The Beauty and the Beasts.
I was in the nose-bleed section of the Azteca stadium and saw the apocalyptic final of the Pan American games between Mexico and Brazil that ended up as a tie when power in the stadium went out. It was the first time I witnessed the popular local ritual of the “agua de riñón” (kidney water). A drunkard sitting next to me passed me a fetid warm paper cup and asked me to contribute. The cup was half full with urine. Once he figured I wouldn’t dare to help him filling it he threw it down to the more expensive level of the stadium beneath us shouting, “here goes the kidney water!”
Years after, my father took my sister and I to see the most legendary World Cup game. Great Britain kept those freezing rocky islands in the South Atlantic but Diego Armando Maradona beat England two to one and later lifted the cup for Argentina. While he was doing slalom with the British defense and scoring with the help of “God’s hand” I saw two Englishmen wearing their national team jerseys charge against hundreds of Argentinean fans that were dancing with a stolen Union Jack. It was the most stupid act of courage I had ever seen. They ended up rolling down the stairs like tumbleweeds. All hell was breaking loose to the hypnotic beat of drums. A fat guy down below was wearing the light blue striped jersey and punching Brits all around them - beer was flying. A lot of hooligans were arrested that day, after vandalizing the neighborhood. It has been said that rugby is a beastly sport played by gentlemen and soccer is a sport of gentlemen played by beasts.
Not any more. Now the sport of the “El Primitivo” Madariaga and the “Hunchback from Coapa” Cuauhtemoc Blanco, is mutating in the United States into a suburban game where mommies drive their kids to play in SUV’s and is mostly played by women. Another extreme mythological transformation is happening. Through David Beckham the game is being sanitized, associated with the rich and the beautiful and made palatable to Anglo America.
While San Francisco competes as the capital of “football” with places like Dallas and Green Bay, Los Angeles places itself around cities like Milan, London, Buenos Aires, Rio and Barcelona. Beckham is certainly not the best soccer player in the world, or from Europe, or England even. He wasn’t the best player for Real Madrid. In fact, he might not even be the best player in the Los Angeles Galaxy. However he is blonde, cute, metro-sexual, relatively decent, married to Posh Spice and friend of Tom Cruise. His cockney accent connotes Hollywood on this side of the pond. His soccer skills are eccentric and not good enough to make England or the Galaxy win, but will his beauty tame the beasts?