Sunday, 12 July 2009

Now. Cold-ish for Pernambuco, and outside there is a view of the moon hanging blue and cold in a clear black sky, only of course it’s not really cold at all but a balmy enough for sitting in your pants and drinking a beer in the garden (though who would do such a thing?) 20-25 degrees. Anyway - who cares about any of that? Whether the weather be good and so on. What’s really got me thinking, and I don’t know why, is the memory of a small leaf blowing in the wind I wrote some time ago, based on a big trunk of a tree by Stephen King (yes, I know), about how a really great day was not necessarily a day of fireworks and birthday candles and splitting a can of Guarana with Thais Araujo, but simply an ordinary day in which the worth of being alive, and therefore life’s small kindnesses and blessings, are felt enough to be, um, felt. Anyway, the only thing to say about all of that is that probably I was quite wrong, because such days are good but not great, and to be really great, well, generally something terrible needs to happen.

No surprise to anyone that the thing that has brought me to such a conclusion is, of course, Santa Cruz Futebol Clube. Strange (and no doubt annoying to anyone reading) enough, this obsession – I am living in a very foreign country (not that it’s so foreign anymore, in fact it is more home than anywhere else on the planet, but it’s not where I was born and raised and so foreign it is) with no end of very foreign funniness to write about (like why in Brazil do men on long distance bus journeys not only recline heftily back in their seats, but also fling one arm up and over their heads, so draping a meaty forearm and fist down an inch or so in front of the face of the passenger behind?), and am involved in an adult (-ish) relationship, which in turn should provide no end of comedy and life lessons, and I have a dog, and even a small car, and and and… but, well, what can I say? Santa are Santa, all the good and bad and comedy and tragedy in the world rolled into one big happy angry mess, and I’ve hooked my dinghy to this particular trawler, and I’m in it for the long haul.

Last week, you see, as I mentioned, 6,000 tricolores and 30 or 40 odd players and directors and coaches and all the rest of it headed down the coast to Maceio for Santa’s debut amongst the horrors of Serie D. And what a day it was – a raucous bus journey down (plenty of hands flung behind heads, plenty of Pitu, plenty of heads stuck out windows as the convoy rolled through the small towns of southern Pernambuco and Alagoas), a few hours lolling on the pretty little beaches of Maceio, then off to the architecturally challenged Rei Pele stadium. Blue and white flags and smoke bombs going off on one side (CSA, the hapless opposition), red black and white on the other (the glorious Tricolor). Your bog-standard jaw-dropping afternoon in the nordeste – a blue and burnished gold sky, a few cotton-candy clouds idling overhead, a pink and orange glow somewhere along the horizon as the sun brushed its teeth and prepared to bed down for the night. A plot had been hatched between long-term allies and chums CSA’s Mancha Azul and Santa’s Inferno Coral, some of whom, contrary to media headlines and other blog writers who should know better, eat with knives and forks and have learnt to use telephones and email and have conversations and organise things other than rioting and banditry. The plot was simple enough – everyone was to listen to Bill Callahan’s Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle over breakfast on the day of the game - and as a result buses throughout the city and the state would be full of love and acapella renditions of If You Could Only Stop Your Heartbeat For One Heartbeat instead of Inferno Ate Morrer and other more gruesome anthems. And so, thanks to Bill, the world became a glorious pizza topping of beatific smiles and handshakes and huggy wuggys with Santa fans wearing blue CSA shirts and vice-versa, and big Inferno flags over on the CSA side, and a giant Mancha Azul flag draped up behind the Santa goal, and in the second half a wonderful intermingling of supporters that should be the practice at every football game ever, apart from games where a team I like plays a team I don’t like, when such friendliness would dilute all the hatred and make things much too pleasant and American.

And I even remember thinking that Santa were sure to lose, because things just don’t generally work out this way, in fact things are usually rubbish and nothing much that you really look forward to is ever as good as you thought it was going to be. All true enough, except this time things did work out as planned, and Santa caroused and jigged and pranced like drunken ponies and generally had their wicked way with CSA throughout the smoky glistening afternoon, and the galaticos – Juninho, Thiago Laranjeiras, Marco Mendes and Alexandre Oliveira on this peachy day – waved up at the Inferno hordes and jumped on each others` backs three times – which meant it finished 3-0 Santa.

And so on the way back to the bus I said to someone – what a perfect day, knowing, thanks to Mr X, that it couldn’t really end like this. Because Mr X has told me a hundred stories about going to watch football games in places far from home, and how it can seem like a good idea at the time, but how it never, ever, ever is. Mr X’s best story was from when he was living in Manchester, and he and five friends – Moggy, Spoggo, Flossy, Grips and Zesty, we might call them – headed three hours down the M6 in two cars for a Manchester City night game against a team Mr X can no longer remember. After the game Mr X (who was driving one of the cars) waited a long time for his friends. After 45 minutes he decided they must all have headed back up to Manchester in the other car. When Mr X was about an hour outside the city whose name he can no longer remember he idly glanced to his left. Then to his right. Then to his left again, this time with his mouth hanging slightly open, because there was the other car with Moggy, Zesty and Grips in it. And no Spoggo and Flossy. Mr X and the other car pulled onto the hard-shoulder. Mr X and Moggy resolved to go back to the city without a name to look for Spoggo and Flossy (no mobile phones in such sepia tinged days). Mr X and Moggy drove around the city in thick, crusty snow and thick, crusty fog for an hour and a half. Mr X and Moggy gave up and drove back to Manchester. On the outskirts of Manchester Mr X and Moggy were stopped by the police. The police found a cheerful crumb of an illicit substance in Moggy’s pocket. Mr X went to the police station with Moggy. Mr X waited five hours for Moggy to be released. Mr X got home at 7.00 am. Mr X called Spoggo and Flossy the next day. Flossy told him how he and Spoggo had hitched a ride from another, BMW driving, single malt whiskey proffering City fan, and had been tucked up in bed by midnight. Mr X felt very sad when he heard this news, sad for himself, sad for Moggy, sad for all God’s little creatures.

And while the trip back home from Maceio wasn’t quite as much fun as all that, it did involve being the sleeping-with-the-window-open victim of a Young Chap With A Country Moustache standing on the corner of Hicksville, Alagoas with too much time on his hands and too many eggs in his pockets (clue: kersplatt, jesus Ma, I´m hit!). The best comment on such mischievousness, apart from that it’s all part of life’s rich pageant and it doesn’t do to be getting too upset about it, is that at least Young Chap With A Country Moustache had enough sense to throw his eggs at our bus and not one of the Inferno buses, in which case Young Chap With A Country Moustache, Young Chap With A Country Moustache’s Home and Young Chap With A Country Moustache’s Small Village would have been razed to the ground in approximately 47.5 seconds.

And not just that – our wheezing bus began gagging and spluttering even more dramatically somewhere around Ipojuca, and soon gave up the ghost of Tricolor’s past on a small hill surrounded by creaking sugar cane and shattered trees with branches reaching up like some scary kind of skeleton fingers, which prompted one hitherto bullish young buck behind me to moan it’s like a frickin’ horror film out here. Horror film or not, nothing much to do but stand and wait to be robbed or saved, and after three hours in the darkness, and two or three menacing little groups of men on motorbikes out on a deserted country road at 3am driving very slowly and looking very hard at our bus, and one or two disinterested police drive-bys (it’s not safe out here, lads, you want to get yourselves home sharpish / why, thank you officer, we’ll certainly consider it), and a lot more Pitu and some carefully rationed Clube Social crackers and a lot of jokes and rain and what not, though precious little complaining, Bus No.2 came rolling out from Recife and we were saved.

And the reason for the telling of all this is that, back on the road again sometime around 4am, knowing we were not far from home, with the rain pouring down in the blackness and the small crucifix and rosary beads of the driver knocking back and forth against the windscreen, and sleep making thoughts and body warm and heavy and slow, and the bus growing silent and drowsy at last, I felt the day already slipping into memory, and in all its adventures and joy and small frustrations, slipping into a kind of fiction too, even though most of it's true, and so slipping into both my past and, in its eventual retelling, my future.

Which is, you see, the point of everything, at least for me.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A (mercifully) quick one, this. And yes, it’s about pissing football again, so sorry in advance. Around a year ago (and yes, Your Life Is An Impossibility is now approximately 15 months old! Happy Birthday, Your Life Is An Impossibility! Vote now, readers, for your least favourite story/bit, and win a big yellow fruit from the garden and a Santa shirt signed by Adilson! (see entry dated 3 May 2009)), the writer of all this nonsense set off on a epic adventure with Santa Cruz Futebol Clube and the infamous Inferno Coral around the nordeste of Brazil. The reason for such meanderings, of course, was O Mais Querido’s bound-to-be glorious campaign in Serie C of the Brazilian Championship. Alas, nothing is as glorious as staying in your own bed, as Oblomov might have said, and Santa proved woeful even by their own rotten standards. Your writer’s quixotic wanderings got no further than Campina Grande, as Santa were knocked out in the second phase, and therefore, dear readers, were relegated to no lesser joy than playing in Serie D in 2009.

And Serie D didn’t even exist until this year! Caramba!

Now. Faust and Robert Johnson (nice photo above courtesy of sold their souls to the devil, the former in exchange for knowledge, the latter for some nifty blues fingers. Fans of Recife's Sport (including Mr Anonymous, our welcome new reader) clearly bartered such flimsy souls as they have in return for winning the tatty bauble that is the Copa Do Brasil last year. My question is, and I bet you’re dying to know yourself – just where can you find a good devil when you want one? (A few flippant suggestions for starters: the Collor family estate in Alagoas, Eamonn Holmes’ house (, here -, Tony Parson’s house…and you get the idea).

To explain. As a young whippersnapper of 18 I moved from Belfast to Manchester, ostensibly to study something I can’t quite remember, but really so I could watch Manchester City every week. City were in the English First Division at the time. Every week found me on the Kippax in the pissing rain. Within four years a pre-richestclubintheworld City found themselves halfway down the Third Division. I pickedupsticks for London. City improved dramatically.

A poker hand of years after that Brazil beckoned. I lived in Belo Horizonte. I was (and still am) Atleticano - of course, because as everyone knows Atletico are o time do povo in BH. One year later – Atletico are relegated to Serie B for the first time in their history.

Wracked by guilt, I flee to João Pessoa, where thank Eamonn, there’s no football. Until I get to Recife. And I´m not going to tell the story again (see entry dated 4 July 2008). All I need to say is that Santa were sitting comfortably in Serie B when I got here and became tricolor até morrer.

And now look!

So if anyone knows an angry man with a red face and pointy ears and a pitchfork can you please give me his number, please? Because tomorrow morning all this foolishness starts again, and I’m bound for the Tricentenario Hospital around the corner here in Amaro Branco, where in the murky dawn (5am, to be precise. 5am!) we’ll all (the neighbours, or at least the tricolores amongst them) board a battered bus and roll the 265km down to Maceio (a three hour journey at best, and the game’s not until 4pm, but the rest of the bus gang want to hit the beaches for a few hours before the game – not something that happened too often during City away days in Middlesbrough), to see Santa take on (but not lose to, please, Eamonn!) CSA in the first game of the 2009 Brasileirão Serie D.

Santa have done their bit – chewing the ears off Sport and Nautico in the first round of the Pernambuco Championship this year, before fading a little in the second round and finishing a decent enough third, then after a few of their big dogs (albeit that in a global footballing context Santa’s big dogs aren’t much more than Jack Russells) went off to seek their fortunes elsewhere, retooling the cast with promising locals, or more appropriately once promising but now a bit down on their luck locals.

So spectacular were Santa’s signings that this writer became infuriated by the coverage of such minor international events as Real Madrid ponying up for Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká, and the sad passing of Diana Ross’s prettier sister Michelle Jackson Ross, and the regular dessert spoonful of plane crashes and North Korean missile tests – who cares about all of that? When Santa are building a galaticos midfield of not just Anderson, Gobatto, Alexandre Oliveira and Neto Maranhão, but Juninho and Thiago Laranjeiras as well! And favourite beach football star Roger is staying, and that can only be good news, because everyone knows that every Brazilian team has to have at least one player called Roger!

So cancel all that stuff about looking up D.E.V.I.L. in the Yellow Pages or Lista Online, ‘cos I think I’ve found the scamp, and he's not dressed as a big cat or a prostitute and he's not hanging out in 1930s Moscow (that's it! that's what I was studying in Manchester! Books!), but he might well be living well in a seedy worker's motel in Afogados. Because clearly someone in the Fernando Bezerra Coelho camp (see entry dated 5th February 2009) met old Louis Cipher (quoting Mickey Rourke movies – a dark day indeed) at midnight in the Praça Do Derby a few weeks ago, and while this fellow stout of heart might have got a big sack of gold from Fernando for his trouble, he might well be feeling a bit low in the soul department. Or I hope he is, because I really don’t want to be crawling back from Maceio in the dark and the rain after Santa have got their backsides kicked by a bunch of clowns from Alagoas.

PS. And as I write news comes over the wireless that Santos have opened up a can of whup ass on nasty old Sport down in São Paulo (state). Eamonn bless you, Mr Bub!