It should have been a happy day for all the good people of River Plate. The Nuñez giants watched their two Colombian stars Carlos Carbonero fire them to a 2-0 home victory over Atletico Rafaela, propelling them to the heady heights of second in the table. The headlines should have been filled with praise for an accomplished performance, and the possibility of a first title since 2008; an eternity for one of Argentina’s biggest club.
Instead, thanks to bone-headed coach Ramón Díaz and his propensity for placing his foot squarely in the centre of his mouth, the football universe was dominated by one issue. Minutes after the game, ‘El Pelado’ grabbed a microphone to thank River Plate’s violent barrabrava the ‘Borrachos del Tablón‘ (The drunks of the terrace) for their unstinting support. The moment that football officially went insane is captured below:
“I’d like to thank all the people, principally the Borrachos del Tablón because they were the ones who motivated all the people”. Those were the coach’s words, uttered without any prompting from the typically anodyne interviewer following the match. The same Borrachos del Tablón that charge the ‘normal’ fans up to and more than 100 pesos to park their cars in the streets around the Monumental stadium. The same Borrachos who every now and then stage shoot-outs with rival factions, and who are implied in more than one death over the last few years.
The same Borrachos that club president Rodolfo D’Onofrio washed his hands of a couple of months back. “The barras would be around 200 or 300 people, and they are River members that we cannot discriminate against as long as they do not commit actions that would make them criminals and mean they could not enter the club,” was the chief’s bewildering response to the problem. As long as they support the team and try not to kill too many people, it is fine then?
I am no psychologist, but could his polemic declarations be in any way related to the banner that appeared in the Monumental stands on Sunday?
Football’s Twitterverse, of course, did not take long to come out against the misguided coach.
No ramón,los Borrachos del Tablón son lo peor del hincha de River. Ni son hinchas. Innecesarias declaraciones
— Javier Hernán Garcia (@javierhgarcia) April 13, 2014
“No Ramón, the Borrachos del Tablón are the worst of River’s fans. Not even fans. Unnecessary statements.” Javier García.
Ramón Díaz dijo q River mejoro “gracias a los Borrachos del Tablón q alentaron todo el tiempo”. Ahora está todo más claro. — Diego Fucks (Chavo) (@ChavoFuchs) April 13, 2014
“Ramón Díaz said that River improved ‘thanks to the Borrachos del Tablón that supported all the time.’ It is all a bit clearer now.”
Ramón Díaz bigging up River’s barra brava for their ‘support’. Not the fans – the barra. Way to ruin a fine victory. — Sam Kelly (@HEGS_com) April 13, 2014
“Having realised that he messed up, Díaz came out today in order to claim it was all a slip of the tongue.”
#River | Ramón Díaz: “Yo quise decir la popular y me salió “los borrachos del tablón”
— América & Closs (@AmericanCloss) April 14, 2014
“I meant to say the popular (terraced section of the stadium) and it came out “Los Borrachos del tablón.” Yeah, Freud would have a field day with this gentleman and his slips.
If that was not enough, everybody’s favorites social crusader Mauricio Macri came out to give his opinion on the matter. The subject sent the former Boca president and current mayor of Buenos Aires almost giddy with glee; he could criticize both River and the national government, while of course overlooking the fact that in his former club the barra ‘La 12’ are possibly the biggest, most powerful and murderous of all Argentine football’s many hooligan groups (La Nacion’s Ezequiel Fernando Moores explains here that under Macri, the barra enjoyed perks that ranged from free flights to Chile to actually playing knock-around games in the Boca training facilities).
“I think Ramón dropped the ball: he plays to the stands, always has, but with things how they are, the rejection of the barra and violence issue and what happened a few days ago, when a lot went to jail and a judge let them out the same afternoon, it was unnecessary to make that comment,” he told C5N.
This being dear Macri, and apparently forgetting that as City mayor he has a level of power and authority which would be the envy of most municipal leaders, he somehow moved the subject to the recent lynching incidents:
“We have never had such an absent state as now, we have even resigned ourselves to not having away fans, this means that 200 violent people are stronger than the Argentine state.”
But we digress. Both Díaz and Macri’s statements sum up the malaise Argentine football wallows in with respect to its more undesirable elements. Nobody will take responsibility for their own actions or words, and everything can be neatly blamed on a different branch of government or society in order to wash one’s own hands. It is almost enough to make you want to take up polo instead, as soon as I can wrangle a few horses.