Thursday, May 27, 2010

Futbol contra Football

A Futbol versus Football Challenge!

Canada lining up for a friendly thrashing
Fireworks after the game.

In actuality, my weekend of the bicentennial consisted in very little reflection on the historical and political aspects of Argentina’s independence. After my decision to stay firmly OUTSIDE of Afro-Argentine politics, I really just wasn’t in the mood to go to any of the celebratory events. Call me a hypocrite but I just wasn’t in the mood to rub elbows with a lot of the people who just made politics feel so slimy.

Instead, I got to spend some nice quality time with the roomie, doing what she loves to do most—WATCH FUTBOL!

May 24th we all went to the goodbye game before all of the Argentine players started officially playing for the Mundial. My roommate shook her head in disapproval as she explained the importance of this game to me. (Why did I know so little about the things that matter so much?)

The game was a friendly scrimmage between Canada, and all of the Argentine players who would soon be going to play for their respective teams, facing off in the Mundial. Messi, Tevez, Palermo, and the rest of the Argentine greats would be doing their thing on la cancha.

Now, I am a West-African immigrants child, and a lifelong soccer player, but I have to admit that most of my life I was always more interested in watching American Football and Basketball. So, I know all of the rules of soccer (futbol) and I can definitely follow the game play from a players perspective, but I don’t know a thing about how the Mundial works, who the players are now, and which teams are the great powers these days.

Now, the game was awesome, the energy was amazing, and I think despite the super catholocism attached to Argentine nationhood, I think that if questioned the average Argentine man would pray to Maradona before saying his hailmarys. The mood of the city heavily depends on the outcome of their favorite team. The level of alcohol consumed doesn't really change much either way, only the tone of the drunken shouts. In this way, I felt very comfortable getting geared up to go to a game but I was a bit homesick for the rituals of my own Pittsburgh Steelers. After my suggestion to my roommate that a Steelers game might just blow her mind and convert her to yanqui-football fanatic, she tried to convince me that in fact, I would be converted to strict soccerism after witnessing the mundial.

Steelers Nation or the Argentine Religion:

Who does it better?

1.) Tailgating Traditions

So as our excitement built for The Depedida (the goodbye scrimmage), I asked my roommate where we would be tailgating. I understood the word didn’t have a direct translation but I explained, you know, going to the field early with friends and beer and getting hyped up for the game in the parking lot.

She looked at me quizzically and shook her head no emphatically. No, you aren’t allowed to hangout in the parking lot, too many people would get killed.

Death?? Oh word?

Futbol teams in Argentina are supported by hinchas or barra bravas, which translates to dangerous gangs. Membership in the barra brava does include chanting, waving enormous banners, and insulting the other teams hinchas, but signing on to a barra brava also means that you will literally RIDE or DIE for your team.

There have been hundreds of deaths in the Argentine soccer stadiums since it’s official conception in 1924, but there have also been a number of barra brava leaders who have been shot and killed off duty, in their homes, in bars, in their neighborhoods.

Check out some of the barra bravas facing off with each other, and generally whooping the ass of a small group of stadium police:

I’m going to have to say that in this sense, I prefer my Steelers Football. I’ve literally walked into a tailgate empty handed and seconds later was provided with Whiskey, a bowl of chili, and an invitation to go to accompany a new friend at a Pens game. There is something really special about the Steelers community that can unite the most disparate people. And, even when I’ve ran at the mouth to all of the opposing fans, I’ve never been pushed down concrete steps, whipped with metal chains, or generally felt that my shit talking was a life or death situation.

2.) Game Time Language

Watching my first Argentine soccer game with my roommate and her friends I started to feel foreign again. Maybe my Spanish wasn’t as good as I thought it was because every other word left me more and more confused. After a bit, I realized it wasn’t my Spanish, it was a different language--Buenos Aires Futbol . The most close knit communities begin to create their own insider and outsider borders with local and useful slang.

What would Steelers Games be without Pittsburgese, the language you have to hear to believe?

I can’t call you a real Steelers fan if you can’t decode the following statement.

“Yinz wan go dahnthan n get sum hoagies n crush some pahnders after the Stillers beat dem Brahns?”

Of course, Porteño Spanish rivals Pittsburgh in unintelligibility to outsiders. Generally, your beginning Spanish will get you nowhere here. In BAFL (what I can't abbreviate?) I’d have to say that one of my favorite futbal phrases is “Pechofrio” which literally translates to cold-chest-ed. It’s as if they have a freezer in their heart—those who play without heart.

One thing that Steelers fans and Argentine Futbol fans definitely have in common is the charm in their vulgarity.

Neither Porteños or Pittsburghers find any use for political correctness or subtlety. Things are best said loudly, and as straight forward as possible—especially on the field. This tradition cuts across gender, and age.

One of my favorite Steeler game experiences was meeting a fellow Steeler fan who took care of us at our tailgate. Clad head to toe in Black and Gold including stirped black and gold pants, and a black and gold jester hat, in reference to my friends small coffeemug, the first words out of her mouth were:

“What the fuck is that some type of sippy cup? You need a real drink, I swear to God!”

My favorite characters at my first steelers tailgate.

At my first Argentine National Soccer game, I saw a small girl about 7 years old with her father learning the traditional calls of Argentine futbol.

QUE HIJO DE PUTA!” (Son of a Bitch/Slut)

“PUTO” (Masculine form of whore)

about every 5 minutes. The vulgarity of the situation eventually became very endearing.

And how can you ever forget the handsome young man who (with fluidity) screamed

"Hijo de un container lleno de peteras nymphomenas!"

Son of a container full of cock-sucking nyphomaniacs!

That's poetry, folks.

After learning about eight new ways to insult someones mother

(my favorite being “LA PUTA QUE TE PARIO”—The whore that pushed you out) in one Futbol game, I turned to my roommate and told her that I loved this country more and more everyday. Perhaps it’s because it reminds me a bit of home.

3.) Legends of the Game:

Maradona. For those soccer fans, enough said. For the rest of you, I’m probably breaking some law by having to explain who he is while being in Buenos Aires. Here he is known as El MEJOR jugador del futbol en el mundo. The best futbol player to have walked the earth. His career was a legendary including this goal in 1986 against the Brits in the semi-finals the year that Argentina went on to become chapions. His personal character is perhaps even more captivating. After a long battle with drugs, and sexual escapades, and a balloon in weight, Maradona married his babies moms, went to rehab, and basically took back his demi-god status in Buenos Aires. He has his own talk show, cult worshippers and often engagnes in political commentary. His rhetoric is often uninformed, decidedly anti-yanqui-imperialist, and always brutally honest.

Maradona’s Goal vs Brits:

Volveremos, volveremos! Volveremos otra vez! Volvermos a ser campeones como en el '86!!

Myron Cope, The Bus, The Steel Curtain, Lambert, Cowher, …the list goes on and on and on. Though Argentina might have Messi, and Maradonna, I think that the general legendary status of the Steelers and the Steelers Franchise outweighs the few greats that Argentina might have. (Ok, so maybe this assessment was a bit biased.)

All i gotta say is "Yoy! Double Yoy"

4.) Stadium Food

I'll never forget the first time that I went to a Steelers game. A friend and I were super hungry and ready to get some wings from Quaker Stake and Lube at half-time. On my way back, when I ran into another friend, I had an attack of excitement and euphoria, and just dropped the whole damn delicious bucket all over the ground. I'm not ashamed to say that I literally got on my knees and screamed "Noooooooo!" over the grave of our finger-lickin goodness. Fortunately, after taking the bucket back to the counter like a pouting 6 year old, they hooked us up with a refill, and then some.

All that to say that the food options in the River stadium looked like concessions stands at an Alcatraz death match. Each grey cement stand had two options: pancho o hamburguesa, both grey and languidly bathing in their own grease on griddle. Packets of ketchup, and mayonesa were literally thrown across the stand tables. You can't even get a damn bucket of popcorn or peanuts. There are a few vendors that walk around with flat coke, and pitiful boxes of gum and chocolate wafers for exorbitant prices. After expressing my outrage with paying 5 pesos for a chiclet, the old man just walked away shaking his head.

I wish I could say that the panchos looked even this appetizing.

Favorite Game time Accessory:

Terrible towels. Beautiful black and gold, and so useful. Wave your towel to show your Steelernation support, then clean up the beer that the Sloppy Joe next to you spilled on your lap.

A valid enough reason to vote for Mr. Obama

Weapons. A mace. A bag full of hedgehogs. stadium seats, whatever they can get their hands on. The funny thing is that I've seen people almost get arrested at games for having a small bag of tree.

"I'm sorry, are those knunchucks sir? Ok, go right ahead in, I was just making sure that wasn't something dangerous like marijuana! "

Ok, so not eeeeveryone at the games are violent, but there is a complicit agreement with many of the barra bravas and the stadium police leaving which leaves people looking like this.

"My bad homie. I didn't mean to smash your face in. I thought you were from the other team."


I'll never forgot the day that my dad wrote me an e-mail about the Mundial, mentioning to me that Maradona was the coach of The Argentine team. Of course, I had known this for a while, being that my roommate has reminded me about everyday how incredible the man is. The funny part came afterwards:

"The Argentine Coach, Diego Maradona is well known in Africa. I think he is the second reknown South American player after Pele in Africa."

HA! Sorry Argentines, everyone knows that Pele is better. (I might get assaulted in my sleep for this one...)

After this, Maradona seems to have really stepped up for the position this year. He's left all of the baby mama/drug/going off at the mouth drama behind him. He is now just a joy to watch and hear at press conferences. His story of rags to riches, to drugs, to rehab, to drama, to shining image have come to a somewhat triumphant apogee in this Mundial.

Yet, Mike Tomlin, taking the Steelers to their 6th championship was Pittsburgh's own triumphant Obama victory. The youngest head coach to ever get their team to a championship was a beautiful, beautiful, black man.

Both coaches are unafraid to show their affection for their players (Maradonna with kisses, Tomlin with chest bumps). Both are unafraid to show their emotion during a game. Both are super super charismatic characters.

Mike and Maradona showin their love for the game.

I love them both, but since someone obviously has to win this round, we are going to have a tie-breaker. The only way that we can break rivalries like this is through a competition of pure SWAG and SEXINESS.

I think we all know who wins this round...

Even Victoria's Secret is crushing on our coach??

Victory Dances:

After an incredible goal, touchdown, victory is when our truest, deepest, spirit come out. Sometimes it comes out in screams, in violence, in jumps...and it's always best when it comes with a lil bit of groove.

Compared to the other NFL teams, The Steelers, haven't necessarily been much of a dancing squad. But, here's just a bit of the groove that we KNOW can come of out these men.

Though Argentina is NOT a nation of dancers, one of their best likes to get down on the field. From one of the toughest villas in Argentina, Tevez is darlinged in Argentina for the way that he smiles and celebrates after every goal. He dances a cumbia villera, something similar to an Argentine gangsta' rap.

Check him out, getting down with the get down!

Gotta say, that I never thought I'd say this...but the Argentines are taking it away in the dance off.

In fin, I'm not going to tally up to figure out the winning team. Though its an incredible experience to live through the mundial en Buenos Aires, I would NEVER give up Steelersnation citizenship to join the evangelical force of Argentine futbol.

What's more... I hope Argentina gets beat by an African country for the mundial title... There, I said it, and i'm not taking it back!!

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