Friday, January 15, 2021

Apache: the Life of Carlos Tevez

Another Netflix show with a football theme is the Argentinean series of 8 episodes about the life of Carlos Tevez. The show includes short interviews with Tevez himself at the start of every episode which chronicle Carlos Tevez' childhood in the poor Argentinean neighbourhood of Fort Apache, and in particular his family's and friends' struggles amid poverty and violence. 

While the story follows Carlos Tevez early life, some episodes and characters have been changed, most notably the story of his friend Danilo Sanchez, "Uruguayo": in the show he is Tevez' best friend and a very talented footballer who is chosen ahead of Tevez to play on the youth side "Liniers", but ends up as a drug addict and dies in a shoot-out. The character is based on a friend of Tevez, Dario Coronel, and in the show represent a sad contrast to how life goes for Tevez, but also to the struggle that young people, footballers or not, have in the most marginalised places in Latin America. It is admirable that Tevez made it with his immense talent, but there are thousands of sad destinies as well.

The show ends with Tevez getting his debut for Boca Juniors as a 17-year old, with his family and friends watching proudly (and his admirable parents, who are not his biological parents, Segundo and Adriana). We all know what happened after in Tevez career: success in Cruzeiro, West Ham, Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus. At times full with controversy that led him to being an unpopular man in Manchester (because of the way he left both clubs), but also proof that Tevez is his own man, with strong roots in the place where he grew up, and an unconditional love and loyalty to his friends and family.

The show far exceeded my expectations, so I would recommend watching it.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Brazilian final

Yesterday Santos and Boca Juniors faced one another for the second final spot in the 2020 Copa America. Just as River Plate was unlucky against Palmeiras, Boca Juniors were poor as they never really rose to the occasion against an efficient and well-playing Santos side who won 3-0 on goals by Diego Pituca, Yeferson Soteldo and Lucas Braga. I was particularly impressed by the young Venezuelan, Soteldo, who scored a fantastic second goal, but all in all appeared as a fantastic player. It was the first time I saw him play, and hope to see him again.

With the all-Brazilian final we will at least be without the chaos of a River-Boca final as in 2018. After having watched both semifinals I see Santos as the favourites to take the title, which they took last time in 2011. Palmeiras are in their first final since 2000 (which they lost to Boca Juniors), and could take their first title since 1999.

The final will be played on January 30th on Maracana stadium.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


In the Copa Libertadores Semifinal second leg Palmeiras tonight faced River Plate in Sao Paulo. After River Plate had lost 0-3 at home in the first left, I did not have not big expectations to the match as I sat down and watched after a long day. But I was wrong as Marcelo Gallardo's side played a magnificent match and were ahead 0-2 at half-time, and continued attacking mercilessly against a Palmeiras side that at times seemed to be praying.

Palmeiras held, and made it to the final, after 10 minutes of added time and huge chances for River Plate. Despite of it being such an intense match, one left with the feeling that VAR had contributed negatively to its intensity as much of the added time was due to this. 

Gonzalo Montiel scored an excellent goal for River Plate to go ahead 0-3, but after a long time the referee cancelled the goal. For a long time it was impossible to see what happened (the commentators kept saying they could not see anything), but it appeared to be a very tight offside, two plays before the goal, where the ball appeared to be tackled into a player that was coming from an off-side position. Even after watching it five times, I had a hard time seeing the foul, and in the end VAR has helped nothing but Palmeiras and time-wasting.

A second situation was a penalty call for River Plate. For a long time they were ready to kick, until the referee decided to consult VAR, and then cancelled the penalty. This decision appeared less controversial, as the River player does appear to dive, but it is not definite, as there is a challenge. But the referee decision did not stand. In the last minute, another penalty situation (this time it was not given by the referee) could have gone River's way. Add to all this an extremely harsh red card for Robert Rojas, and one has the feeling that River Plate did not have bad luck, but rather VAR luck.

It is a pity, but I do not think that the leaders of football are using VAR the right way; in the end it just becomes another layer to controversy...

Palmeiras will face either Santos or Boca Juniors, who will face one another tomorrow in Sao Paulo, after 0-0 in the first leg.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Edison Cavani and racism

Edison Cavani is being investigated for racism. The Manchester United striker thanked a friend on Twitter with the expression "Gracias Negrito".

Now, in most places in Latin America, including Cavani´s Uruguay, Negro is not an insult, but an endearing term. I have friends and family members that we call "El Negro", and that cultural context is a thing that is grossly missing in this accusation against Mr. Cavani, who can and should not be accused for racism for this.

All this is not to say that racism does not exist in Latin America: it certainly does, and too little is done to fight it. However, an expression as that used by Mr. Cavani is not racist (ask the friend he said it to), and must be understood in the cultural context in which he used the expression, which remains very common. The risk here is that the justified fight against racism is reduced to correcting petty cultural misunderstandings that have little or nothing to do with the real fight against the scourge of racism.

I hope that the FA will see this and not punish Edison Cavani.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Last-16 of Champions League 2020-21

 The groups stages of this season's Champions League has been weird, without spectators much of the atmosphere has been absent, and it probably has had some influence on teams that have also had cases of Corona-virus inside the club. There have nevertheless been interesting, good and surprising matches, and after the end of the group stages, these are the last-16 clashes:

  • Borussia Monchenglandbach-Manchester City: The advance of the German side is a small surprise, as they left behind Shakhtar Donetsk and a poor Inter Milan side, and were close to taking the first spot from mighty Real Madrid. They will have to play their best as they face a Manchester City side that was never in doubt when winning its group with 5 victories and one tie.
  • Lazio-Bayern Munich: The defending champions of Bayern Munich have been awesome with five victories and a tie, and an impressive score of 18-5. In my view, the German side are the strongest contenders to take the title. Lazio got through in an exciting final 2-2 match against Club Brugge, who was only centimeters from making it through. The Italians have not lost any matches, but gone through with two victories and four ties.
  • Atletico Madrid-Chelsea: Probably two teams that did not want to face one another. Despite some difficulties in losing to Red Star Salzburg, Atletico Madrid made it through behind Bayern Munich, and remain one of the most difficult sides to face in the competition. Chelsea made it through ahead of Sevilla in a group where the only competition was about which of those two sides would win the group: Chelsea made sure it was them by an impressive 0-4 victory in Seville.
  • RB Leipzig-Liverpool: Liverpool won its group ahead of Atalanta, and are looking strong despite some signs of weakness in some matches (they did not look good in any of the matches against the minnows of FC Midtjylland). But Liverpool normally rises to the occasion and will have to do it against a Leipzig side that made it through in a complicated group, behind Paris Saint Germain on goal difference, and ahead of a poor Manchester United side. RB Leipzig made it to the semifinal last season and is looking for a surprise repeat.
  • FC Porto-Juventus: Although going through behind Manchester City, FC Porto also went through with style, winning all their matches except against the English side. It may be argued that it was an easy group, so their real test will come against Juventus. The Italians won their group ahead of FC Barcelona, where a 0-3 away victory was particularly impressive, with two goals by the COVID-recovering Ronaldo. The Italian side seems increasingly to depend on the skills of the Portuguese Maestro, but probably will be expecting to get ahead of Porto.
  • FC Barcelona-Paris St. Germain: This is probably the most expected match. Despite five victories in the group stages (including an away win at Juventus) FC Barcelona is in crisis as Lionel Messi does not seem to be comfortable in the team any longer. This is a pity for any football fan, but also represents an opportunity for Paris St. Germain, where Neymar and Mbappe have been important in a team that otherwise struggled a bit to win their group ahead of Leipzig. This match will be hugely important for both clubs.
  • Sevilla-Borussia Dortmund: Two very exciting teams face one another. Borussia Dortmund won their group ahead of Lazio, and their young Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland has continued pouring in goals. Sevilla made it through behind Chelsea in a group where Krasnodar and Rennes did not represent the strongest opposition, and did lose 0-4 at home to Chelsea, so they will have to prove they are better against the Germans.
  • Atalanta-Real Madrid: Real Madrid won their group despite struggling; they lost twice to Shakhtar Donetsk (who did not make it through) and only a last minute 2-2 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach put them in first place. But Real Madrid are Real Madrid and probably still favourites against Atalanta. The Italian side made it through behind Liverpool and against Mayern Munich, and their continued attacking but open style makes them vulnerable to better attacking sides, as their 0-5 home defeat to Liverpool is proof of.

 The last sixteen are are dominated by the big European leagues: four German teams, four Spanish, three Italian, three English, and one each for France and Portugal. The most noteworthy eliminations were probably that of an insecure and disorganized Manchester United side, and a poor Inter Milan side where Antonio Conte has not managed to get the best out of some marvelous players.