River Plate and the Depth of My Sorrow
Between Wednesday, June 22, and Sunday, June 26, 2011, River Plate, the team I’ve been a fan of my entire life, was relegated to the second division of Argentina’s soccer league. The depth of my sadness during those days took me by surprise. Soccer has always been an important part of my life, and some of my first childhood memories are tied to River—my father taking me to the stadium, the lights, the greenest grass I had ever seen, the red and white waving flags, the whole place shaking when our team came out to the field. The news of River’s demotion—the winningest team in Argentina’s league history, and ninth in the historical rating of the International Federation of Soccer History & Statistics—startled fans throughout the world, and the incessant front page news about everything around it proved that interest extended well beyond the strict realm of sports. Even though it occurred to me that it might be interesting to tease out the significance of the signifiers around River’s decline (the national resonance of management’s corrupt practices, the crisis of cultural institutions at the core of popular imaginaries, the end of soccer as a tale of heroism unthinkable in other social spheres), but during those days when River could not beat Belgrano de Córdoba, this intellectual agenda seemed like a grandiloquent, pompous and trivial exercise compared to the narcissistic intensity of my sorrow.
Mariano Siskind is an Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University.