Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Forget the glaciers in Patagonia, the waterfalls at Iguazú, the Andes, sipping on mate, trying your hand at tango or just sitting down to enjoy a XXL steak and bottle of Malbec in Buenos Aires.
When it comes to the real Argentine experience, it doesn’t get any more authentic than drinking Fernet.
Consisting of between 30 and 50 different herbs and weighing in with a minimum alcohol content of 43 percent, it is the national drink of choice in Argentina, despite its Italian origins.
(Given the number of Argentines, footballers included, who claim – in every sense of the word – Italian nationality, perhaps this shouldn’t be such a surprise).
Despite its popularity, anyone who has tried Fernet will have a clear understanding of why it has been described as the ‘liqueur of Hades.’
The creators evidently considered the ‘taste’ aspect of their product to be of secondary importance.
It can be a great starter fuel for a night out, but once you’ve watered it down with cola, it supposedly works a treat at settling dodgy stomachs and can even cure hangovers - presumably the one it gave you in the first place.
Any gringo slurping on Fernet will, despite the grimace on their face, instantly win over the Argentines for fully embracing the local culture and putting up with something which, when it comes down to it, despite the novelty value and dizzying effect, is still pretty disgusting and rather overrated.
And that, in a roundabout way, brings us to this weekend’s Superclásico.
We all know that it’s been rated as one of the must-see spectacles in world sport and is considered one of the most violent derbies in club football.
It ruins friendships, dominates conversations in the build-up and is hyped up with a serious lack of any sense of proportion.
Not even a midweek bout of the Ssshhhhampions League was enough to deflect attention from the game. (In a stunning piece of scheduling genius, both channels televising the live game from Europe decided to show the same game...)
Not even Maradona appearing on TV saying that Carlos Bilardo wanted to kick AFA president Julio Grondona out office could dethrone the fixture from the lead headline in the sports sections of the papers.
Tickets sold out by 3pm on Tuesday. Argie Bargy knows this because having arrived at 2pm, it was approximately an hour after standing in a queue that the news filtered along the line that the tickets had sold out.
Or so said the club.
"I want to speak to a director or I’m going to tear the club down," screamed one particularly irate supporter, whose threat was seconded and thirded by the equally irate supporters within earshot, all of them refusing to believe that more than 35,000 tickets had been sold in just a few hours.
The Superclásico falls on matchday 10 – the midway point of the campaign – although that in itself is not news.
For some years now the River-Boca clash has been conveniently programmed to avoid trouble at the business end of the season should either be challenging for honours.
For now, there is no chance of that happening. Whatever Boca say about challenging for the title, there is one thing that nobody can deny – this weekend’s Superclásico is hardly a title decider – it’s 10th against 16th.
Its Premier League equivalent is Burnley against Wolves. In Spain the tie would be Athletic against Tenerife. Italians would hardly get in a sweat over Chievo-Cagliari.
These are all important fixtures for their respective supporters, no doubt, but they hardly represent the nation’s showcase match.
All the same, Boca’s players have 500,000 (American) incentives to qualify for the Libertadores, which means a win is vital.
They go into the game favourites, having won their last three after a dire start to the campaign.
At River, Leo Astrada is still trying to come up with some semblance of a team from the rubble left for him by Néstor Gorosito a few weeks back.
Without a recognised centre-forward to pick, Astrada is doing the sensible thing and trying to shore up a defence that makes Atlético Madrid’s back-line look thoroughly accomplished.
Given the nature of such games, (cliché alert) anything could happen this weekend.
But if it turns out to be a drab low-scoring match, fear not. In Fernet we trust.
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