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Monday, June 27, 2022

a football story

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I’m in Mexico, one of the countries that is mobilizing more people to the World Cup host cities. The choices don’t finish, but people’s enthusiasm for traveling to Qatar doesn’t wane. Speaking to a friend about the long journey and high cost, an episode came to mind that still worries me. It was the 82nd World Cup and the story stuck in my heart. Define the fan, that guy who can be a perfect jerk, but for love. His name was Mario, he was about fifty years old and he was wrapped in an Argentine flag. It is far from being confused with a Barra Brava. He was a lone wolf with a calm walk and a peaceful and pure passion for football. The fan is always disinterested, but Mario went further. He was a Huracán fan and a blind admirer of the national team’s coach, César Luis Menotti.

He followed us discreetly from Alicante to Barcelona without disturbing our work. As the days passed, his presence became familiar and he gained our trust. He just asked us to sign the flag which had meaning in the middle of Malvinas war that made football small. Little is said about boredom at World Cups. The long concentrations with their unbearable dead hours are a martyrdom. I think there should be more talk because boredom undermines dreams of fame, which should be the first motivating factor for an extraordinary event. Precisely because we had plenty of time everywhere, I went over to talk to Mario. The conversation covered several topics: the team’s moment, the chances of qualifying, Spain as a World Cup venue, a country he had just met and where I was living… He was such a warm guy that he was not difficult for us to move on to more personal topics. . And this is where the story begins to captivate me.

Since a month in Spain is not feasible for any economy, I asked him what he was doing there. I don’t remember the answer, but I knew the job wasn’t worth the price of this football adventure. “Have you saved for coming?” I asked. And the answer began to complicate the conversation: “What will I save if I don’t have a mango,” he replied. There was a mystery to unravel, and since Mario was see-through, I didn’t hesitate to ask him, “So how did you do that?” Stupor doesn’t need many words: “I sold my house,” he told me. Since I’m one of those people who always weigh the consequences, I started to get scared.

“And when are you coming back?” -I asked.

The answer has confused me to this day.

“I have no idea,” he replied calmly, tapping his head with his index finger, “but no one here can take my life from me.”

Although you already know that fans do fan stuff, there are decisions and reactions that are never easy to interpret because reason doesn’t reach passionate impulses. But this time, the disparity shattered my plans. Strange, because when I rested the story privately, I had no sympathy for him. “A house in exchange for a memory,” I thought, sorry I didn’t understand. Because not even being able to imagine that you can risk your whole life for a passion. And me, who thought I loved football… Many decades have passed since then and I never heard from Mario again, but I often remember that conversation. Because people don’t change, I always worry about him at the beginning and I end up worrying about myself.

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