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.”

Herald the Coming of The International Man, Olé!

Pegamequemegusta found this photograph in a phone box whilst looking for change a few years ago. Let us assure you it has no message on the back, no phone number or any such appeal. Intrigued, we took it back to our cave and studied it. At first we weren’t sure as to why it exerted such a hold on our attention, why it mesmerised us so. It’s just a man standing on the coast, near the casino in the centre of Mar del Plata. The picture is nice enough but spoiled somewhat by the intrusion of the ugly apartment blocks that blight that part of the city. However, we soon began, if not to explain the mystery itself, at least to understand that we were faced with a real riddle.

It’s a very sunny day. A perfect day in fact – there’s not even a whifter of a cloud in the sky! Delightful, azure, Virgin Mary blue, celestial god-loving and god-loved Argentine blue splashes itself across the sky of the kind He saw when He stepped back from His divine canvas and pronounced “It was good.”

¿No los veis sobre México y Quito
arrojarse con saña tenaz
y cuál lloran, bañados en sangre,
Potosí, Cochabamba y La Paz?

Being the only gringo in the village these last few years in Mar del Plata, has led to much stick-poking, many beer-spewing exclamations of wonder as to why a ‘first-worlder’ is bar-tending for minimum wage in winter in a town only frequented by disdainful porteños in summer. At first, of course, they have no idea. The standard greetings are not enough to give the game away: Buenas noches, ¿cómo están? Numbers, thanks, etc. Once pegamequemegusta gets the auld paddy palaver going in search of a few pesos for the hard road home, however, they will shift in their seat, the eyes begin to widen, the face to distend, vowels go through a vice of incomprehension, elongating themselves into owly hoots.  ¿Y de dóóóóóóóónde sos? Irlanda, we reply. ¿Holanda? (Damn paddy brogue!) No, IRlanda. Ah, ¿y qué hacéééés acáá? Next comes the story, ah the story, of how pegamequemegusta came to inhabit these bendy-swervy shores, a story told so many times  the words are so automatic and studied they pronounce themselves with Olivier-ian oomph (the Nazi Olivier, of course, not the Shakespearian one), or like anything anyone has ever said about Arsenal these last five years; a change-loosening story; a story of such mythical proportions it inevitably dwarves the very city in which it transpired – pegamequemegusta is Paris, Mar del Plata Ilium.

¿Y te gusta? Sí, pegáme, pero me gusta.

So while we don’t stand out too much, the Argentine, being a creature of great curiosity, demands satisfaction. We, indeed, are a curiosity. Other times, in the street, on the bus, at the grocer’s or some pub, the story will also get an airing, oftentimes with a lemony twist which would have our interlocutor believe we arrived for the World Trannie Trannie Fair (WTTF – transvestite fans of transistor radios, compered by the incorrigible Major-smoking Major Major) a few years back and just got hooked on the minimum wage. (It’s always intriguing to leave a grain of truth in there, a little bit of sand in the sandwich that will have their brain teeth gnashing like the hairy little compadre of a disturbed child).

The more forward of the marplatenses – though basically all Argentines, like their tap-water, are filter-less – will come straight out and assert with some confidence that we are Russian. Our pasty aspect and azure eyes give the game away, they say. When informed otherwise, some will even refuse to accept the new data. In all our years here, pegamequemegusta has only ever met one Russian, and that was but last month. Nonetheless, the Argentines seem to suspect they’re around every corner. Is this some kind of hangover from Cold War paranoia? But Argentina, besides the standard yanqui meddling in South America, hardly had a direct role in said stand-off…

    Maybe it’s because all Russians have blonde hair and blue eyes?

    Their dictators don’t:

    Stalin was a bushy haired beast,

    Lenin bald but brown,

    The Czar was hardly Aryan,

    No simpering little male Lolita was he.

    But Stalin was Georgian, the Czar divine…

    Perhaps the western Russians do:

    The Petersburgians, the Muscovites,

    The more powerful,

    The effete, French-speaking, affected ones.

    Quite the astute observation, my brown-haired ami.

    So the Argentines just got that idea

    From those who forged that nation’s cultural image

    Then tossed it round midst their own scrimmage?

Well, that was getting tiresome. But yeah, the Argentinians didn’t necessarily invent the stereotype but it fits in perfectly with their wont for generalisations and nicknames. You’ll be familiar with many of these from football (Pelusa, la Pulga, La Brujita, el Negro Enrique, etc.) but of course they’re prevalent in everyday discourse, too. Thin, fat, bald, whatever your ‘defining’ characteristic is, that will be your nickname. You will be el flaco Rodríguez, la gorda Sosa, el pelado Martinez, unless like an ancient hero you earn another. You don’t have to be a mobster to get one, basically. Add to that the lack of reserve people generally have here, the filter-less quality we mentioned earlier, and you get some mannerisms that can seem brash, even rude, to the forelock-tugging paddy, for example.

Nonetheless, the economic gulf between rich and poor in Argentina is underscored by a considerable racial divide, one which these jolly monikers oft express. The Rooshians aren’t the only mixed race society where whiteness is prized. Being dark-skinned, un negro, is akin to being a scumbag, a knacker, a pieball, a chav, a wetback. While most of the time people can chuckle away taking joy in the lack of pudeur, their expressiveness, their warmth as opposed to the cold Europeans, the sobriquet is loaded – but a slight change in circumstances, a slight change in luck, a slip of the finger, a slip of the tongue and pretty quickly el Negro Enrique becomes un negro de mierda. Now in the circumstances it wouldn’t be right to translate that as the N-word, which has connotations from a rather different (uh, way out of our depth) cultural context. Nasty it certainly is, and racist, too, but that still wouldn’t be the correct translation. When Luis Aragones made those comments about Thierry the Prick Henry a few years back, however, it was right to say he was a racist cock. It’s a question of intent, of discriminatory, violent intent and crass insensitivity.

El Parque Indoamericano, BA

Why, just last week in Buenos Aires thousands of people from the villas, from the shanty towns that abound in and around that mad city, felt it incumbent upon them to occupy the Parque Indoamericano, a ‘park’ in the same way a tenement is a residence. They were protesting about their disgraceful living conditions, about the failure of various levels of government to do anything to relieve their misery. It all eventually cooled down when many of the poor souls chose to accept a promissory note for future dwellings ahead of an almighty beating from the now massed police forces. Even as they left the politicians, who had spent the previous few days arguing over whether it was the national government’s responsibility or a matter for the Buenos Aires federal authorities (we’re in pre-election days and with Kirchner dead the despicable Macri, erstwhile president of Boca and now governor of BA, reckons he has a pop at the presidency), were backtracking furiously: “They’ll get no priority ahead of anyone else,” they said.

Fair enough, but putting fences up around the park was the new priority. In any case, the thing is, with the free movement of persons guaranteed by Mercosur and the already underlying racial tensions of the country (indeed, the continent), the duration of the occupation had seen violent clashes between a mix of ‘local residents’ and outright fascist thugs, and the occupiers. Midst the stone-throwing and shooting over the weekend, several people were killed. It’s become de rigueur for cameras to pick out people involved in these kinds of incidents, these kind of public murders, then identify them with a club, with the hooligans of that club and then with the political backers of said hooligan factions. Only then do the respective news companies make up their mind what they think of the incident, depending on which side of Argentina’s media schism they fall on: you’re either pro-Clarín, the largest media organisation and more or less a monopoly power, or you’re slavishly, disgustingly pro-government. However, they miss the point that the barras, the hooligans, are essentially apolitical: they’re mercenaries in a never-ending turf war. Unfortunately, pegamequemegusta lacks Joseph Heller’s talent to bring it out.

This fellow is irate that the pitches for his lucrative Sunday league games and site of other 'insalubrious' activities has been taken over by villeros

Despite the original Argentina national anthem, quoted above, speaking proudly of the bravery of their South American brothers in the unharnessing of the Spanish colonial yoke, the perceived origin of many of the occupiers came quickly to the fore: the dirty, filthy, backward, thieving bolitas and paraguayos had to be dealt with, expelled. Even an Argentine can be a ‘dirty bolivian’ such is the strength of the underlying sense of cultural and racial superiority. Hell, sometimes it even works both ways: it’s more than likely that at least some of the erstwhile antagonism towards Messi ultimately stems from the fact that, despite being from a modest background, his ‘whiteness’, his ‘niceness’ arguably precluded him from being immediately accepted as a true representative of garra criolla. For more on this and some possible rival triptychs of Argentine identity, see here).

Families in the Indoamericano who were somehow left out of the census

More than one western gringo will have been charmed by the apparent rawness of Argentine life. These days more than ever they’ll be be an influx of ‘economic exiles’ filling the cafés and bars, staining the streets with their scary milky legs and ugly clothes, constantly moaning about how poor their country is, what a joke it is and how they’ll never be able to go back. They claim to love the ‘authenticity’ of life in South America. They’d love to stay, they say, no more of that queueing in Aldi nonsense. This is real life, they proclaim with a flourish before going to the bank machine to withdraw more euros, which happen to enjoy an exchange rate of more than five for every peso.

Indeed, when pegamequemegusta first arrived this was the case, and one of the chief artefacts embodying said frankness, this wily boisterousness, was Olé, the all-conquering sports daily. With its fine sense of humour, flagrant red top chauvinism and occasional flashes of brilliance in its campaigns against violence that contained a hugely impressive amount of detail on events, we soon began to collect them. In later years, however, we became disillusioned with their cowardice: hiding a loss to Colombia in a sidebar on the front page whilst focusing on some secondary story, their referring to the cancer of Argieball as don Julio, their incessant hypocrisy with regard to Messi, their lack of balls when it came to taking on Maradona’s consistently bizarre decisions and their constant touting of anyone who scored a few goals against Newell’s as worthy of a place in the national team. Also, on the occasions when their prose failed them, the pieces soon lost their charm; their lack of class was quickly exposed and they were left looking cheap, crass and ignorant. We still buy it, but usually just because the cover is worth keeping (aka, hoarding under the glass coffee table).

Yesterday’s Olé [16/12/’10] cover was pretty bleedin’ crass.

On the one hand, of course, it’s admirable that they’ve devoted the front page to the improbable victory of the African champions against a much-fancied Inter team. Yet at the same time it’s quite a low ebb. You soon realise that Olé are just back to doing their weird, unfunny ‘black jokes’ of the kind they enjoyed so much before and during the World Cup, with their double entendres about the ‘Dark Continent’ (or is that even a double entendre?). Even when they speak about Usain Bolt in glowing terms, you get the impression that they’re not really taking him seriously as, while laudable, his achievements are merely a ‘black thing’.

Anyway, Jota jota is the nickname (well, it’s not so much a nickname as his initials but it sounds so absurd it becomes one) of River’s current caretaker manager, JJ Lopez. He has been the caretaker since Ángel Cappa lost the rag but Passarella has decided he’ll stay on, hence the ¡Sigue! You can read Jota Jota in this context, though, as basically synonymous with waka waka, which in turn suggests the general wackiness of Africa, not a place to be taken seriously, just a load of uncivilised brutes, touchingly funny to our enlightened white eyes – hence the pictures. It’s Sepp Blatter humour really – a worse insult we can hardly conceive of. Below the main banner they then pun cheaply on an alternate nickname for Jota Jota, el Negro Lopez.

– That’s not racist! Of course you can say that! We say that all the time! I call my best mate negro all the time! It’s endearing!

Here it isn’t, though. It’s just cheap, part of a general undermining of people with dark skin, and indeed, of people from almost any other country you feel free to take the piss out of. They’re on the cover because they’re funny, like banter with the blacks in the jacks when you’re seventeen and hopelessly deluded as to your wittiness.

The text goes on to make reference to yesterday’s game between the ‘wop’ Inter, as opposed to the Brazilian one, who they surprisingly refrain from slurring in any way, against ‘the Koreans’. The latter team’s name isn’t even given. You tell us why that could be.

Inside, there’s actually a nice little editorial piece by Marcelo Guerrero. Fine, he spends about 300 of his 400 words talking about humiliations suffered by African teams such as Zaire in 1974 and complaining he couldn’t get the sticker for their ‘tubby’ defender Mukombo that year. His praise of their achievement is sincere, though, and he finishes by eulogising the ‘coming of age’ of African football.

On the double page spread, however, the pictures of the crazy fans are back and Federico Rozenbaum has clearly had a swift enough rummage in the bin of cultural stereotypes:

Yes, this is the land of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, of petro-dollars, where there’s no drinking or smooching in public, and men have four wives.

As with almost all cases of disgust with non-politically correct jokes or cartoons or whatever, the real issue is not that this is so very offensive, it’s not even that the joke is at someone else’s expense. The real crux of the matter is that it’s bad writing, they’re bad jokes. Whether it’s Hugh Dallas’s exceedingly boring paedo stop sign those pathetic Danish cartoons (A bomb for a turban – jaysus) or Olé’s mirá los negritos, che, qué bestias que son, loco, the one thing that really stands out like a throbbing Isreali techno tent in Tunis is the poverty of the author’s imagination. Bad jokes are good, crass jokes are bad.

We should finish there; why even continue when everyone stopped reading about a thousand words ago? The paper of the Olé sitting next to us on our scribbling rock is already yellowing with age and damp from the sea breezes that beset this cave. Nonetheless, we have one more item to bring to your attention, oh dear, loyal, so faithful and handsome readers.

Take a minute, clean your glasses, adjust yourself in your seat, leave off torturing the lab mice you keep in your pockets, enough already with the lotion, concentrate as you would if you were stalking a bird, and check out this picture. Is there anything odd about it?

Well? Nothing? Let us enlighten you, you shadow-watching slaves.

Pegamequemegusta found this photograph in a phone box whilst looking for change a few years ago. Let us assure you it has no message on the back, no phone number or any such appeal. Intrigued, we took it back to our cave and studied it. At first we weren’t sure as to why it exerted such a  hold on our attention, why it mesmerised us so. It’s just a man standing on the coast, near the casino in the centre of Mar del Plata. The picture is nice enough but spoiled somewhat by the intrusion of the ugly apartment blocks that blight that part of the city. However, we soon began, if not to explain the mystery itself, at least to understand that we were faced with a real riddle.

It’s a very sunny day. A perfect day in fact – there’s not even a whifter of a cloud in the sky! Delightful, azure, Virgin Mary blue, celestial god-loving and god-loved Argentine blue splashes itself across the sky of the kind He saw when He stepped back from His divine canvas and pronounced “It was good.” So it’s a positive picture, grand. But as we said, this is the centre of Mar del Plata yet there are next to no people around. A few can be seen dawdling in the background but nothing compared to the hoardes of porteño ne’erdowells who tend to herd themselves in this particular concourse, next to the main beach as it is. Very strange. Moreover, our subject just happens to be standing right in front of the statue to Almirante Brown – is this another instance of outlandish Paddy bashing?! Left precisely where they knew we would drag our limbs in search of sustenance-giving change, zounds!

This somewhat hysterical reaction was dispelled, however, as we found our next clue. Like Indiana Jones parting the cobwebs as he advances in his quest for the Grail, we penetrated further into the dusty heart of the matter. Although our man is clearly of African descent, aren’t we all, that in itself is not so strange as although the rest of the year there are basically NO black people in Mar del Plata in summer there do appear people of all hues plying their trades and wares along the coast. No, what is more interesting is his outfit. Look closely: he has a Barcelona jersey on (with UNICEF on it), a Chicago Bulls chain, no doubt some international brand of cool sunglasses and the ensemble is topped off by an Italy hat – this is the international man! This is the future! You might say that it’s merely globalisation, but I put it to you, oh poor dear soul of eyes and heart ashened before you’ve even known the flames, I put it to you that our man here is fully conscious of his actions, of his appearance. His whole persona is a post-Warholian propaganda exercise, he is a preacher not given to public speaking but instead a man of action, subtle, graceful actions like leaving pictures in a phone box, of gestures that draw us in and wake up our minds to the symbolic power of the world and the beauty to be found therein, the blue sky, the sunshine, the relaxed yet impressively stern gaze, the wandering preacher spreading the Word in mysterious ways. This is a world pegamequemegusta would gladly leave our cave for.

If anyone falsely charges that this is more light-hearted than becomes a theologian

or more biting than becomes a Christian

– tis not I,

but Democritus said it.

Riquelme and the Savage Detectives Part III – The King Stay the King

Another week of suspiciously insistent subpoenas forces him into a situation where he can either take on the barra brava of his own club and, by extension, the whole rotten edifice of collusion and cowardly appeasement not only tolerated but occasionally initiated by the clubs and, in turn, their political masters. It would have been nice for him to do so but hardly advisable. After all, this very episode shows that the justice system is hardly impartial in these matters.

“The king stay the king.” – D’Angelo

La Doce

As surmised here on pegamequemegusta yesterday, the evil powers that be, whoever they are, have won the day yet again. Despite having only referred to “an unpleasant experience” at the club’s training ground and implying that he had the thugs’ undivided attention, Riquelme was threatened with forceful detention lest he present himself to the magistrate to clarify his comments in relation to Boca’s resident hooligan faction, La Doce. Today Riquelme did show up and denied that there was any such intimidation or threats made.

In an interview with trashy C5N, the oily little magistrate himself, Martín Lapadú, gave details on his encounter with a real star: “Mr Riquelme recognised that there had been a meeting on the 11th of April in the vicinity of la Bombonerita [an indoor facility belonging to the club]. The circumstances related exclusively to footballing matters; many people in the car-park, lots of people looking for autographs. When I asked him directly if he had felt intimidated, he stated that he had not. When he was asked if he had felt harassed or frightened, he responded that he had not.”

The magistrate went on to say that Riquelme cooperated fully and noted that Boca’s number 10 was relaxed in his presence. The opportunity to pester more footballers does not look likely to arise unless there are further developments, he related.

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So it’s a damp squib, really, but is all the more intriguing for that. Once again, as the headline in Olé says, there’s nothing to see here. Nothing happened. Riquelme, as always, sought to express himself through gestures, refusing to celebrate in front of La Doce. There follows a week of anti-Riquelme articles and he leaves his hidey-hole to speak reservedly about an unpleasant situation. Another week of suspiciously insistent subpoenas forces him into a situation where he can either take on the barra brava of his own club and, by extension, the whole rotten edifice of collusion and cowardly appeasement not only tolerated but occasionally initiated by the clubs and, in turn, their political masters. It would have been nice for him to do so but hardly advisable. After all, this very episode shows that the justice system is hardly impartial in these matters.

Hélas, Juan Román could not be another Jacques Chausson! Another opportunity has been lost and no resolution seems forthcoming. Pegamequemegusta is going to seek solace in 17th century French poetry:

Amis on a brulé le malheureux Jacques Chausson