player doesn’t want to leave: he’s young and besides he’s done more than most to win the title the club will probably win in a few months. Other club unappealing, also. The impertinence of talking meat. Club sigh, decide to wait. Player: Jonathan Calleri; Club: Boca Juniors; Other Club: Brighton Hove & Albion. Time: August 2015.

Roll around January 2016 and Boca really want that money. Brighton’s paltry £5m wasn’t going to cut it anyway (not even, later, $10m for 85% of his rights). Now Calleri’s a champion, even outshining Tevez on his oh so fabled patch. Inter Milan are interested now but aren’t willing to cough up $12m in cash for, in their view, an unproven player. Maybe he could come on loan and we’ll see? Cash, we said.

Enter the Investors: we’ll put up the cash and loan him to you, Inter. Boca smile. The Investors have their own little club, Deportivo Maldonado, in the second division in Uruguay. Plus, taxes in Uruguay are low-low. Boca grin. Inter squirm: third-party ownership is a nasty little business. You never know just how FIFA are going to react.

Although these kinds of deals have been done for years, in 2014, following up on an initial complaint from 2012 by the Argentine tax service, the AFIP, they fined a number of Argentine clubs – including Rosario Central, Racing and Independiente – and suspended a different Uruguayan ghost club, the unfortunately-named Sud América, from all transfer dealings for similar practices to the one proposed by the Investors. Yet only two weeks later, once the seven people who cared had forgotten, the sanctions were lifted. In 2015, however, they suspended a similarly small Belgian team, Seraing United, along with a real club in FC Twente. (Just this morning Real and Atlético Madrid were handed two-year transfer bans, but for signing minors, not for TPO). Boca’s face assumes the perplexed expression of one who is staring at their very own pie but their thumbs are numb and despite the room being full of people no-one will cut them a slice.

Bologna don’t care much about FIFA and would be more than happy to take Calleri on loan. Calleri grunts. Someone checks out their hair in the back of a spoon. The Investors tell Inter Moratti would have been all over this! Besides, they’ve done this before: former Estudiantes keeper Gerónimo Rulli is happily playing away with Real Sociedad. It’s win-win: Inter get their man, Boca get their cash, the Argentine tax man gets red faced, and we’ll probably get a little return on our investment down this rose-lined road of bridge transfers. Drop your face in the pie. escudo-club-deportivo-maldonado-rf_620285

According to La Nación, the men who control the company behind Maldonado are Malcolm Caine and Graham Shear, who for years served as Kia Joorabchian’s legal representative and engineered Tevez’s move from Boca to Corinthians via MSI, with all the trouble that ended up causing in Carlitos’ career. (Ariel Senosiain makes a link with Stellar Sports, owned by Jonathan Barnett, Gareth Bale’s agent; and it’s true they do own a horse, named Curbyourenthusiasm, together). The murk thickens: you didn’t need to be the world’s most acute scout to notice talent in Boca’s star number 9, but Calleri was brought to the Investors’ attention by Gustavo Arribas, who until December 9th was an advisor to Deportivo Maldonado and, according to Senosiain, was part of a group that signed players for the Israeli super agent Pini Zahavi. On December 10th Mauricio Macri became the president of Argentina, after a narrow two point win in a presidential run-off election. Arribas was Macri’s choice to be head of the new Federal Intelligence Agency, set up to replace the old intelligence service whose counterintuitive web of counter espionage led to the clusterfuck that saw Alberto Nisman pop a bullet in his temple 360 days ago. Macri was the president of Boca Juniors between 1995 and 2008, and is an important backer of current Boca president and bingo empresario, Daniel Angelici. The tax authorities now say that they have no interest in pursuing possible tax evasion by the president’s team engineered by the head of the intelligence service. Quite.

It really got our monocle flying because putting an end to precisely this type of corruption was one of the main (only?) promises in the campaign of Macri’s cheerfully choreographed, balloon-festooned, Cambiemos (“Lets Change”), a name and a movement that seems almost impossible to write without an exclamation mark. A serious government was required if Argentina were to become a normal country, a real one, where capital flows like cake and everybody wins. (The prosperous middle classes are generally convinced they were unfairly abandoned at birth in a shadowy underworld, envying Oedipus his shepherd). If any good was to come from this presidency, it was going to be some kind of systemic administrative reform. The Kirchners spent so much time fighting, in our opinion, the good fight, taking on many of the most powerful interests in the country, and abroad, and then putting out fires, that for all the good done only negligible impact was made in the boring but fundamental work of shoring up an institutionally and administratively fraught state. And then they botched an eminently winnable election. After all, the thousands of people who went to listen to the outgoing president’s speech the day before Macri assumed power showed he did not have much of a mandate.

And yet, within a month, the new government has declared several false emergencies in order to justify ruling by decree, since they do not have a majority in congress. Bypassing the proper channels, friendly Supreme Court justices have been handpicked; the issuing of all official statistics has been suspended until further notice; the currency has effectively been devalued by 40% in order for the oligarchs with silos full of grain can get a more higher dollar, as well as export restrictions being lifted, which means the price of food goes up since it’s effectively in a foreign currency. Those who got Macri’s party into power are being repaid in kind, and at a speed that utterly undermines any credibility in the institutions the flaky, media-led opposition claimed would be the backbone of their normal administration. For Macri is not just a charismatic businessman with strong ties to the Clarín media monopoly, he is Clarín’s candidate – hence the most grievous of all the anti-democratic decisions in the last month, the dismantling, by decree, again, of the Media Law, which could have served as a model for most countries.

Among many other elements, part of the Ley de Medios the Clarin monopoly could not hold licenses in all their current areas of interests: TV, radio, newspapers, internet, paper, etc. Despite having approved by the Supreme Court, a judge issued a holding order several years ago delaying the article of the law that required the sale of assets. Time was bought; no longer content to influence government, exchanging amicable headlines for more media licenses, Clarín took it. The independent media watchdog has been abolished and subsumed into a new Ministry for Communications with a man at the helm so Clarín-friendly one fears one of these days he might actually turn into a silhouette with a little trumpet in his hand. 

Elsewhere, on Monday Uki Goñi wrote a piece in the Guardian detailing a couple of the new government’s dictatorial faux pas from a few weeks ago (in fairness, he was probably on holidays). He doesn’t even mention the derogation of the media law in the body of his article or the fifteen thousand people fired from their jobs, hundreds of whom were shot at with rubber bullets during protests in La Plata last week; nor the suspension of pay talks with the teachers, etc. Indeed, he actually claims that “On the economic front […] Macri seems set for smoother sailing”. This is because he has a “sharp team of economists at the helm.” This explains why all those dismissals were not mentioned: just a few months ago the debate was about pay rises; now the idea that you’re lucky to have a job is being put about. Rachet up unemployment a few figures and wages will come down. Those economists sure are ‘sharp’, Uki.

Yet it’s not just economists. The new government has been stocked with CEOs – real business people to cut the “fat”, in the words of the new finance minister, from the administration. Argentina is open for business, with a capital O (the joy that informs this piece is chilling). Yet conflicts of interest abound. The Energy Minister calling for an end to subsidies has just left Shell after 37 years and must now sit down with his former(?) employers to negotiate; a key appointment to the Cabinet Office until recently was the head of the Pegasus Group, which controls chains of pharmacies and supermarkets among other interests; the man negotiating with the vulture funds who bought up debt from the 7% of bond holders who didn’t accept Argentina’s default restructuring in 200 has a history with JP Morgan and Deutsche bank; the Minister for Production already organised tech-related tax breaks for former employers Clarín and HSBC while serving under Macri in the City of Buenos Aires, not to mention having vested interests in companies whose potentially incriminating documents were incinerated in a fire that saw twelve firemen die; while the heads of the money-laundering agency have previously defended some of the companies – again including HSBC – who have ongoing cases with the money-laundering agency. The list goes on and on. Experience, of course, is a damn fine asset for any job; yet the state is supposed to look after the interests of the People. With these appointments, that looks next to impossible, to the point that it doesn’t even seem to be a concern. Nevertheless, the Wall St. Journal’s Taos Turner is, like Uki Goñi, delighted with the new regime: Macri’s uttering soundbites at press conferences already means this government is far more transparent.

Speaking of soundbites, on Monday morning pegamequemegusta, early-riser always, was anxiously awaiting Victor Hugo Morales’ radio program to start, eager for his analysis of the weekend’s events. When we turned it on, he was saying goodbye: he had just been fired. Even many non-Spanish speakers know Victor Hugo as the commentator for Maradona’s Goal of the Century. Long before the Kirchners were in power, he was a fierce critic of the Clarín media monopoly, as well as its judicial wing (the price of which is two thirds of his salary embargoed after same found against him in ¡a defamation suit! filed by Clarín’s Murdoch/O’Brien/William Martin Murphy/Mr Burns, Héctor Magnetto). He was fired once before as the radio station he worked for, Continental, was part owner of the very interests, TyC’s, he was attacking, until mass protests, and sponsor pressure, brought him back. Back then his was technically only a sports show (such a neat distinction is impossible, especially here). Since the Kirchner’s raising of the Clarín Question, however, he became a vocal supporter of the attempt to forge, at the very least, a playable field (not one with a great big monolith planked in the centre stretching skyward to poke God himself in the eye). This time, however, with Macri/Clarín in power, the radio’s own sponsor income was threatened. Bouncers were put on the doors of the station to stop him getting in. However, he had come in early to prepare the show we were so eager to hear. A confused while later, minutes before nine, when it was clear he would not be allowed on the air, he burst into Paulino Rodríguez’ program:

  • Paulino…

  • My dear Victor Hugo…

  • Sorry for the interruption..

  • No problem, how are you?

  • I’m getting fired from the ra…

Cue jingle. Ads. Music.

Now Paulino’s program, while very serious indeed, is, like all the others on Continental, very anti-K (VH’s show was an anomaly, leading to legendarily tetchy handovers between shows). No journalist (or, now, hardly any), however, can accept such a personal and malicious attack on a fellow professional, so after the initial surprise Paulino let Victor Hugo back on. He spoke for about ten minutes, until just after his own show would have started so that he could say goodbye to stunned listeners like yours truly. He expressed sympathy for the very directors of the radio who were firing him (again): with a troika of executive, legal and media powers united, what choice did they have?

Later that day it emerged Victor Hugo had not been the only victim of the purge: Matías Canillán, one of the foremost journalists and football commentators on Continental, had also been given the boot. Just as Macri has called to an end for political programming on state tv, preferring bland cultural ones instead, the head of programming at Continental has suddenly decided all this talk of FIFA and AFA on the radio is a drag – girls just want to have fun. For in football, too, the changes shall be rung. Macri repeatedly stated over the years that if elected he would immediately abolish Fútbol para todos, the free-to-air broadcasting of Argentine football that in 2009 took the rights from Clarín-controlled TyC, indicted in FIFA-gate last year. It has been spared so far (maybe because we’re being gypped elsewhere) and looks set to continue, but with much heavier involvement of sponsors – a boon for those who consider public service announcements propaganda but insurance ads chicken soup for the soul.

Just as the swiftness and brazenness of Clarín’s revolution, the slowness of reform at the AFA in the year and a half since don Julio Grondona died has been surprising. No power vacuum, no real upheaval; it’s as if the clubs presidents feared he might come back. When elections were eventually held, hanging chad-type irregularities with ballot papers meant no winner could be named. Both of the main candidates are reprehensible puppets, so we’ll spare you the details. The skinny is that as both candidates square off, the real sticking point in negotiations (after all, a unity candidate could be proposed) is legalised online gambling – not whether, but how –, which is unregulated as yet in Argentina. Under the last government, Grondona pushed successfully for a rather tame pools game to be introduced. The new version – balloons ‘n’ all, no doubt – promises to swamp the winner’s hypoteneuse in cash. If it’s to succeed, of course, us workers will have to have a few pesos to spare. Macri’s CEOs will have to spare us that much.

Pegamequemegusta apologises for any queasiness this post may provoke. Yet save your real sympathy for 22-year-old Jonathan Calleri, who has been triangulated into a footballing netherworld. After further speculation about him being shipped off to Brazil came to nout, for now, he was officially released by Boca into the loving arms of Deportivo Maldonado for $9.5 m rising to $12m. Olé report: Asked by a fan on his last day of training with Boca where he was headed, he replied: “I wish I knew.”

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Batista, Messi & the Popul Vuh Part III

The initial blitzkrieg, though, was a move on the monopoly’s cash cow, TyC, the cable sports channel. In August 2009 the start of the Clausura was delayed as the players’ union demanded that outstanding wages be paid. The clubs put on the poor mouth and started muttering things about the rains being late and the crops failing; their mothers were all sick and needed medicine; badgers had stolen their favourite cheque-signing pen. Their accounting procedures, of course, were impeccable, so there was nothing to look into there. Yet they could hardly be accused of having held on to too many players over the years – the trafficking of promising young talent . major leagues such as Portugal, Greece, Belgium and the Ukraine having continued unabated. So where had the money gone?

Well, it was clear the TV deal with the evil monopoly wasn’t paying enough! Cristina and Nestor Kirchner and erstwhile foe don Julio sat down together and tore up the existing agreement. Gone was the pernicious entity that had been ruining Argeieball by denying it the precious funds needed for it to keep up the fantastic work it had been doing; discarded the ludicrous idea that people should have to pay to see the most popular games on TV (TyC had been showing the clashes between the ‘smaller’ teams and other largely unappealing Friday night clashes on free-to-air telly). Now every match would be on tv and people wouldn’t have to wait for the brilliant Fútbol de Primera (the Argentine Match of the Day, on Sunday nights) to see the goals. Said la Presidenta:

They kidknapped our goals until Sunday, just as they kidnapped 30,000 of us.

Oh, pero oh dear. Sorry, Cristina, you know pegamequemegusta loathes the idea of reducing all your work to one extremely poor choice of words, but such a crass, inept, pathetic analogy, linking a football highlights programme to the abduction, torture and murder of 30,000 people some 30 years before, is Absolute Zero in terms of political credibility. Despite all the good work done by the Kirchners, especially the late Nestor Kirchner, in the field of human rights and facing up to the past, lines like that disclose the opportunism in an otherwise noble enterprise, the cheap while-we’re-at-it-why-don’t-we-carve-ourselves-and-our-mates-out-a-little-fiefdom side to righting the wrongs of the past. It was billed as the democratisation of football, the end of the dictatorship, again. Fútbol para todos, football for everyone! A socialist paradise of nationalised football. Anything that costs money is evil, after all, even in a land where money’s ability to decline in value would shock even Joleon Lescott, oho.

In order to sort out the clubs’ balance sheets, the government would now be paying two or three times more what the tightwad TyC had begrudgingly tossed the poor, starving clubs. The money for this would be no problem: the government had already earmarked some $400m for advertising, which, rather happily for us, in castellano translates as propaganda. There would be no silly ads or anything during the matches, just extended messages to the grateful people about what a good job the government are doing and how did you know Clarín actually eats babies and uses the pieces of skin that come out in their excrement to print newspapers, honest.

Part III

“Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an unseamed bed,
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty.”

Ah yes, Marca. For you see all these lies, this wanton hypocrisy and puerile belly-scratching masquerading as journalism (“Checho, when you travel around the world can you feel the respect people have for you as a World Cup winner?” Yeuch), they remind pegamquemegusta of the Marca-Sport divide in Spain. No sane person would actually take any of that stuff seriously, would they? It’s a mere caress of one’s amour propre, a gentle stroking of the ego, a happy reinforcing of those little prejudices that make us who we are. No-one really wants to see Cristiano Ronaldo in his underpants but there he is and he plays for us, yey! As for those lousy Catalans, they’ve got all the referees on their side, etc.

In Argentina, however, this divide is not confined to a few consciously flag-waving sports papers; a similar fault line runs down the middle of the country’s entire media apparatus pretty much. On the one hand you have Clarín, the BSkyB-style media monopoly who do everything they can to foment paranoia and undermine the Kirchner government; while on the other hand you have state TV and Página 12, which has some fnie writers but is as smug as Barcelona. Supporters of the president decry the evil monopoly and back her moves to expropriate as much of Clarín‘s power base as possible, while their more than a little disingenuous adversaries style themselves as freedom fighters. the only ‘independent media’ in the land in the face of this disgraceful, illegal government onslaught, which they assert is a flagrant abuse of power. The K activists claim they’re debunking the lies of the powerful and protecting the pueblo from a vicious, pernicious organisation that established its current dominance through collusion with the dictatorship of the late 1970s (when Grondona took over, too, ahem). One could assert with just as much justification, however, that the Kirchner drive to dismantle Grupo Clarín is less motivated by a desire to protect the people than it is a replay of the Dissolution of the Monasteries: in the event that a program such as the revoking of the license to Clarín‘s ISP arm, Fibertel, succeeds, it is to be expected that the new contracts will go to parties, shall we say, sympathetic to the current administration.

While the Fibertel case remains open (surprisingly, the courts blocked it for being insane), this war has been going on for some time now. Parts of the Clarín apparatus which bring in money but in no way are used for any campaigning purposes, their cash cows, were taken out first; football and the internet. It’s been a brilliant campaign, slyly managed, stage-managed and time-managed; the gaps in the assault filled in with popular, ‘forward-looking’ measures such as the Bicentennial, celebrated six years early and complete with a few extra ‘once off’ holidays, and the Gay Marriage Bill. This last measure also provided ample opportunity to knock the Catholic Church, another surprisingly powerful old foe certainly guilty of collusion in the 1970s, which was threatened with massive cuts to the state grants to the [private] schools under their sway.

The initial blitzkrieg, though, was a move on the monopoly’s cash cow, TyC, the cable sports channel. In August 2009 the start of the Clausura was delayed as the players’ union demanded that outstanding wages be paid. The clubs put on the poor mouth and started muttering things about the rains being late and the crops failing; their mothers were all sick and needed medicine; badgers had stolen their favourite cheque-signing pen. Their accounting procedures, of course, were impeccable, so there was nothing to look into there. Yet they could hardly be accused of having held on to too many players over the years – the trafficking of promising young talent . major leagues such as Portugal, Greece, Belgium and the Ukraine having continued unabated. So where had the money gone?

Well, it was clear the TV deal with the evil monopoly wasn’t paying enough! Cristina and Nestor Kirchner and erstwhile foe don Julio sat down together and tore up the existing agreement. Gone was the pernicious entity that had been ruining Argieball by denying it the precious funds needed for it to keep up the fantastic work it had been doing; discarded the ludicrous idea that people should have to pay to see the most popular games on TV (TyC had been showing the clashes between the ‘smaller’ teams and other largely unappealing Friday night clashes on free-to-air telly). Now every match would be on tv and people wouldn’t have to wait for the brilliant Fútbol de Primera (the now defunct Argentine Match of the Day, on Sunday nights) to see the goals. Said la Presidenta:

They kidknapped our goals until Sunday, just as they kidnapped 30,000 of us.

Oh, pero oh dear. Sorry, Cristina, you know pegamequemegusta loathes the idea of reducing all your work to one extremely poor choice of words, but such a crass, inept, pathetic analogy, linking a football highlights programme to the abduction, torture and murder of 30,000 people some 30 years before, is Absolute Zero in terms of political credibility. Despite all the good work done by the Kirchners, especially the late Nestor Kirchner, in the field of human rights and facing up to the past, lines like that disclose the opportunism in an otherwise noble enterprise, the cheap while-we’re-at-it-why-don’t-we-carve-ourselves-and-our-mates-out-a-little-fiefdom side to righting the wrongs of the past. It was billed as the democratisation of football, the end of the dictatorship, again. Fútbol para todos, football for everyone! A socialist paradise of nationalised football. Anything that costs money is evil, after all, even in a land where money’s ability to decline in value would shock even Joleon Lescott, oho.

In order to sort out the clubs’ balance sheets, the government would now be paying two or three times more what the tightwad TyC had begrudgingly tossed the poor, starving clubs. The money for this would be no problem: the government had already earmarked some $400m for advertising, which, rather happily for us, in castellano translates as propaganda. There would be no silly ads or anything during the matches, just extended messages to the grateful people about what a good job the government are doing and how did you know Clarín actually eats babies and uses the pieces of skin that come out in their excrement to print newspapers, honest.

Dear, handsome readers, you won’t have forgotten that don Julio Grondona, the president of the AFA for the last 30 odd years and Argieball’s very own festering brain tumour, the canker on its breast, its debilitating leprosy, is a Clarín man. How the Kirchners sat down with him to sign that deal still leads pegamequemegusta to scream obscenities at street lamps when the moon is waxing thin. There was no crisis, it was all engineered to force the moment to a resolution; but even granted there had been a crisis, the universe was there to be squeezed into a ball and rolled towards the overwhelming question. The harping on about the bank crisis and the global recession that went on at the time actually offers an interesting parallel. If some clubs really were going to the wall, as even we saw in the balls-up over the bank guarantees, the person who saves them always gains some control over the wonky but important institutions whose shirt tails they are clinging on to e’en as they head over the cliff. You take the thorn out of the lion’s paw and he grants you a wish, no?

Here, though, the new deal that was Fútbol para todos just cemented the old goings-on; there was no audit, no investigation into how the clubs were hemorrhaging so much money, how a team like Boca could sell at least US$50m worth of players in a year (Gago and Banega) and still be struggling for cash; no reform of the AFA; not even a sideward glance at the fact that the hooligan violence is motivated precisely because there’s so much money to be creamed off of the clubs they claim to love; no questioning of the very common practice for groups of third-party investors to own the players therefore meaning the clubs’ hold on a player is weakened even in the rare case they actually considered his development ahead of a quick injection of cash and in the case that they sell him they don’t even get most of the money; no mention of the rife match-fixing, the shoddy refereeing, allegations that players have to pay to get their place, the run-down state of many of the stadiums (which certainly keeps some people away, not likely to be helped indeed by the provision of free games on telly, indeed), the farcical manager-go-round, the short tournaments, the complicated relegation and Libertadores qualification system, both of which are due to and contribute to the Argieball’s myopia. None of those things were focused on. It was the dictatorship’s fault, che.

Oh but football’s just a tool to bring down Clarín, who are keeping the AFA as they are through Olé. It’s sick, twisted, incestuous, corrupt nonsense. It’s in this context that our rage against the cheerleading for Batista arises.: the whole rotten edifice is glossed over with platitudes from a wooden man about ‘playing like Spain’. The Gods’ latest creation is definitive, there will be no revolution, though he football will be televised, yey.

The Popul Vuh says of the Wu-Tang-style destruction of the Wooden Men:

There came a resin of rain from the sky.

There came the one named Gouger of Faces: he gouged out their eyeballs.

There cane Sudden Bloodletter: he snapped off their heads.

There came Crunching Jaguar: he ate their flesh.

There came Tearing Jaguar: he tore them open.

They were pounded down to the bones and tendons, smashed and pulverised

even to the bone. Their faces were smashed because they were incompetent before

their mother and father, the Heart of the Sky, named Hurricane. The earth was blackened

because of this: the black rainstorm began, rain all day, and rain all night. Into their houses

came the animals, small and big. Their faces were crushed by things of wood and stone.

Everything spoke:their water jars, their tortilla griddles, their plates, their cooking pots,

their dogs, their grinding stone, each and everything crushed their faces. Their dogs and

turkeys told them:

You caused us pain, you ate us, but now it is you whom we shall eat.”

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.’