Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Boca's season is not on fire. Scraping through to the final 16 in the Libertadores, Sunday's defeat by San Lorenzo and struggling (for Boca) in third place in the league – all after this blogger confidently predicted the team would win everything: Copa Libertadores, League, Lottery Polo Championship.
As the less than convincing season continues, Boca fans have turned to that peculiarly Latin American tradition of adopting a saint to whom they can pray when times are less than divine.
Guachito Gil is an obscure gaucho (a cow-killing, gin-swigging cowboy) who became a fugitive character back in the early 19th century after going AWOL from yet another war with Brazil.
As with all good legends, Gil's story is shrouded in mystery but he is believed to have been a simple farmer born Antonio Mamerto Gil Nuñez in the north-eastern province of Corrientes around 1847. The story goes that he became involved in an affair with a wealthy widow. When her brothers found out they told the head of police – also in love with the widow – and Gil was forced to scarper to join the army, fighting in a civil war between the warring 'celestes' and 'colorados' political parties.
Subsequently, he became a kind of Argentinian Robin Hood, stealing from rich land owners and giving tto the poor. Word also spread that Gauchito had received special healing powers from a Guaraní god.
Today in Buenos Aires, red rags, red candles and red flags mark shrines around the city for this folk saint while icons of the moustachioed gaucho are usually surrounded by offerings of wine, cigarettes, crosses and flour.
So it was that with a little splash of wine, I recently saw a couple of Boca fans stopping for a quick prayer – presumably for a comfortable win for the team.
Boca fans: praying for help from a cow-killing, gin-swigging cowboy
Mind you, Boca's troubles are nothing compared with Racing.
A big team struggling badly, they are playing for their survival in the Primera, and some players have taken to making offerings to Guachito Gil in return for rescue from this situation – or at least three points towards it. One has a tattoo of the gaucho. Another has gone as far as saying that Racing are cursed.
It hasn't stopped all manner of odd going-ons in Racing players' homes (though we're not quite at the stage of making voodoo dolls of Independiente players).
In case you think this is superstitious piffle, it's worth remembering that this is a country where a worryingly high proportion of the overwhelmingly Catholic population want Evita to be sainted. And where a recent popular saint is a cumbia singer called Rodrigo who died young in a car accident about 10 years ago.
It's basically like praying to Robbie Williams – if he were dead of course. But no one wants that, even if it helps Port Vale win the league.
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