The new format of the Primera Nacional is the latest chapter in a long history of teasing a passion that is very difficult to give up.
With my brother we had found the perfect fun for the weekends. Well, not so much as perfect. Because it’s true: we did get excited with the radio, we scored goals with sticks and updated the table “live” on the Only football from the previous week. But we couldn’t share it with Dad. For him, the whole question was absolutely foreign. He would read the newspaper or a book, sometimes on the sofa in the living room, sometimes on the balcony if the weather was good. And if we made him a comment about the great game that Atlanta had won in Rosario or even about whether his mouth had been first after triumphing in the Superclassic, he would just smile under his beard.
What was wrong with that man? How could I ignore such a possibility that life gave us to get out of the boredom of the weekends?
Because we are going to be frank: in the name of nostalgia some will speak of the wonder of that past of naivety, of games in the square and of “the healthy thing.” But for today’s kids, fun is much more at hand, with online games, instagrammers, youtubers (who show how they play online) and programs on all platforms. For the young people of yesterday, things were much more complicated without televised football, with five air channels and “Sundays for Youth” as the main alternative to movies that smelled like mothballs on other channels.
What problem did Don Ernesto have with that party to deprive himself of such emotions?
One day I asked him.
I presumed that he was going to answer me on the side of ideology. That he would tell me again that soccer was the new opium of the peoples, that it prevented the workers from becoming aware of the oppression to which they are subjected under capitalism. But he confessed to me that the break had occurred due to a specific situation.
He told me about the 1948 championship, which Independiente and Racing played hand in hand until a strike by professional footballers was decreed in the final stretch. The leaders of that time decided to continue, despite the fact that the spirit of the tournament had obviously been altered, and the title traveled to the hands of the Red while the games were played to strikeouts. “You can’t give this a ball”, thought dad, who was 9 years old at the time.
Part of that champion team was José Pedro Battagliero. A crack who in 1940 was the figure of Atlanta who was saved from relegation on the last date, by putting a striking 6-4 -the first half ended 6-0- to an Independent who no longer fought for anything. In the following tournament, Battagliero went to Red. And the ball kept rolling.
My bond with soccer became stronger over time. Although I knew the history of Battagliero, the one of the championship of the 48 and the one of people who in the bathrooms of the Almirante Brown court heard how the fate of two points was negotiated in the dressing room. In the moment of truth suspended disbelief at the service of the utopia of Atlanta.
That is why there was a celebration with friends in the neighborhood of the promotion of last year, without it mattering one bit that the joy came after the AFA had decided in the middle of the championship that instead of two there would be five teams that would rise from category. And that’s also why the illusion grew when the team, after mistrust about how it would adapt to the First National, became the leader of its area and made us believe that it could return to the A after 36 years.
During the break we hear different versions. Those that spoke of a possible promotion by desk and also those that said that Atlanta could enter the semifinals of a reduced tournament, as a prize for the first place it had when everything was suspended. And even another nonsense: that a tournament would be played that started from zero and in which the chances of the one who went first were equalized with those of the eighth. That nonsense that was the one that the AFA ended up approving this Monday.
“It’s amazing that we still like this.” “If I don’t look forward I have to retire from being a fan, and I don’t think I can.” In the groups of friends, the phrases haunted the spirit of that of papa. He had no desire to see the draw on Thursday, until one, a psychologist, warned: “On the 28th we will be as always. We know it.” You are probably right.
And it is that at this point giving up football would mean giving up too much. To the pleasure of going to the court, which is missed like few other things. To many talks with friends, many of whom were from football and now are from life. And so, as hostages to that life that we build – while we wait for a time to come when, even out of shame, it will hide a little more – we will be waiting when Atlanta plays again. Although dad was right and there are plenty of reasons to understand that you can not give this a ball.