Got an e-mail from Frankie in Newcastle scolding me for even thinking about the state of Newcastle United while out here travelling the world. He obviously has a point but he knows well enough that this affliction has never been a choice, that this sick addiction can’t be switched off. So as the transfer window slammed closed with a mighty THOOM, and poor Alan Pardew was left standing the wrong side of it with a number 9 shirt in his hand, I felt the same irritation in Salta, Argentina as if I were in the UK.
It seems our club was shopping in a narrow under stocked aisle in the footballing supermarket. Looking for strikers better than Leon Best who will play for wages Stoke players would laugh at. We all imagine that throwing real money at some quality would put 5,000 on the gate, shift a load of shirts, get the momentum up so we are on TV more and mean a higher up the League finish that would, in turn, more than pay for itself. But for some reason Mr Ashley thinks otherwise. But Frankie is also right; I shouldn’t worry about stuff that is out of my control.
We have moved twice since the last posting; firstly to Iguazu Falls which was awesome. The falls make Niagara look like a leaking tap and they have walkways that take you so close you feel giddy. And you can see Brazil. In town we were reacquainted with Sarah from Newcastle despite it being a week and hundreds of miles since we last saw her and we adopted an Argentinean girl (Maggie) while drinking Quilmes at a hostel pool party. She wouldn’t stop smoking so we left her behind just like she were an actual child of ours.
Now we are in Buenos Aires and I have to say at this point I adore Argentina.
Some years ago I realised I liked Argentina more than Brazil. Partly to be argumentative and awkward in the face of Brazil’s reputation as the team football fans are all supposed to admire but mostly because Argentina are brilliantly suited to modern football.
When Uncle Bobby described Maradona as “a rascal” he was, as often, bang on. Not “evil” or “malicious” but naughty. You see it in the eyes of the street kids here. We passed a park kick-a-bout and Wifey and I were both marvelling at the brilliant first touch all those kids had. A lad saw us looking and asked if we wanted a game. We declined and he said something that made all the other kids laugh but his grin was so cheeky you couldn’t start to take offence. You see it in the face of Jonas Gutierrez, that mischief, that sense of fun. Buenos Aires seems to vibrate with it. Then on the other hand we have Coloccini, colder and harder.
It’s the mixture of the two that makes Argentina as a footballing nation so intriguing; they can give anyone a game of football they have vision, intelligence and instinctive brilliance. They are also strong, quick and aggressive and if you want a battle they are right up for that as well. They are mentally tough and don’t carry that sense of privilege that Brazil do.
There was an article in The Mag last year from a lad who went to see Boca Juniors play River Plate in one of the World’s great derby matches. Sadly our chances of witnessing the fixture were ruined when River got relegated last season. The fans tore up the stadium and according to a guy I was talking to yesterday, “tried to kill the owners”. Between cigarettes Maggie told us her and her mates are River fans and they explained that they spent three years getting worse until relegation was inevitable. We have sided with Boca, not just because they are better than River but because River play in red and white and Nobby Solano used to play for Boca.
But it is a half-hearted affiliation and my thoughts have already drifted to seeing our game at QPR on Monday. An America Sports Bar owner said he would have the game on at his place (El Alamo) but they also promised that lasses drink free. Something we only found out was a lie when we came to pay for the crap food. There is a bar round the corner that has Quilmes on tap and brilliant fat and bloody burgers. So if you are passing The Gibraltar in Buenos Aires on Monday afternoon about 4pm – do pop in.
(Returning to our refusal to invest in quality (Drogba for two/three years would be a sensation despite his advancing years) I have come to the conclusion that we are victims of a sinister bet. Like in Trading Places or better yet My Fair Lady in reverse, with Mike Ashley dressed as Rex Harrison (Mike Ashley dressed at all being an improvement on the last picture I saw of him) wagering poor Alan Pardew that rather than taking a filthy flower girl and passing her off in polite society he can transform an internationally recognised football club into Wigan Athletic without anybody noticing. To win the bet we have to finish in the bottom half but not get relegated, for ten years. Which may sound depressing but at least we fans get to be Audrey Hepburn).
Above is the new book “Spitting In The Wind” which is out now!
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