Thanks to all those who contributed a question, or helped develop on at the call-out stage.
It is november 2020, and there I am preparing to make my signature dish: spaghetti vongole.
Our friends are due over soon and one of them I hadn’t met yet.
Gasti is just over from studying in Santa Lucia Florencio Varela in Buenos Aires and is a devout football fan. We make the standard introductions and I offer him a beer.
The girls go away and I broach a topic that I’m unsure he’s familiar with.
“Are you ready for the All Blacks and Pumas game?”
“No, I don’t watch that.”
“I see. Would you mind if I pop it on anyway? I’m pretty keen to see how they go.”
He nods, understanding he has very little say in this matter as I’ve already moved and turned it on.
The pre-game conversations drone on and he’s barely looked at the TV. We soon come to the line-ups and I make my way towards the couch, motioning him to follow me. He obliges.
I start explaining some of the players and their positions. “Pablo Matera – he’s your captain and your main man. Watch him around the breakdown and the lineout. Nicolas Sanchez is your Lionel Messi, he’s your go-to guy, so they’ll be needing him to help score their points.”
He nods again. Yet there’s a bit more interest this time.
Now the anthems start and I have to say, I was blown away.
As soon as the Argentinian national anthem started, he stood up, like one of the 12 Apostles. He belted out the words and started crying along with the majority of the players.
I was completely taken aback, I’d never seen such passion from someone watching a pre-game anthem from a dingy lounge room before. I’m not ashamed to admit it made me tear up a little bit.
Shortly after, the game commenced and Gasti was locked in. I tried to offload my very limited knowledge as best I could. He had many questions and I was more than happy to answer them.
I enjoyed, more than anything, telling him the backstory of the Pumas and how much they had sacrificed just to come to Australia and play. This touched him more than anything.
The game became very intense at this point and I forgot about dinner. Stuff the clams.
We rode every tackle together, and as soon as victory looked likely I told him about the fact that the Pumas had never beaten the All Blacks in Tests. This was history he was witnessing and it became obvious to him how important this was.
Once the final whistle sounded, and the players gathered together with Mario Ledesma emerging from the coaches box, we both watched on as the emotion from the players and coach spilled over from the ground, to the crowd and then into my living room. It was an incredible experience.
Not so long ago, I received a message from Gasti, now back in Buenos Aires.
“Are you ready for the games now? Our Pumas will eat your Wallabies and then we take care of the All Blacks again haha!”
Besides taking personal enjoyment in introducing the game they play in heaven to another person, I get as much of a lift out of Gasti from his pure passion for Argentina.
For him, it didn’t matter what sport it was. He just loved seeing his country play, and playing for their people, in what was a truly difficult time, and still is. And that passion is something I envy. It’s beautiful. It’s so Argentinian. Viva Los Pumas!
There’s some great Argentinian contributors on this site and if I’ve offended or made a mockery of anything, I apologise. This was the only experience I’ve had alongside an Argentinian, and now a Pumas fan. And I loved it.