Taylor made: Maradona sculptures and Messi frenzies

When the cry went out for help (during Monsieur Salut!’s post-op but continuing incapacity), Bill Taylor took himself off to Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. But he did leave behind smashing reminiscences of Roker Park – which you can see by clicking here – and now answers our plea for some sort of story to go with two of his holiday snaps …

I cannot tell a lie – well, I can but I won’t – this post is being cobbled together at the request of the Salut! Sunderland slavemaster to justify running two photos I sent him from a recent visit to Buenos Aires, one of which has absolutely nothing to do with football but which tickled his fancy. I like a challenge.

The first shot was taken in La Boca, the dockland section of the city that is the spiritual heart of Argentinian football. It’s a mix of working-class grit and crass tourism, heavy on rip-off tango joints and places wanting you to pay to stick your head through a cutout and have your likeness taken looking as if you’re turning out for the national team. (In England, doing this might well GET you a place in the national team …)

There are pictures everywhere of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona (in his prime). And this “sculpture” (or whatever you’d call it) outside a souvenir store, with a sign on the front saying no tocar – don’t touch. I laughed out loud. Talk about unconscious irony.

Speaking of Messi, by the way (he said, frantically trying to fill space), most football fans are familiar with his amazing run down the field and goal against Getafe in 2007. If you haven’t seen it, check out …

And not just that clip: the commentator on one of the local TV stations was hysterical and his stream-of-conscious babble, rising to the sort of ecstatic shrieks his wife can surely only dream of, has been turned by someone into a brilliant “typographic” video:

I wasn’t, alas, able to catch a game at the fabled ground of Club Atlético Boca Juniors (“junior” being a total misnomer; it’s one of the most successful clubs in the world) which I’m told is a major spectacle, whoever they’re playing. The key is not to put yourself among the hardest-core fans and certainly not even to raise a little finger in approval of the opposition.

Digression No 1: a couple of years ago, I was in a bar in Rome watching a televised match between Roma and their arch-rivals Lazio. Lazio were outclassed but managed to score early and then played a very clever game of “keep away”. They might have won had they not run out of steam 20 minutes before the end, allowing Roma, still relatively fresh and clearly biding their time, to put the ball in the net twice. Anyway, as a Mackem I’m all for the underdog and I was applauding Lazio’s efforts. Until I realized that the looks from my neighbours were getting dirtier and dirtier.

For more photos from Bill’s trip, visit his site by clicking here

Digression No 2: this made me hark back to the Euro 2004 tournament when Portugal knocked England out of the quarter-finals. I live in the Portuguese section of Toronto and I was walking past a bar when I heard cheering. So I went in for a quick beer and to see how the game was progressing.

“A draw, 2-2,” I was told. “It’s gone to penalties. Beckham’s taking the next one.”

“That’s it then,” I said. “Portugal wins. Beckham can’t take penalty to save his life.”

Sure enough, he missed. It was only then that I realized the place was full, not of Portuguese fans but Brits. And they weren’t pleased with me. Like a News of the World reporter in a brothel, I made my excuses and left. I never did finish my beer.

Digression No 3: I imagine the experience of a match at the Boca Juniors stadium would be rather like a game I saw once in Spain between Sevilla and their nemesis club, Real Betis. The Scottish guy I was with, who lived in Seville, had had the wisdom to get tickets fairly high above the centreline.

I thought at first the Sevilla end was the Betis end and vice-versa. But it turned out that each side’s most-rabid supporters had brought along the opposition’s flags simply to set them on fire while they screeched abuse at each other. What with that and the fireworks and flares that were lit, none of them can actually have seen much of the game – which had to be stopped twice until the smoke drifting over the pitch had cleared.

After the game (which Sevilla, the home team, won) there was much posturing outside the ground but very little actual contact between the two factions. The next day’s paper reported only three arrests. But a good time was clearly had by all.

Okay, no more digressions. The second picture: I don’t think I’ve ever been in a city anywhere in the world that didn’t have at least one “Irish” pub. Buenos Aires is no exception. I had no desire to go into this one but I was very taken with the name of the featured band.
I can’t help thinking they’re not really natives of Ireland. I’m almost sorry I missed them, but not quite. Just as I’m almost sorry I didn’t stick my head through a cardboard cutout of Lionel Messi. But not quite.

And I’m very sorry that that segue was so contrived.
(Is this enough, M Salut? Can I stop now?)

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