El Checho Batistenstein

As is well known, Dr Batistenstein began his investigations last year by stealing a corpse from a a cemetery in Barcelona. The theft sparked outrage not just because of the affront to public morals but because the cadaver in question turned out to be alive. He was spared, however, when those in charge of the Montjuic necropolis agreed not to press charges after the victim, one Andrés Iniesta, declared that it was an easy mistake to make.

Not one to be easily deterred, this scientific Olympian went back to his lab in Ezeiza and worked tirelessly compiling dvds of the finest specimens of Argentine manhood, which, unlike its beef, seems to develop best on a poor diet in what would appear to be unfavourable, cramped conditions. Foiled in his plans to use the dead, he set about surveying the finest living body parts for a monster that would do away once and for all with the constraints that, according to Dr Batistenstein, “have mired the execrable human race in an infernal anxiety to produce, like twisted horticulturists, ever more rotten fruit.” If this first success is propagated, this could well spell the end of long-abhorred Progress, of the blind, excruciating repetition of the Same; it could be the end of futile longing for a future that never comes, the end of capitalism, of slavery, of war, the end of Sorrow with the end of Love; the end, in short, of Time. For, as Dr Batistenstein explains in his new book, The Biglia Paradox, the only viable and desirable future of the human race lies not in its perfection, but its subversion. “The future, that is the immediate future,” el Checho declared on Monday night post-game in Córdoba, “is the sub-human.”

“It’s aliiiiive!” screamed el Checho. After several disastrous experiments, Dr Batistenstein’s monster finally bore some resemblance to animated flesh on Monday night as it clubbed a contingent of Costa Rican children to death 3-0 in the fog-enveloped, crag-nesting castle of horrors that is the Copa América. The mad scientist, bent on doing away with Nature’s cruel monopoly on life, was left transfixed, his once noble mouth contorted into a rictus of psychotic ecstasy, as can be seen in exhibit A:

As is well known, Dr Batistenstein began his investigations last year by stealing a corpse from a a cemetery in Barcelona. The theft sparked outrage not just because of the affront to public morals but because the cadaver in question turned out to be alive. He was spared, however, when those in charge of the Montjuic necropolis agreed not to press charges after the victim, one Andrés Iniesta, declared that it was an easy mistake to make.

Not one to be easily deterred, this scientific Olympian went back to his lab in Ezeiza and worked tirelessly compiling dvds of the finest specimens of Argentine manhood, which, unlike its beef, seems to develop best on a poor diet in what would appear to be unfavourable, cramped conditions. Foiled in his plans to use the dead, he set about surveying the finest living body parts for a monster that would do away once and for all with the constraints that, according to Dr Batistenstein, “have mired the execrable human race in an infernal anxiety to produce, like twisted horticulturists, ever more rotten fruit.” If this first success is propagated, this could well spell the end of long-abhorred Progress, of the blind, excruciating repetition of the Same; it could be the end of futile longing for a future that never comes, the end of capitalism, of slavery, of war, the end of Sorrow with the end of Love; the end, in short, of Time. For, as Dr Batistenstein explains in his new book, The Biglia Paradox, the only viable and desirable future of the human race lies not in its perfection, but its subversion. “The future, that is the immediate future,” el Checho declared on Monday night post-game in Córdoba, “is the sub-human.”

Heretofore, despite the great expectation surrounding his project, evinced by the enormous interest taken by banks and other companies eager to clothe the stitch-lined flesh of the creature and provide it with the tools of communication so necessary in today’s most advanced of all worlds, the results had been disappointing to say the least. Having amassed all the necessary parts and assembled them in a matter guaranteed, we were assured, to bring success, it immediately became clear that the opening night had been rushed.

Dr Batistenstein’s monster was technically alive alright, but it could do little more than jerk and twitch. It struggled to overcome the band of Bolivian mountain men who had only been sent out into the spanking new arena in La Plata as a training exercise for the galvanised leviathan. When the beast tried to kick, invariably it would lose its balance and fall over. When it attempted to clap, the arms would swing apishly, missing each other by a ticketable margin. Its legs even wobbled and oft’times refused to function as a pair. Its eyes were cloudy, its faculties extinguished; it did nothing but drool, slobber and moan. Indeed, the vindication of Dr Batistenstein’s decision to increase the monster’s size in order to overcome the difficulties inherent in a normal body’s micro-circuitry was the only positive that could be taken from the affair: for only after halting the encounter in the second half to attach what many consider to be the monster’s most vital element, its schwanzstucker (or the Kun, as it’s known in these parts), could any reputable kind of thrust or purpose be attributed to its wretched bumbling. The contest was eventually called a draw, but not even that was enough to satisfy the bloodthirsty public, who departed feeling most cheated and dismayed. 

Nonetheless, thousands of people turned out once again to see it at its next appearance in Santa Fe a few days later. Befitting the name of their noble city, they were sure el Checho’s creation would rise to the occasion and choke the life out of the Colombian upstarts. The less said about that ghastly evening, the better, however. Dr Batistenstein himself, with uncharacteristic humility, gave an adequate summary of events:

Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.

On Monday night, though, after all the disappointment, the monster finally came to life. Finally did it manage to stand upright, to focus and rain blows upon the heads of the Costa Rican goat-boys offered to it in sacrifice. The replacement of Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi by el Kun Agüero and el Pipita Higuaín did wonders for its appearance. What’s more, it became clear that the charges of many following its first two presentations, namely that Dr Batistenstein had not in fact created life but a semi-mobile vegetable, were no longer valid. For the creature had become self-aware. The pineal gland, harvested from one L. Messi, sparkled as it soldered the numinous and the physical; while the heart, oh the heart, freshly taken from one F. Gago, maintained a martial rhythm, never missing a beat.

Yes, Dr Batistenstein’s monster finally woke up. Yet it looked oddly familiar. Some claimed to have seen its likes stalking the veldt of South Africa last year. Had Checho gone back to his grave-robbing ways and pilfered his plans from the tomb of the late Professor Maradona? For the resemblance was striking: weak spindly legs, thin in the middle but a massive bulk up top, with one shoulder out of all proportion with the other. To date, however, no copyright claims have been filed. Besides, if anything, Batistenstein had made a poor copy of the blueprint: the original had as a key concept the use of Menottian engaño – a by-pass facilitating deception, guile – where Messi would effectively function as a decoy for Di María. Batista’s model, however, lacks such subtlety. It positions Messi in the pineal gland in the centre of the brain – a straight number 10 in football parlance -, a central hub upon which other areas of the body depend almost exclusively like alms-seeking children, helpless once their benefactor is put out of action by a vicious Uruguayan virus.

Let there be no mistake about it, however. For all its vastly improved co-ordination, its newfound grace, Batistenstein’s creation is still a monster of hideous aspect. Bah, enough of this silly monster metaphor! It took Di María all of 11 seconds to lose the ball the other night. Despite his goal, he played badly. Indeed, his position on the pitch was quite puzzling in that he spent most of the game on the left side of midfield, while Agüero occupied the more advanced position on the same side. After the game, lest we attribute this rather strange arrangement to the whims of the players, Batista explicitly stated that this had been his plan. Pegamequemegusta doesn’t understand at all why he would do this, though. Why not let Di María and Agüero both do what they do best? El Kun’s goals in themselves were a fine demonstration of what he can contribute when he’s in and around the box. He said himself the other day: “When Lío gets the ball, I start running.” If he’s out wide, though, he quite simply has a lot more work to do to get near the goal. Plus, the angles are more difficult, as could be seen from several of the chances he blasted wide and over from acute angles on Monday night. 

Strange though it may sound, we were far more pleased with the performance of Higuaín. Despite missing a plethora of chances, his contribution, especially in the first half, was far greater than that of either Agüero or Di María. His movement was excellent and went beyond simply providing a ‘pivot’ around which the others could whirl. He constantly picked up the right positions, moving out to the right, dropping deep, making the right runs, etc. The contrast with Lavezzi and Tevez, who repeatedly made the wrong decisions, was enormous. His finishing was just as wayward as their’s, though, and arguably Batista made a mistake by taking him off. He was the one player you got the impression really needed a goal – ton convince himself as much as anything else that he had done well.

The performance of the night, however, and really one of the most surprising things we’ve seen since Marathon became Snickers, belonged to Fernando Gago. Sweet Jaysus he was magnificent. Against Colombia he had come on and made a few simple passes whilst the rest were stood in tears midst the alien corn. Soon, however, he was swallowed up into the general confusion and lost his way. On Monday, though, and here it really doesn’t matter who the opposition were, every touch of the ball radiated intelligence. He didn’t lose it once and always chose correctly. He was even winning headers in defence! At one point in the first half, he took a ball down out of the air with his chest and, without looking, volleyed it over to the left wing to the waiting Agüero, who scurried off on a long run before eventually shooting wide. No-other midfielder had attempted such a thing in the other games. While they’re more than capable of it, of course, judging by their appearances so far, either Cambiasso or Banega would have – presuming they managed to control the ball at all – just layed it off to Messi, even if that wasn’t the best option. Gago, of course, combined with Messi several times, but by no means did he slavishly shrink before him, as that’s not what Messi needs. It was delightful. He showed balls, skill and smarts all night. We have no idea where this came from or whether it will be repeated tomorrow, but it was arguably Gago’s brilliance that allowed the team to grow in confidence to the point where they actually looked like footballers again in the second half and Messi started to run the show. 

There were plenty of errors in the first half, though, when the game was still a contest. Argentina were slow to start and conceded two corners in the first eight minutes. Despite many of the positive signs in Monday’s game, we cannot forget that the defence is an absolute joke. Batista sticking with Milito brings back horrid memories of the Demichelis affair last year. Meanwhile, we have to hope Diego Forlán continues to be as wasteful as he has been so far in the tournament, and that Romero continues to leave us all dumbfounded with another fine performance. 

A win tomorrow for Argentina won’t be the vindication of Batistenstein’s fiendish plan any more than it would be a condemnation of the intriguingly, the gloriously-named Washington Tábarez. Both of these Prometheans have seen their respective creations give some performances recently that have left science well and truly baffled. Indeed, despite Dr Batistenstein’s attempt to claim all the kudos for Monday’s successful test run, some reports suggest he actually activated the machine accidentally when he mistook the control panel for his remote. Some claim it was divine intervention, God having had quite enough of this attempted encroachment on his powers and decided to beat Man to it. 

The monster was unconcerned. Having seen a little of life, it spent most of the week in Ezeiza giving interviews where it expressed considerable scorn for human society: “I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.” It also demanded a mate from its creator: “My companion will be of the same nature as myself and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man and will ripen our food.” Dr Batistenstein looked on nervously. Will he be able to do it again?

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!”