Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fascists, Preppy Neoliberals & César Vallejo: A Few Fragmented Thoughts on Fandom and the Beautiful Game

Chaquetero, tornadizo, fair-weather fan, Benedict Arnold…cynic(!?!),” these are a handful of the epithets that were left on my voicemail last week after I posted something positive on Messi and Barça on this blog in diapers…Just to be clear, I am not a supporter of FC Barcelona (I’m married to one), but I do love watching their current line-up play.  I spent my formative years in Madrid, and tend to root for Real Madrid, but I’m hardly what one could consider a die-hard madridista.  In fact, when my family and I lived in the Spanish capital we all had different allegiances…dad liked Deportivo La Coruña because he was very fond of Galicians and met Lendoiro at a work-related function; mom chanted “¡Visca Barça!” with her best friend María, our Catalan next-door neighbor; my youngest brother cheered for Rayo Vallecano because of their cool Nigerian goalkeeper, Wilfred; I enjoyed watching the offensive-minded Tenerife since they also happened to field an excellent mix of Latin American players (Redondo, Rommel Fernández, Latorre, Dertycia, Chemo del Solar, Percy Olivares and several others); and so that leaves my middle brother as the only veritable merengue of my familial unit.  We’re a bunch of nomads so it’s not like we can truly claim tradition as the reason for our penchant for a certain team.

I became more of a Real Madrid fan when Tenerife’s coach, the iconic Jorge Valdano, and his star midfielder, Fernando Redondo (El príncipe), moved to the Santiago Bernabéu in 1994.  But at the end of the day, I’m just a huge soccer enthusiast and simply enjoy watching teams that play well (like Guardiola’s squad).

A few months ago while wasting time on Facebook, I noticed a post from a friend which read: “Need a Real Madrid refuge to watch el Clásico tomorrow. This town has a boner for Barça :(“...

The town he was referring to was Portland (Portlandia for those of you in the know…).

Well, of course Portland is a Barça town…but it has a very little to do with soccer.

Many Portlanders are culés (Barcelona fans) just like several of my friends from grad school because Real Madrid was favored by the Franco dictatorship (1936-1975).  Fans of Real Madrid are then, by extension, a bunch of fascists, right?   It seems overly simplistic, but that’s the perception.

You cannot read or hear anything about an upcoming R. Madrid v Barcelona match without some mention of the politics involved.  An article from Time magazine a few years ago pretty much sums this up:
“If Barça was a symbol of dissent to the Franco dictatorship, Real Madrid was the regime's — and the Generalísimo's — favored team. (Santiago Bernabeu, the former club president for whom the Galácticos' stadium is named, even fought with Franco's army during the Nationalist invasion of Catalonia).”

I don’t consider myself a conservative, much less a fascist, but I’ll go for Real Madrid in the next clásico because supporting them transports me back to the time when I lived in Spain, memorable years which really impacted my life.

Apparently, I thought denim was super cool back in '93. I'm with the Herrera family and the Real Madrid striker, the Chilean Iván (Bam Bam) Zamorano.

The Real Madrid v Barcelona rivalry is just one of several match-ups that is more than “just a game.”  Here are a few more along with their underlying socio-political, politico-religious codes:

Boca Juniors v River Plate During my trip to Buenos Aires, my brother had gotten me tickets for the superclásico…unfortunately, I was leaving the day of the match and  wasn’t able to make it.  This rivalry consists of the Buenos Aires derby between the “People’s Team” (Boca) and “The Millionaires” (River). The guy sitting next to me on the flight home left me with this idea: the River Plate fans tend to be “posh neoliberals”… So Zack Morris would root for River?

On a silly note, the rivalry has spawned a Danish film which also goes by the name “Superclásico” – it looks pretty forgettable, but I’ll watch it on Netflix eventually.

Universitario v Alianza Lima Similar to the Boca v River rivalry, la U v Alianza reflects issues of race and class. La U has been traditionally associated with the more well-to-do (and conservative) limeños whereas Alianza is the team of the marginalized sectors of society. 

I used to hate having to answer the question, ¿la U or Alianza? whenever I’d encounter a Peruvian in another country...code for Tell me your soccer team and I’ll tell you who you are

Over the past few years, I’ve answered César Vallejo…cool, no? Ok, Club Deportivo Universidad César Vallejo, but still…imagine saying “I root for Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath or Langston Hughes”…hehehehe…

By the way, Vallejo is a big deal.  As Gustavo Faverón puts it, this poet “es el único escritor peruano imprescindible en cualquier historia mundial de la literatura, y el más importante poeta hispano del siglo veinte.  […] El más peruano de todos los peruanos, el más cosmopolita de todos los andinos, el más criollo de todos los afrancesados, el más múltiple, el más dividido, el más unificado: el más experimental y por ello para siempre el más joven […].”

Celtic v Rangers (Here's a brief description from BBC Sport Academy.) The Glasgow derby is one of the most fiercely contested and controversial matches in the world.
The rivalry that exists between the 'Old Firm' is intense but what separates it from other derbies is race and religion.

In the beginning
Celtic were formed in 1888 in the East End of the city by Glasgow's large immigrant Irish population as a way of raising money for Catholic charities.
Much of the Irish community were crowded into slums and were widely discriminated against due to their foreign status and willingness to take work at low pay.

This was seen to undercut the mainly Protestant native Glaswegians.
With a huge fan base and players taken from the Catholic club in Edinburgh, Hibernian, Celtic soon became a rival to the well-established Rangers football club across the city in Govan.

What's all the fuss about?
Rangers didn't start out as a Protestant-only club and Celtic have fielded non-Catholic players from the earliest days.

Celtic were seen as a Catholic club for Catholics, which led to Rangers, with their mainly Protestant following, adopting a staunch anti-Catholic approach.

Many fans were prejudiced against Celtic's Irish following and the frequent rioting of Celtic's support didn't help their image.

But things were about to change at Rangers.

Graeme Souness took over the hotseat and former Celtic man Mo Johnston became the first high-profile Catholic player to cross the divide.

TV pictures at the time showed outraged Rangers fans burning their season tickets!

PS Re: those voicemails…umm, feel free to make negative (or positive) comments on the blog, that’s what the section is for…when I randomly check my cellphone (not a daily occurrence) and find several messages, I think a) something tragic has happened or b) someone really needs something from me…either scenario is disconcerting…hehehe

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