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.

5 comments:

The New Reader said...

Hah :) Sounds fun...

But why Santa? Why not Sport, the best club of all times and the city's daddy? A good people's team? huh?

James Young said...

I think it's like cat people and dog people. People who like dogs don't understand why people who like cats like cats. And people who like cats don't understand why people who like dogs like dogs. When I first arrived in Recife I went to the Ilha and didn't like it - all that choreographed singing and nasty air of arrogance. Then I went to Arruda and immediately felt at home. I like dogs, and Sport remind me of a particularly smug, unloveable cat, whereas Santa remind me of a big shaggy dog that needs a good meal and a bath. If that makes any sense at all....

The New Reader said...

Yeah, Santa is a big shaggy fleabag alright...lol..
I kid, I kid...no, it isn't :)Although I'm not a fan of the Tricolor do Arruda, Santa is ten times better than nautico, I'll give you that.

"all that choreographed singing"
aaaw, come on! the coreographed singing is one of the most beautiful things ever! You should have seen that crowd during the Copa Libertadores. It was beautiful. Really. It made me even more rubronegra than before.
The "Cazá, cazá cazá" moment is always so perfect! You don't have anything like that in Santa do ya?

"And nasty air of arrogance"
whah? No arrogance at all in my beautiful Sport! My club, in it's glorious perfection, aggregates people from all income groups, all colors and shapes and religions, it's almost like the beach, but better. I even made friends with a guy who stole my wallet last month there. There's no room for arrogance there. It's pure harmony all around. No, really. Arrogance is in the pink barbie's kingdom. The rat. The barbie's house, the chiqueirinho, the club known for it's elitism/racism (and brown people who think they're white)

smug, unloveable cat...not at all. It's the great Lion of the Island!!! Sorry that you root for the snake but then again...better than the rat. Definitely.






But it could be soooo much better. Roooaaarr! Saudações rubronegras!

Richard said...

After the latest defeat, is that the end for Santa? Is there now going to be a Serie E?

James Young said...

Richard - see future pointless wafflings for further information on Santa´s sufferings...