The Atlantic Football Fish

Football players are men, after all, and we suspect that heretofore not enough attention – or at least the wrong kind of attention – has been paid to the lovemaking techniques of the men we pay to watch thump, and e’en caress, balls. When the honourable Niki Ghazian reveals that during their “their passionate romp” C-Ron paused several times to put ice on his sore ankle and remained on the bed “while I moved around”, how can one be surprised when said dashing winger has become famed for his physical preparation and yet refuses to help out in defence? Likewise, the notorious tale of Joe Cole leaping out a bedroom window in just his socks when his paramour’s rightful owner returned surely highlights the fleet footwork, emotional cowardice and mysterious injuries that have dogged his puffing and panting career. That Jermaine Pennant had to raise himself from the sack to vomit was what convinced Rafa to dispatch him to Inglan’s sarf coast. And no-one was really surprised when it emerged Master Wayne was a cuckold.

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If the mountain will not come to one, one must go to the mountain, is a sentiment pegamequemegusta has never shared. So it was that from May on we were sat squat on the casino steps gazing out toward far New Zealand awaiting the arrival of the stone-faced crag. Several moon cycles later, neither party showed signs of giving way, however. The triumph of the cowardly intellect, the substitution of brawn for character, has left the world less upwardly mobile than before; its genius spent, its bones mere husks, hooks for guileless style.

So the local fishmonger told us as he left us the evening scraps that have been our daily fare these last four months: slivers of football fish. A fascinating creature, both ancient and classically, effortlessly modern, it is a masterpiece of near perilous ambition and outré design. It’s genius at full tilt, undercutting its own quest for perfection with a delightful dollop of irony. Fearsome teeth, glow in the dark nosh-attracting feature for the rangy depths of the sea, a fishing rod on its head. Jesus, this is going well, mused the Creator, until, a fernet too far, saw him pump the sleek beast full of air and leave him floundering globularly near the sea bed. A wry sense of justice, a lo Trap, hath our Lord.

Nevertheless, el Señor realised a while back he was little more than a Truman figure in a show produced by faulty algorithms that repeat themselves with a regularity shockingly similar to the use of the phrase Smash It at Keys and Gray’s after-dinner speeches. One of nature’s hackers’ favourite gags is that apart from in the extraterrestrial human race, the female tends to be considerably larger than the male. Lol. Such is the disparity in size between the male and female Atlantic Football Fishes (the missus is some seven times larger), that science men suspect that the male may have to bite into the female, fusing with her and becoming Spice Girlishly one ‘for eternity’, as happens in other species of angler fish. In this scenario, the parasitic male feasts on her blood, providing mere sperm in return, in much the same way TDs see the unemployed, oho. No such lovefused pairs washed up during our coastal sojourn, however, nor anywhere else, we are told. Therefore, it could be that the tiny little males just copulate and go back to waving their fluorescent fishing rods in the lonely technofest that is life in the deep sea.

Perhaps it was rough touch of the cold, wind-bashed steps on our undercarriage as we looked oceanwards all those months, or perhaps ’twas but the old sexual napalm that is the legacy of same-sex schooling, but around the time we heard the cries drifting ‘pon the air as Argentina thumped Ecuador 4-0 and Messi scored a hat-trick against the brazucas, we began to consider the seduction techniques of creatures other than the Atlantic Football Fish. Football players are men, after all, and we suspect that heretofore not enough attention – or at least the wrong kind of attention – has been paid to the lovemaking techniques of the men we pay to watch thump, and e’en caress, balls. When the honourable Niki Ghazian reveals that during their “their passionate romp” C-Ron paused several times to put ice on his sore ankle and remained on the bed “while I moved around”, how can one be surprised when said dashing winger has become famed for his physical preparation and yet refuses to help out in defence? Likewise, the notorious tale of Joe Cole leaping out a bedroom window in just his socks when his paramour’s rightful owner returned surely highlights the fleet footwork, emotional cowardice and mysterious injuries that have dogged his puffing and panting career. That Jermaine Pennant had to raise himself from the sack to vomit was what convinced Rafa to dispatch him to Inglan’s sarf coast. And no-one was really surprised when it emerged Master Wayne was a cuckold.

As regards Argentina’s national squad, we can only speculate, but it appears there does exist a correlation between fore-(aft, ay)-and-field-play. Mascherano is clearly one who waits behind the front door, sticks out a leg to trip his love, then pounces, perhaps putting on the mask of another to finish the job. Higuaín races toward the finish despite being irreversibly gallina. Di María slithers and slathers like a cold fussili bake; there’s no real passion and he’s not known for his generosity. Lavezzi is all hustle and bustle, a burly, groping mess that only occasionally achieves jouissance. Gago is the dark horse, a master of the pressure, the pleasure points. Despite being unable to hold down a long-term relationship, he is a wonderful conversationalist. José Sosa won many a heart in La Plata and has been known to go all night. Clemente bathes his bald hed in oil and posts the videos online under a pseudonym (he was recently invited to address an industry conference in Tokyo). Romero is entirely passive, happy no matter who calls the number he leaves on Genoan lampposts. Braña’s preferences are too explicit for a family website. 

All very well but remarkable considering Dr Batistenstein’s reign of terror was characterised by a complete lack of sex drive. The Maradona-fille-impregnating Agüero was one of the only ones to pump his fist with any real passion. The rest were merely playing parts, doing what Loaded had said was expected of them as they sheepishly squirmed through fully-clothed lap dances (Argentina 0-0 Colombia) in a high street strip joint. Even in the early part of this campaign late last year, the home draw with Bolivia smacked of the same impotence that had come to scar the team’s libido since Román had blown his load in a flurry of goals in magical 2007. One-nil down against Colombia in Barranquilla last November, it was only the introduction of the young lothario Agüero that flipped the script and left Falcao’s boys munching pillow. 1-2.

That victory breathed fire into the Selección’s loins, to be sure, but the night where the Yohimbe, Tribulus and Maca really kicked in was in the 4-0 spanking of Ecuador. When Messi stuffed the ball up his shirt after the third goal, following his hat-trick in the 4-3 friendly win over Brazil, the statisticians were quick to point out how he was close to breaking a record for scoring in consecutive games; quicker than a schoolboy with a bottle of tippex and a filthy mind did they draw up all the onion bags our Lionel had made bulge these months past. Yet they failed to point out the real reason for Argentina’s recent resurgence: Messi has become a man. Pegamequemegusta had feared all those hormones had bereft lil Leo of as much as they had blessed him with in other areas. Long gone, however, is the pasty Playstation freak besotted with tomb-raiding computer sprites. Messi is to be a father

This video, for example, should come with a warning for excessive testosterone (grab a cushion at 3:08):

Nevertheless, between puffs on his pipe today, Messi played up to the press pretending he was nervous:

“Now that i’m here, I feel a little bit anxious as the baby could come at any minute. Anxious just like everyone else, my family, my girlfriend, but at the same time i’m glad as so far everything is going well, thanks be to god. It’s going to be a a big responsibility, but a nice one to have. I’m looking forward to it.”

So what if they were shit against Peru; so what if the defence could collapse at any minute and there are a bunch of loonies on the bench. Uruguay have been playing lately as if their only desire in the world were to be locked back up in their box in the basement with an apple in their mouth. Moreover, since Bielsa left, half the Chile team only show up for the promise of a cut-price outing to a brothel. No, Messi is more Maradonian than ever; he’s el Diego without the tears. This Friday night in Mendoza, Messi’s Men will be ripe for another romp that should leave the charrúas with more than sore heads. The spirit of the Atlantic Football Fish is alive and well in this team: give sperm, take blood, y que sigan mamando.

Yer Man in the Ukraine – José Sosa

Midst all the underpants ads, the carefully placed bottles of water – logo out – and exhortations to love those little plastic cards offering mastery and freedom; midst all the conflicting emotions that come when homecomings recall the money one could never get at home; midst all the strapped ankles and minds strapped for one-liners, midst all the hustle and hubbub there yet remains in football a space for the simple pleasures of vagabondism, for the wordless, strolling comradeship, nay communion, of a man and his dog. The manager, it seems, needs this object of affection, a soothing symbol of independence, of self-assertion. If it is his job to choose, then his choices must be unique, as if to say ‘I was here’. This is what the Egyptians were no doubt getting at when they made a household pet into an eternal monument.

Supporters and the media, too, arguably need a character like this to make sense of a reign. Otherwise the narrative becomes fragmented, more proper to a petless dorm community. (As yet unverified reports posit a link between the growth of the squad system in Euroball with an increase in ‘inexplicable’ parking offences). Coco Basile’s Boca team everyone knew by heart and it made them feel warm inside. His World Cup qualifying team, however, went schizoid after Román stopped scoring and soon descended into farce with a mishmash of hopeful touts on hopeless nobodies apparently bewildered by their own inclusion. Maradona, too, went for the cat-throwing approach for much of his roly-poly campaign. His results only improved once he’d settled on Ariel Garcé for the mascot role in South Africa. Checho Batistenstein’s time as manager was so utterly lacking in personality he couldn’t even find one. Indeed, it seems that, as with everything else, he got things backwards and decided to pick on the people’s mascot, Carlitos Tevez

So far Alejandro Sabella’s run has been very positive. The team has been playing with a coherence and consistency not seen since 2007. Since stuttering badly away to Venezuela (1-0) and after drawing at home to Bolivia (1-1), they have put in some fine performances and scored plenty of goals. For the first time in a number of years, the team looks more balanced and cunning. Lack of quality personnel means the defence is as dodgy as ever, yet the team seems more conscious than before of the importance of working together in this regard; and they’re happy to play on the counter if need be. Messi praised the team’s discipline after the Colombia win last year: “They wanted to play on the counter but we wouldn’t let them.” Sabella has shown restraint regarding his attacking options, and he usually chooses correctly when and how to change things.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the current qualifying campaign, then, has been the inclusion of many names no-one saw coming. Sabella has consistently gone all Garry Cook, eschewing the starlets of Europe’s big leagues (Pastore, Lamela, Maxi Moralez, etc. etc.) in favour of Palmeiras’ Hernán Barcos and Internacional’s hulking Pablo Guiñazú. The former we haven’t seen much of yet but the latter has racked up considerable game time and very much reminds us of that QWOP bloke. He has also given plenty of minutes to his Libertadores-winning Estudiantes players, like Braña, Desábato, Enzo Perez et al. It’s difficult to decide how to parse all these details, how much of it is canny man/squad management and how much flagrant nepotism. With the team struggling to compose or assert itself, frozen ‘neath the fiery roar of fourty thousand maddened Peruvians last month, the options on the bench were: besides the goalkeepers: Zabaleta, Clemente (both fine, should probably start…), Desábato, José Sosa, Maxi Rodriguez, Guiñazú, Biglia (!), Enzo Perez, Hernán Barcos and Rodrigo Palacio. 

Dreamboat Joe

Trappishly, we have to conclude results must be the determining factor. It can be a little hard to swallow at times, however. Incredible as it may seem, for instance, the attacking ‘restraint’ Sabella has shown has largely consisted in leaving Aguero on the bench. His place in the opening games went to José Sosa, a somewhat inscrutable midfielder not blessed with pace, goals, tackling ability or outstanding leadership qualities. Many a groan has rolled round this vast land’s sparsely populated provinces whenever Sosa has been mentioned, then whenever he’s touched the ball. Not that he’s been bad, mind. It’s that he neither catches the eye nor is he even gruffly not-very-easy on it, as they say. He’s a slow-moving blur, like Stalin during the Revolution. 

Nevertheless, Sosa played a key role in what was arguably the defining game of Sabella’s time in charge thus far, the two-one away win to Colombia last November. The whole team laboured in the heat of Barranquilla and went in 1-0 down at half-time, with Burdisso already off with a very, very sore knee. Agüero came on for Guiñazú at half-time as Sabella went all-out: Mascherano alone in the middle, Di María out wide and Sosa everywhere else. Agüero and Messi got the goals but it was the man from Metalist that wrung our heart dry. He ran like Duff in 2001, with the same bent-double gestures of utter exhaustion late on and the same inspired air, apparently unable to make a wrong decision or give the ball away. It was beautiful, especially considering the defeat there in the previous WC qualifiers (2-1, Tevez red card) and the hammering Falcao’s boys had given Batistenstein’s monster in the Copa América.

As Sosa himself complains in the interview below, Messi and el Kun were always going to take the plaudits for the victory. However, it is surprising that in the last few qualifiers Sosa has lost his place even in Sabella’s plans. The man instrumental to the finest result of the current regime has been sidelined as the 4-4-2 of the opening games has made way for a 4-2-4 featuring Di María, Messi, Agüero and Higuaín. So be it. Gago’s fine form and Mascherano’s drastically improved passing have lessened the need to bolster the midfield. Sabella is probably right to focus on this front line. Plus, he may want his pet sitting near him on the bench.

Specifically regarding this interview, once again it is from Olé’s Ukraine correspondent, Martín Macchiavello. It got our attention, along with yesterday’s interview with Kharkiv kingpin Oleg Yaroslavsky, because of the candour with which Sosa speaks. In a squad that has been in part defined by the accession of new names, Sosa has at once been among the most successful and the most maligned. Sabella has ignored many players in Europe, preferring to select less well-known players in South American leagues, yet he has made a clear exception regarding Sosa. Hence, although we are all well accustomed to argieballers establishing themselves in far off lands, we rarely get to hear from these wild geese. And rarely are they so intriguingly bitter. For your pleasure, pegamequemegusta.

“If I play at the World Cup, i’m getting a tatoo that says ‘Brazil 2014’.”

by Martín Macchiavello

Sosa speaks about the drawbacks to being so closely associated with Sabella, the endless journeys from Kharkiv to meet up with the Selección, media coverage and scores to settle.

On one of the tables in the dining room in The Base, Metalist’s training ground on the outskirts of Kharkiv, there lies a fax showing a travel itinerary that will soon find its way into the bin…never mind the AFA letterhead… José Sosa sighs with relief, nothwithstanding the footknack he’s been suffering recently. Oleksandr Yaroslavsy, club president and all-round mogul of Ukraine’s second city, just gave the thumbs up for the €18,000 charter that will leave the ex-Estudiantes player at Fiuminicino airport in Rome this Monday. From Italy on, everything will be more straightforward and ‘normal’ for the Principito who in these Soviet lands [sic] is treated like a Czar. Great news for Alejandro Sabella’s pet player, the one who covers more air miles than any other each time the Selección get together. “I’m lucky that the club helps me out so much. Otherwise, between the time spent on the plane, the stopovers and what I spend on duty free, when I got to Argentina i’d be bleedin broke,” laughs the midfielder from Santa Fé, who’s still chewing over some of the setbacks he’s had in his career and the monkey he wants to get off his back in two years’ time. No two ways. A goal tatooed on the flesh of a guy who already missed out on the U-20 World Cup in 2005 (a broken wrist, in training) alongside Messi, the World Club Championship with Estudiantes (spitefulness by FIFA) and the World Cup in South Africa. Whatever they say, wherever he has to travel from, he’d make the trip, whether it be from the Ukraine or the Moon…

In large parts of La Plata you’re a god but in other parts there are murmurings  every time they see your name on the squad sheet…

If you play at one of the big clubs, who the press always cover, people are more aware of you. Without wanting to belittle Estudiantes, Argieball is centred in Buenos Aires. When I made my debut, before Verón’s return, we were just another team and that didn’t help. It’s completely different if you play ten games or whatever for Boca or River. They didn’t even know who I was.

Do they still underestimate you?

You see the list, the names that are on there, and you’re reminded of where you came from. I’m proud to be on there. If I get the call up, I must have done something right. Each game for la Selección determines how you’re received..

Could it be that, in terms of exposure, Estudiantes occupy a similar position relative to the Big Five [Boca, River, Racing, Independiente, San Lorenzo] as the Ukranian league does to those in Spain, England, Italy, etc.?

It’s quite rare for a footballer to know where he’s going to end up and very few can choose. I’m happy here, we’re playing the Europa League… There’s always a battle to be fought.

And what’s football like here?

We’ve got a lot of South Americans in our team, which makes us different. Apart from three or four teams, they’re all quite physical, direct sides, and the quality of football suffers as a result. When we play in European competitions, it’s more even. That’s when we come back to the question of coverage: we were one goal away from knocking out Sporting Lisbon and getting to the semi-finals but all anyone could talk about was Bielsa’s Bilbao.

Still, you won the league in Argentina, you were at Bayern, you had a spell at Napoli, you’re the captain of Metalist, you play for the Selección… With Argentines generally being so competitive, what’s it like to always be battling for second place?

That’s one of the things the Argentines and Brazilians in the squad are always trying to get across to the other lads. It’s very difficult to knock Shakhtar Donetsk off their perch. Still, i’m not going to give up. Just being in the squad for the Selección isn’t enough: you’ve got to be at 100%, more even.

Then what’s it like crossing the globe knowing that you mightn’t even play? Against Paraguay and Perú, you were on the bench.

You wait for the call and you always want to play. You might get a bit annoyed if you don’t even get a few minutes on the pitch. The lads take the piss out of me, too, for all the travelling I have to do: “Ah you’re here? I thought you weren’t coming til tomorrow…” Sometimes i’m the first to leave home and the last to arrive…

You made your debut with the senior squad with Pekerman in Los Angeles in 2006…

And later I played for Basile; Batista called me up for the gold we won in Beijing; Maradona, too; and now Sabella’s in charge. Alejandro knows me well from my Estudiantes days.

So you’re not just Pachorrista, then. You’ve played for all of the recent managers…

Yeah, but because you don’t play for a big club… I haven’t got the same attention for my time in the Selección that others have. Lots of people don’t know i’ve been in squads for the last seven years. It’s even more complicated now that i’m in the Ukraine. Still, I was called up because of how i’ve been playing recently and for having played a part under previous managers.

Nonetheless, ten of your seventeen games have come under Sabella…

True, his arrival did me no harm. I have a different role now. I’ve played in difficult matches where we picked up important points. That doesn’t guarantee me a starting place, though, eh. Obviously not. We have great players who play in big clubs; others are very popular with the fans and they’re still not called up. I am. I’d like people to appreciate what I do on the pitch, instead of saying off the cuff ‘Eh, where the hell’s this bloke from?’ Remember, this already happened with Messi – even though he’s the best in the world and plays for Barcelona, people were still questioning what he was doing for the Selección. It’d be pretty crazy if they didn’t give me loads, too! And in 2010, when things were going really well for me at Sabella’s Estudiantes, I made the long list for the squad for South Africa but… ah well, I reckoned I was worth a shot.

For you it seems like playing in a World Cup is a question of ‘now or never’.

When you start to get an idea of what this sport is all about, you realise that World Cups are the most important thing going. Experiencing it personally is any footballer’s dream. I’d never forget it, i’m sure.

Like your tatoos…

I’ve got one big one that covers my whole arm and five or six more. Now I want another one.

What would it say?

If I get to play in a World Cup, it’ll say ‘Brazil 2014’. [laughs] I’ve already thought of where to put it.

And you’d get to play with Messi…

In 2005 [at the U-20 WC] it was me who was going to wear the number 10, but I got injured. Patricio Perez ended up wearing it but the World Cup belonged to Messi. It’s always stuck in my craw not to have been part of the team where he started to stamp his authority on the Selección. At least I had the honour of having been considered better than him [laughs].

With him in the team, is it a steal?

Amazement is for the public. They can suck it up all they want but his teammates shouldn’t be so taken aback… It’s ridiculous. We’re there everyday with him! We try to follow his example. If he keeps trying to improve, we should, too. Luckily I play in a position where I don’t have to mark him personally. For a defender, though, it must be humiliating. He always chooses exactly the right moment to make his move and he does it with incredible pace. I think Messi scoffs at Time…