an all-terrain player
My relationship with football is similar to that of the alcoholic with alcohol, that of the gambler with games of chance, that of the kleptomaniac with theft: I am addicted.
It is not, however, an addiction that I want to be cured of, that I can be cured of. It is not, or so I think, a harmful, self-destructive addiction. My mother thinks the opposite: she believes that the hours I spend focused on soccer, watching it on television, are wasted hours, time wasted, wasted. My mother believes that if I had dedicated the hours I have devoted to football to politics, I would already be president of the nation.
But I don’t want to be president of the republic or anything. Fatherhood has taught me that I am not capable of governing anyone’s lives, not even my daughters’, much less my own, which has always been an ungovernable chaos. I want to spend the few years I have left watching great football games. When I watch big games, I feel like I’m playing too. When I see great goals, I score them too.
That’s why, sleeping the ten hours I rest thanks to the pills to regulate my bipolarity, sometimes I dream of football. They are the best dreams. They surpass the infrequent erotic dreams. Because, curiously, when I dream of soccer, everything turns out well for me, round, perfect. That is to say, when I dream of soccer, I never lose, nor do I make a fool of myself, nor do they throw me off the field. I’m the best. The stands acclaim me. I get the most virtuous plays, the most intrepid dribbles, hats and pipes, Chileans and tacos, passes with the precision of a surgeon, free kicks with chanfle, with jump rope, penalties executed with disdain, barely spooning the ball . What a great player I am in dreams. What luminous happiness invades me on the lawns I walk, in shorts and ankle boots, spreading my talent.
That’s why I prefer not to play football in real life anymore. I would be disappointed. Unhappiness is often the difference between the life we would like to live and the one we can barely live. Similarly, my unhappiness as a football addict stems from the huge difference between how well I play football in my dreams and how badly I play it in reality.
The last time I played soccer, eleven against eleven, grass pitch, uniformed, professional boots, was twenty years ago. He was still young. He thought he had preserved the skills he flaunted at school. I was misinformed. Suddenly, everything went wrong for me. He did not give foot with ball. He played without skill, clumsy, incapable of mischief, a wall, a pass in the alley. Slow and heavy like a Russian tank, they easily took the ball from me. I then came to confirm that I had become a decrepit footballer. My relationship with the ball, once affectionate, made of caresses with the foot and adhesions as if it were attached to the right boot, had become channeled, and then it seemed that we had alienated each other, that she mistrusted me, that I mistreated her with a rustic game, dude. On that soccer field, I regretted having jumped to play. Worse yet, I was stomped on and injured.
Since then I have not played again and, when my brothers and my friends invited me, I told them that I was in poor health. Which is true: I’m always in poor health. I was born in poor health. But the fact that I don’t play it in real life doesn’t stop me from playing it in the fertile territory of the imagination: I play it when I sleep and, in particular, when I watch big games.
I don’t go to the stadium anymore. I’m lazy. Crowds overwhelm me. So many things irritate me that didn’t bother me when I was young. I am annoyed by the fumes of smokers, the lewd cries of the spectators, the fervent chants and the hysterical jumps, hyperventilated, of the fans, the wisdom of the frustrated coaches, from the stands, the fights between the opponents, the spitting and the gargajos , the smell of piss that permeates the benches, the stands, the stinking toilets. All this distracts me from the game. It is not for lack of passion that I have stopped going to the stadium: I am so passionate about football that I prefer to watch it alone, comfortably ensconced in a recliner, with the volume turned up, in a room in my house known as “the living room”. football”, designed exclusively to please my addiction, my fanaticism.
In my teens, not only did I go to the stadiums every weekend, but during the week I would often sneak out of school, hop on public transport, and attend training sessions for the national team, or my favorite teams. Strangely, being addicted to football, I have never been a fan or fan of a single team, nor an enemy or adversary of the opposing team. Likewise, I am not only a fan or fan of the national team of my country of origin, but, as I have lived in other countries, and I have been happy in them, then I am also a fan or fan of those countries. It happens to me then, in the qualifying rounds, in the World Cups, that I am a fan or fan of Argentina and Spain, Peru and Chile, Colombia and the United States: I have lived in all those countries and perhaps I have been happy, unless be for Peru, where happiness has been elusive.
Even though I don’t play in the games that grab my attention, rattle my nerves and make me scream with joy or frustration, even though my brothers and friends don’t play either, even though victory or defeat won’t change my existence in any way, I don’t miss a great game on television. I pay particular attention to the knockout games and the World Cups, but, as they are infrequent, I also pay attention to the big games of the European Cups, which are like club World Cups, and to the football leagues where the sport is best practiced: the English, Italian and Spanish. I have lost interest in the Argentine league and in the South American cups, because it seems to me that the shine has faded quite a bit in those tournaments and now they play football almost as poor and scruffy as the one practiced in my country of origin.
I should be embarrassed to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: For work reasons, I haven’t been to my daughters’ proms, or their college proms, but I sure as hell haven’t missed any big football games. in the last twenty years: I cancel what I have to cancel to see it, especially in the World Cups, when there are two or even three games a day, and then I try not to work, to do nothing but watch them all, taking notes in my notebook of a frustrated coach, awarding a score to each player, as was done before, in the Argentine magazine that I received weekly by mail, where the sequences prior to the goal were even drawn. If there is a World Cup, or a final of the European Cups, or a key match in the qualifiers, or a classic between teams that hate each other and arouse curiosity, I do not miss it in any way, even if I have to wake up at five o’clock the morning, cancel a flight, miss television, miss writing a chapter of the novel. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than watching that game, and everything else, family, work, money, honor, is subordinated to it, and for two or three hours life is suspended, dwarfed and withdraws, giving rise to a ceremony, that of top-level football, of excellence, which presides over everything, which is superior in pleasures and emotions, in aesthetic beauty and ethical tension, in display of courage and texture of heroism, to everything the rest.
Since I couldn’t be a footballer, I thought I would be a sports journalist, a football journalist. It seemed like the perfect job to me: they would pay me to see great games, to travel to see them. But I soon discovered that in my country of origin football was a passion condemned to the worst misfortunes and bitterness. So, as I am a frustrated footballer, a frustrated journalist, a hopelessly addicted to football, I redeem myself by watching the big games on television, and I pay all the subscriptions I have to pay, forgetting the keys and passwords afterwards, so as not to lose myself. no capital game, maximum emotion.
If I could choose a place to bury my bones in a coffin of loose dimensions, because I am fat as a veteran footballer, about to retire, I would ask to be buried on a football field, behind the goal, with a small tombstone that says: “Here lies an off-road player, the future president of the republic.”