Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Monday was Columbus Day, meaning a bank holiday.
Five hundred and seventeen years ago to the day, the Americas were "discovered" [sic] by Christopher Columbus.
To avoid infantile jokes about Columbus actually being Colon in Spanish, we’ll stick to the one need-to-know fact about the conquest of the Americas: before the arrival of the Europeans, only llamas had syphilis.
Needless to say, that isn’t the topic of conversation of choice when Argentines, like their Hispanic hermanos, enjoy a day off work to celebrate Columbus arriving.
Instead, they put an entire cow on the grill and mull over the weekend’s football.
First up the Argentina game.
Having managed to stifle a snigger when Peru equalised 11 seconds before the 90th minute, Argie Bargy then saw a full-scale riot in the press room avoided when Martin ‘El Loco’ Palermo scored the goal that you’ve all seen, setting up the greatest belly-flop ever that you’ve also no doubt seen.
It was, indeed, a loco end to the game.
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A grinning Boca-supporting compañero strode up to Argie Bargy. "I told you about Palermo!!!!"
Despite having it pointed out that Palermo hadn’t represented Argentina for nearly a decade, once missed three penalties in a single game, and – while he may be a nice guy and a Boca legend – can barely run, the compañero was having none of it.
"He scored, right? He doesn’t need to run."
You can’t argue with that kind of logic. Well, you can, but the torrential rain made it neither the time nor place.
It also wasn’t the time or place to discuss why Argentina still struggled to beat Peru, a team described by one journalist as "the worst side in humanity."
Palermo’s goal gave Argentina the dramatic win, however, and Maradona, never shy of overstating things, declared it was another miracle from ‘Saint Palermo’.
Across the Andes, another Loco is also revered by supporters and has been granted divine status.
To Chileans it's no longer Marcelo, but Saint, Bielsa.
Chile will be at their first World Cup in 12 years after beating Columbia at the weekend, provoking more acts of hero worship of their Argentine coach.
Chile's president Michelle Bachelet said it was an "honour" to have Bielsa coach their side.
Among the disciples of the Bielsa school of coaching is Gerardo "Tata" Martino, manager of Paraguay.
The Guaranies have already qualified for the World Cup, but Martino is still fine-tuning his squad for next year.
Recently-acquired Paraguayan passport in hand, the Argentine-born Nestor Ortigoza made his debut for his new country this weekend.
Now, Ortigoza is one of the best footballers in Argentina.
A hyperactive central midfielder with a stride like Gladstone Small, he's just as likely to produce a roulette a la Zinedine Zidane as he is to violently leap into a career-threatening challenge.
Ortigoza is the driving force behind Argentinos Juniors' midfield, and he could yet play a big part in the World Cup for Paraguay.
He is also the most openly machista footballer you are likely to find.
"I don’t want my girlfriend to work, that’s the man’s job. I want to get home and see the food on the table," he said earlier this week.
"We’ve been together for six years but we still don’t live together. I’m 24 and I still live with my mum.
"When I finish training I call home so the food’s ready when I get back. I don’t want to move in with my chica till I’m 27.
"First I want to buy a house for my mum and a car for my dad – and then think about a family."
And there’s more from a man who makes John McCririck sound like Andrea Dworkin.
"On Fridays I go out with mates and on Saturdays I go out with her. When I’m with the boys she can’t go out. I’m a man and can do that.
"If she wants, she can go to the plaza with her nephews and nieces and drink with her mum and grandmother. But she can’t go out clubbing."
Does she object?
"Most guys ask for their girlfriend’s permission to go out. Not me."
You don’t say.
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