Posted: 07 Oct 2010 02:52 PM PDT
“Bring your slippers” – the e-mail from my footballing porteño contact Fer told me. Had he seen me play before? Alas, this was not a sleight on my lackadaisical playing style, merely an interesting translation of “astroturf boots”. But, the e-mail confirmed that one of their regulars was absent this week, and I was in the game.
So, I turned up for a 9pm kick-off on a cross between a student’s carpet and a cat’s litter tray. Wedged between two railway lines and beneath the flight path out of Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, this may not have been La Bombonera but there was certainly no lack of atmosphere. And the stakes were high. The cost to play was 15 pesos per head (around £2.50) but it was winner takes all. Or rather – winner pays nothing, loser pays double. In a city where £5 can get you 25 journeys anywhere on the subway, this was a match worth winning.
Unbeknownst to me, the banter had been flying around all day on e-mail. This wasn’t about money though, it was about pride. And also, hilariously, the right to keep one’s name. For both captains were called Fer and they had agreed that the losing captain must change his name. To what? I am yet to find out. In the build up, I had been billed by my Fer captain as “The England Machine!!!” I think he had been watching too many videos of Bryan Robson and Vinnie Jones, but for those who have not seen me on a football field before, I am far from a ‘machine’. Well, perhaps something like a fax machine – out of date, liable to break down, and very difficult to find spare parts for.
The match itself started innocuously enough. We had 2 Brazilians on our team who, true to stereotype, totally ran the show. They were, put simply, ‘Brazilliant”. It was like being an out-of-focus extra in a Nike advert but I was determined to play my part. I tracked back (seriously), threw myself in the way of shots, and took my turn in goal. We raced into a 3 goal lead but, with 5 minutes left to go, somehow managed to gift the opposition a few cheap goals. The atmosphere grew a little edgy – suddenly it was a lot closer than it needed to be. Our captain Fer, who is either mad or both, then took matters into his own hands. One great left-footed strike equalled one crucial Ggggoooooollll!!! and what followed was a selection of impressively loud screams that included a combination of people’s mothers, unmentionable body parts, and a degree of child-bearing out of wedlock.
I then managed, in typical British footballing style, to get the big toe of my left foot on the end of a miss-hit shot to put us 2 goals clear, before one of the Brazilliants put us out of reach with the kind of goal that I can’t even score on a Playstation. The impromptu pitch invasion by the local “mujeres de hockey” signalled the final whistle, hugs all round, and more shouts and screams from our inspirational “Capitán Loco”.
Wallets intact. Pride intact. Legs intact. I had survived my Argentinian futbol debut.
For anyone playing futbol con porteños in the future, a chap called Napolean made a very helpful post of all the phrases you need to know on the BA Expats forum.