Escocia, Argentinos! Vamos! Hoot Mon The Noo!
December 27, 2011
— albiceleste, ariel ortega, arnoldo pencliffe, ballon d'or, boca juniors, claudio caniggia, confederations cup, diego maradona, diego simeone, gabriel batistuta, juan roman riquelme, la masia, lanus, lionel messi, lisandro lopez, newell's old boys, pablo aimar, peter beardsley, river plate
by Emelie Okeke
Alphonso loved the nostalgia, especially the late 1980s vintage. And why not? That hallowed period will forever and a day will be remembered as a golden era for followers of La Albiceleste. Whether you’re a devotee of River Plate or Boca Juniors, or indeed Newell’s Old Boys, those were good times to be an Argentine. After the triumphant ticker-tape carnival of Buenos Aires 1978, the halcyon days overflowed into the following decade, with a Maradona-inspired victory in Mexico in 1986.
The good vibrations did not stop in the ‘90s, either. Yet another World Cup final appearance, this time in Italy, and successive Copa America victories in ‘91 and ‘93, all thanks to the exciting new generation: Batistuta, Simeone, Roa, Caniggia…
Ah, Claudio Caniggia. Alphonso’s all-time favourite. Not like these imposters nowadays. Not like these failures who have perennially let faithful Alphonso down for 18 straight years. Supposed modern saints and “new Maradonas” — more like prima donnas — have come and gone without a tint of silverware. The Olympics? An Under-23 tournament is hardly something to pop the cork over. Ortega, Lopez, Riquelme, Aimar. All of them dined out on the plaudits they received from the stands, feted for their immeasurable talent. Yet, with the famous blue and white striped number 10 shirt on their back, they all played as if their boots were made of lead. Bastardos.
The good times really have been few and far between. Yes, Argentina always looked impressive in the group stages of major tournaments, and, yes, they could scare the life out of Peru. But Alphonso craved more than that. Look at what Brazil had achieved in the last 18 years: three World Cup finals, continental prizes, Confederations Cups, all those Ballon d’Ors.
“Oh when will another one of ours be hailed as the world’s best?”
Well, Alphonso’s prayers were answered in the shape a of 5’ 6” playmaking, goalscoring, show-stopping demigod, schooled in the fine arts by the Catalans of La Masia. Lionel Andrés Messi. He would be the one to drag Argentina back, kicking and screaming, to the pinnacle where they rightly belong. Alphonso was convinced that Buenos Aires, the place where it all began, would herald a new dawn for Argentine fútbol. At 17.45 on 24 July 2011 the long-suspended ticker-tape carnival could resume.
Alas, no. Quarter-finals, again. Defeat by penalties, again. Yet another disappointment, yet another tournament victory for the old foe, Uruguay. Another coach out the door. A disgusting situation; Alphonso was a true ABU: Anyone But Uruguay. The Brazilians could have 10 more World Player of the Year awards as long as poor long-suffering Alphonso never had to see those Gauchos win another match. Messi — was he not the chosen one? Apparently not. Bring in the next demigod!
Alphonso walked through the Santa Fé streets, just another blue and white-laden drop in the spillover of disappointment emanating from the Elephant’s Graveyard. It was nicknamed so in homage to Colon’s numerous giant-killing victories over the years in that cavernous old stadium, cutting the likes of Boca and Newell’s down to size. And River Plate too, when they used to befit the title ‘giants’.
The local taberna. The rank odours of cigarettes and stale beer fighting to win out over the aromas of empanadas, carlitos and espresso. Loud cursory rants and gesticulations over the ills of the composition of the present-day national team. Glass of the Rioja. Large. Then another. Then another. Then a… double malt whiskey?! Indeed — courtesy of Wallace, who would explain everything; Wallace, with whom Alphonso would forge a kinship that would re-establish links spanning two centuries; Wallace, who would take up the story on how his Scottish forefathers put Argentina on the path to world domination.
“Youse lads canna, nay, should na forgit wha’ da Broon clan did for yous.” Wallace had resided in Latin America for the best part of half of century yet still retained his rich Scots brogue. It was hard enough for those Argentines fluent in English to decipher, let alone those inhabitants of Santa Fé who communicated with the red-headed extranjero in their mother tongue, Espanol.
Fortunately for Alphonso, comprehension of the harsh Celtic inflective was near second nature, thanks to numerous pilgrimages to Dens Park and Ibrox to watch his hero Caniggia in action for Dundee and Rangers, towards the book-end of the legendary forward’s career. Aye, Wallace had a story about wee Claudio too. Born and raised in Henderson, Buenos Aires. Henderson, named after a Scottish clan who settled in Argentina’s largest province in the 19th century.
However, a more significant influence on football in this proud, mountainous nation, with a firm agricultural backbone, a long history of sporting, cultural and, indeed, military adversity with England — this is Argentina we’re speaking of here by the way, not Scotland — is the aforementioned Brown family. Farmer James Brown arrived in Monte Grande in the spring of 1825 with his wife Mary, seeking a better life on the Argentine plains. Five of his grandsons would go on to play for the couple’s adopted country. Jorge Gibson Brown was the most illustrious of his brotherhood, representing La Albiceleste 23 times, playing the majority of his club career for Lanús and the now-defunct Alumni Athletic Club.
Jorge would turn out for his country with brother Ernesto and cousin Juan Domingo in the same game in 1910, against Uruguay. The enemy. Alphonso flinched at the mere mention of the name. He then bristled with pride as the wizened Wallace regaled with tales of how the three Browns gave the Uruguayans what for in the Copa Centenario of 101 years ago.
“Amon’ tha scorers tha’ day were an Arnoldo Pencliffe, Watson Hutton, and a nippy wee striker lad, Jose Enrique Hayes — known as Harry Hayes. Son of English immigrunts. We nay bother talk ‘bout him much, the Hayes lad.” Alfredo, Carlos and Eliseo Brown would all represent Argentina over the turn of the 20th century.
Alphonso was agog, and enthused at the same time to hear of such tales of bonny Scots lads doing Argentina proud. Sure, he had heard of Jose Luis Brown, 1986 World Cup Winner, the uncompromising defender who marked Peter Beardsley out of the quarter-final victory in the Azteca against England. He was the one overshadowed by those Maradona goals. Big Jose Luis Brown, goalscorer in the 1986 World Cup Final against West Germany, playing on heroically with a broken arm in the final throes. Proud of his Scottish heritage. Even prouder of his Argentine nationality. Then there was Carlos MacAllister, whose name confused many an Argentine commentator — not an easy feat at the worst of times. He played with the passion and vitriol of a Highlander. Dios, he even sported a shock of deep red ginger locks. He made just three appearances for his country, but they encompassed vital matches, including two caps gained from his contribution to the USA ‘94 qualification play-offs against Australia. MacAllister now runs a soccer school in Santa Rosa, and is a modern-day connection to over 180 years of Scots-Argentine heritage.
Today, there are around 100,000 Argentines with Scottish lineage. The only country with more people of such ancestry is the United Kingdom. Watson Hutton’s father, Alexander, is considered the “father of Argentine football” and has been commemorated by the Argentine Football Association accordingly, with the national football governing body’s library named in
Hutton Sr.’s honour. It isn’t just footballing talent that Scotland has brought to Argentina either. The actor Alejandro Anderson, and Juan Peron, 41st President of Argentina no less, can both trace roots of their family tree to Caledonia.
Chucking out time in the Taberna. History lesson over, at least for tonight. Alphonso had enjoyed the company and old Wallace’s stories to such an extent that he had temporarily forgotten the forlorn state which his national team had left him much earlier in this long and eventful evening.
“How can I thank you?” beamed Alphonso as the Scotsman and the Argentine shook hands.
“Wun fer tha’ road?” was Wallace’s inebriated response, knowing smile breaking from beneath his bushy ginger beard.
“Next time, for sure,” promised Alphonso, indicating the now-closed bar. “I’ve a spare season ticket for River Plate in next season’s Primera B Division. You wanna take it up? I could do with the company.”
Wallace weighed up the offer — for about a nanosecond. “Sure thang, laddy!” he exclaimed. “Tell me, young hermano, to whom does tha’ ticket belong?”
Alphonso broke into a grin as he finished his whiskey and answered Wallace’s question. “It’s in the name of my grandfather, Alphonso. Alphonso MacTavish.”
Escocia, Argentinos! Vamos! Hoot Mon The Noo! by Emelie Okeke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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