Shock as Extremely Talented Footballer with Years at the Top of the Game and Beloved by Millions Puts Pegamequemegusta to Shame

“We should never have been playing there in the first place. The police had warned that there was going to be trouble. People stick their noses in where they’re not needed [….] We were playing in an atmosphere that was ready to explode. Presidents from other clubs butt in to change the decision of a body that had already said there’d be incidents.”

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Yesterday pegamequemegusta was rejoicing in the unfettered mischief of the Chacarita fans, while at the same time railing against the stupidity and corruption of the justice system and, to a lesser extent, Boca’s own hooligans (what else are they going to do?). Despite record levels of interest in the fledgling page yesterday, such a glaring contradiction – even if it was noticed – was not commented upon. So it falls to pegamequemegusta itself to retract the silly headline – if not correct it. Elder statesman Verón’s comments on the matter today were quite interesting; while the thought that all these different groups of hooligans will have to share territory in South Africa is enough to bring tears to even the most battle-worn Polakwanean policeman.

La Paternal/Diego Armando Maradona, rickety home to Argentinos Juniors

Chacarita-Estudiantes, besides being a clash between the probable champions and an already relegated team, was also notable for the fact that both teams’ stadiums are currently being renovated/rebuilt. Chacarita have been playing all their home games in Argentinos’ ground. However, there were serious disturbances after their last ‘home’ game against fellow relegation fodder, Atlético de Tucumán, and with the probable champions coming to town it was decided it would be best for all concerned if this game were played in Vélez. Such common sense was the cause of outrage in the offices of Independiente and Argentinos Juniors themselves, who reckoned this could constitute some kind of advantage to their rivals, or at least be more comfortable than the rickety Diego Armando Maradona. After all, apart from their stadium’s name coming from football’s greatest oddball, Argentinos Juniors were originally named Mártires de Chicago after the eight anarchists hanged in the Haymarket Riots of 1806. Common sense never had a chance. Independiente and Argentinos took their noble cause to the sages down at the AFA, who decreed that the game should go ahead after all in La Paternal, Argentinos Junior’s ground. As Diego Morini says in an excellent article in La Nación, “Yeah, exactly, they weren’t even capable of kicking Chacarita out of a ground they don’t even own…”

Verón, who pegamequemegusta has come to love far more off the pitch than on it, revealed today that one did not have to have access to a the internet and a taste for useless trivia to know that there was trouble in store on Sunday:

“We should never have been playing there in the first place. The police had warned that there was going to be trouble. People stick their noses in where they’re not needed [….] We were playing in an atmosphere that was ready to explode. Presidents from other clubs butt in to change the decision of a body that had already said there’d be incidents. Our families go to the matches, too, we have to think about that, too,” reported Olé.

Whatever about the last part, pegamequemegusta was stung by the following: “From the start you could see things were rough. We ensured the Estudiantes fans were kept well apart. Luckily things didn’t get any worse. But this is all about which group thinks it’s toughest. The Estudiantes boys didn’t have a nice time today. Until someone dies we won’t see the end of this shit.”

Firemen struggle with the Chacarita barras

Pegamequemegusta stands by the assertion that the stuff with the hose was hilarious but must admit that the whole affair is a depressing farce. Indeed, the only bone to pick with Verón’s comments is that plenty of people have already died. The lobbying by Independiente and Argentinos was downright disgraceful – they insisted that a match be played in unsafe conditions purely for the slight chance that Estudiantes (playing against a team that had already been relegated, remember!) might slip up. Even worse, however, is the AFA for granting their feeble-minded request. As Verón says, it’s not a question of what exactly happened on Sunday; it’s about what’s right, how things should be done and how even when all the proper procedures are in place common sense can still be overturned.

One even wonders whether the barra brava weren’t trying to get the game suspended on purpose. Pegamequemegusta would never contemplate such a dastardly contrivance as paying the hooligans of another team to have a match suspended, thus leaving the team with no free time with an extra match to play. No such thought would never cross our royal mind.

Old Juan Sebastián was moved to a bout of philosophy this evening, however, and began to consider his future. “I’d love to be on the other side of things, to seat down and discuss things, to be in charge of a club, to have the power to make these decisions. We can certainly do better than this.” You certainly can. The handsome among you, the loyal pegamequemegusta followers will no doubt recall that this has been a heartfelt wish for some time (not least as it would remove him from Argentina’s midfield, ojó). Unlike becoming managers, if ex players, really successful, respected  people, people who aren’t bloody pawns or loopers, people like Passarella and Verón can get power at large clubs like River and Estudiantes, they really can use democracy to effect change. Unlike Riquelme, who is usually right but is far too morose and obstinate for his own good, these guys have the stature to stand up to anybody and would not let themselves be led the sorry dance Román has the last few days. Pegamequemegusta would like to see this, not more farcical scenes in the stands.

Sorry, Seba. Pegáme, que me gusta, che.

Get this man a suit

Copa América Argentina 2011

The participants, venues and dates have been set for the Copa América 2011. The tournament, which will be held in Argentina for the first time since 1987, will kick off on the 1st of July next year and finish on the 24th of the same month.

The difficulties inherent in organising a knockout competition for a ten-nation body such as CONMEBOL meant that the Copa América was always a rather awkward affair. Prior to 1993, when they began inviting teams from Central and North America, there were three groups with three teams each, from which the top team advanced, while the winners of the previous tournament came in to make up the fourth team in the second round/semi-finals. This meant that Uruguay could win the 1987 Copa with a 100% record after only playing two matches. Since 1993, however, invitations have generally been extended to CONCACAF members. In Venezuela 2007, ever-presents Mexico were joined by the USA, who sent a team of youths and duly went out in the first round. This time their place will be taken by Japan, who will be competing for only the second time. They last featured in Paraguay ’99, where they finished last in their group after defeats to the hosts and Perú.

Although the presence of the Japanese promises to be jarring enough midst the rickety boludoísmo of Argentina and South America’s finest barras, another of the intriguing aspects of next year’s Copa América is the list of venues, which were defined on Wednesday afternoon. For many reasons, from the constitution, which grants Buenos Aires autonomy, to historical and economic reasons which saw the country’s infrastructure developed with all roads leading to the Federal Capital to get the meat on the boat, Baires has for far too long been the focal point of all activity in Argentina. It sometimes appears that Argentina is Buenos Aires and little else. This is certainly true in football terms, for 13 of the 20 teams in Primera are from Buenos Aires; and so close is La Plata to the capital that Estudiantes are playing there, in Quilmes, whilst their ground is renovated for the Copa América.

However, in a rare act of true federalism, the organisers have decided to spread the venues right around this vast country. While there won’t be any games on any of Sylvester Stallone’s glaciers down in Patagonia, they will have to travel to far-flung places such as Salta, Mendoza, San Juan and Jujuy. This will clearly benefit the poor provinces in the north of Argentina and will bring even more tourists to beautiful spots such as Mendoza. Nonetheless, despite the tournament taking place during the winter holidays, Mar del Plata, which also boasts the Mundialista built for the ’78 World Cup and is usually buzzing at that time of year, has been omitted. This is most likely due to  Nalbandian’s bitchy comments about the Mar del Plata mafia and the ensuing farce that was Argentina’s Davis Cup final defeat in 2008. Likewise, it seems Rosario, despite being Argentina’s ‘second city’, has been punished for its part in the [latest] humiliating defeat to Brazil in September last year. More importantly, however, several of the stadiums in these marginal provinces are rather small, with those in Salta and Jujuy capable of holding no more than twenty odd thousand people. In Avellaneda alone, on the other hand, both Racing’s Cilindro and Independiente’s brand new Libertadores de América hold 50,000 and 32,500 respectively. (Unfortunately, the refurbished Bombonera will not be completed on time). Although such an unselfish and unusually far-sighted decision is to be praised – this is the unholy AFA/government alliance after all -, Pegamequemegusta is miffed at the omission if its home town and wonders aloud on the bus if there will be less of a festival atmosphere in Buenos Aires during the competition as a result.

Host cities highlighted

Of course, as regards the football, the Copa América may not be the greatest competition in the world. Still, as the topsy-turvy qualifying campaign for South Africa showed, South American football is full of surprises. Brazil barely scraped through to the final last time, beating a super sassy Uruguay on penalties after having been totally outplayed.  Then, despite Argentina playing their sexiest football for years, with Riquelme, Messi, Tevez, Masche, Cambiasso, Zanetti, and still-good Crespo and Ayala (ay!) all on top form, they got trounced 3-0 in the final (a result they have never recovered from, in my opinion) by the über-physical Brazil team we’ve  grudgingly learned to ‘respect’. Not even the potential for a third successive showdown between these two can be dismissed as tiresome: after all, Argentina will be at home and, incredible as it may sound, have not won the Copa América since 1993!

Pegamequemegusta watched most of the last instalment in a brothel, hence, while it is loath to criticise the opinions of ex-workmates, would like to see some more knowledgeable folk around in 2011. So come visit next year for what will be a celebration of all things criollo, a glorious concoction of road trips, football, big juicy steaks and other Sylvester Stallone-related activities.

Argentina with some of Pegamequemegusta's buddies from his barman days - Copa América champions for the last time in 1993 (six tournaments ago)