My second favorite fútbol club hails from Rosario. And it’s not just because Rosario is universally acknowledged throughout Argentina as being home to the highest percentage of beautiful girls in a country with quite a few hotties. And it’s not because there is an amazingly beautiful “All-American girl” in one of the HSBC buildings I teach in who hails from there. (Though this doesn’t hurt… and I would have asked her to marry me today… again… but I found out last month that she’s not really 26. She’s only 20, but casi 21… almost 21 is maybe a little young for me. Not in my eyes, but in hers… and her father’s.) No, my second favorite fútbol club is in my top two because it has far and away the best name in all of Argentine (first division) fútbol.
The British brought “football” to Argentina when they came to build the railroads about a 100 years ago. (This was long after they had taken the Falklands and long before they took them back.) And with the game, they brought British names. That’s why the Argentina Fútbol Association (Asociación del Fútbol Argentino) is a league with such names as Boca JUNIORS, RIVER PLATE, ARSENAL, Argentina JUNIORS, Chacarita JUNIORS, and BANFIELD. But even among those names, NEWELL’S OLD BOYS stands out.
Newell’s Old Boys is one of the two teams that divide the city of Rosario (about 1,000,000+ people) in two, but compared with “Rosario Central”, how could anyone even think that there’s a choice when considering which team to support? (Especially after hearing an Argentine say “Newell’s Old Boys”… a charmingly hilarious treat if you should ever be so fortunate to hear it.)
With the loss this past weekend by 1st place Banfield, the opportunity was there tonight (Monday November 30th, 2009) for Newell’s Old Boys to take sole possession of first place with a win over Colón of Santa Fe just over 100 miles up the “highway”. (I put highway in quotation marks because the infrastructure in Argentina can swing from extremely modern to absolute crapo in the blink of an eye and unless I’ve travelled that road, I can’t guarantee that it really can be considered a highway.)
So tonight’s matchup with Newell’s Old Boys travelling from Rosario up to Santa Fe to take on Colón was a biggie. N.O.B. is considered a “small club” (basically everyone but “The Big 5”: Boca Jr., River Plate, San Lorenzo, Independiente, and Racing) and I don’t think that they’ve spent a lot of time in 1st place over the last… oh, I’d say… 100 years or so.
I didn’t see the first 88 minutes of the game, but I’m sure that in classic Argentine fútbol fashion, it was 88 minutes of attack followed by counter-attack, followed by counter-attack, followed by counter-attack… Throw in a halftime whistle and some fake pained expressions on grown men rolling around on the ground and you get the picture. I raced into my room to start watching in the 89th minute to see Newell’s trying to protect a 0-1 lead with only 10 men. When the announcer said that he had been told that there would be 6 minutes (seis minutos) of injury time, I knew that I must have missed something good. (Play acting, wild celebration, machismo posturing… yo no sé, pero ni importa.)
The 6 minutes came and went and the referee raised his arm and blew his whistle and…
…and then all hell broke loose!
There were hot-blooded Latino guys trying to attack the referee(s), there was a bench player (or maybe the attacking team’s goalie) trying to hold off the hot-blooded Latinos, there were police with big clear plastic shields trying to jump in between the hot-blooded Latino attackers and normal temperature-blooded Latino referees but these police were getting shoved away to the side by the previously mentioned hot-blooded Latinos with excessive hair and sometimes a day or three’s growth of facial hair.
I was thinking that I must have missed something REALLY big in the first 88 minutes if the team with a man advantage felt that they had been jobbed by the ref, but really what I missed was a hot-blooded Latino acting like a petulant bitch and then getting held responsible for it. “What?” you say, thinking “They NEVER get held responsible for anything!”, but remember, there’s a first time for everything.
Here’s what I missed:
With over 5 minutes and 40 seconds gone by in injury time, Newell’s Old Boys had sent a long ball all the way to the Colón end of the field. I can’t remember if the goalie tapped the ball ahead to a Colón player or the player had simply retrieved it before it made it to the goalie and had then turned to bring it up field. But whatever it was, number 13 for Colón had the ball at his feet and a burning desire in his heart not to end the night a complete loser. And with “hot Latin blood” pumping through that heart, you might have been able to predict that he wasn’t going to take being a complete loser lightly.
The referee was walking towards midfield about 8 to 10 yards ahead of number 13 as he raised his arm. Number 13 knew what this meant and he wanted to lash out. What would the smart thing have been to do as the referee blew his whistle? Most people would say “nothing”. But number 13 isn’t “most people”. No, number 13 thought the perfect thing to do would be to crush the soccer ball into the ass of the referee who had just blown the whistle. The referee, however, might be categorized in the group of “most people”, so he didn’t think that crushing a soccer ball into the ass of the (most probably) non-partisan arbitrator (who are “non-partisan” by definition) of this match was such a good idea. And so he immediately reached into his back pocket and gave a red card to the resident jack ass of team Colón.
Well don’t think that this hot-blooded Latino was going to accept this logical punishment lying down. Forget that his expulsion has no bearing on his team’s ability to start 11 players and use 3 substitutes in their next match. No, he was thinking it would be good idea to assault and try to batter the ref in an attempt to show that there is no place for logic on the cancha de fútbol in Argentina!
So there was pushing and shoving and more pushing and shoving and attempted police intervention. (I say “attempted” because the short-sighted people of AFA didn’t even have their JV police squad out there for riot control, much less the Varsity squad that they employ during superclasicos such as River/Boca, Independiente/Racing, Huracán/San Lorenzo, Gimnasia (LP)/Estudiantes (LP), and probably Rosario Central/Newell’s Old Boys. If they had, there wouldn’t be any quotations marks and there would be graphic details of police on boludo violence!)
I just discovered that “number 13” is also known as “Germán Rivarola”, but don’t worry about remembering the name, because we won’t be hearing about Germán next week or maybe for the rest of the season. With 3 games left in the season and a red card already in the books, starting a near riot might just be enough to get 2 more games added onto his mandatory 1 game suspension and he would thus finish the season in the dressing room. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this yanqui (pronounced “shankee” and meaning “Yankee”) is the illogical one. Because after all, logic doesn’t always have a place in the beautiful game down here. Why? Because this is Fútbol fabricada en Argentina.