Wednesday, July 13, 2011

River Plate's Soccer Socrates


Earlier this month, I wrote about the demotion of Club Atlético River Plate to the second division of Argentine soccer - a descent so stunning that it that it devastated the team’s devoted fans. For something comparable in North America, you’d have to imagine the New York Yankees finishing last in the American League East and then being consigned to the AAA International League.

Two of my nephews in Buenos Aires are dedicated River fans, but neither of them would go ballistic at the team’s relegation – it might have disappointed them, but they’ll recover quickly. Certainly they’ll avoid the reactions of superfan Santiago “El Tano” Pasman, whose family videoed him watching River’s debacle against Belgrano de Córdoba in their living room and then uploaded the footage to Youtube, where it went viral (my friend Nicolás Kugler, who recently helped update the pending third edition of Moon Handbooks Patagonia, forwarded the link to me). Its title translated into English as “Reactions of a Peaceful Man,” the video has been seen nearly five million times.

Pasman, a 52-year-old businessman in the Buenos Aires province suburb of Bella Vista, seems ready to wreak violence on the television as River starts badly and gets worse. He rails against players, coaches and even advertisers in a torrent of emotional obscenities that viewers of the video posted above have to guess at if they don’t understand colloquial Argentine Spanish. In reality, El Tano’s tone leaves little doubt about the meaning, but those who really want an idea of what specific words and phrases mean can go to the English-subtitled version here (note: because of the subtitles, seeing this version may require signing in to Google). Not all the translations are equally accurate, but you’ll get the gist.

I don’t know Pasman, obviously, but it’s interesting to speculate on his background. His surname sounds Jewish, and Argentina has one of the world’s largest Jewish communities outside of Israel. His nickname, though, means “The Italian” - “Tano” is short for Napolitano or Neapolitan, as most Argentines refers to Italians. On the other hand, many Argentines can trace their ancestry to Croatia, where the island of Pasman sits off the Dalmatian coast – an area with historic links with Italy across the Adriatic Sea.

Whatever his origins, Pasman has certainly had his moment of fame and, perhaps, seeing his video may persuade hyper-serious sports fans to consider how they look to others. For his part, El Tano considers himself a reserved person – in an interview with the Buenos Aires daily Clarín, Pasman insisted that “I’m a quiet kind of guy” whose daily routine consists of “working, going to the gym, playing soccer and having a morning coffee with my friends.” Of course, that kind of guy isn’t nearly so entertaining to watch.

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