Barclays soon realized that he would never be the star of the school, much less a professional footballer. Then he decided that, since there was nothing in the world more fascinating than football, he would be a sports journalist, a match reporter, a traveling commentator, a globetrotter. I could not imagine a better, more exciting job than watching football matches, narrating them, commenting on them, traveling the world covering the big tournaments, the qualifiers, the world cups. For that it was essential to speak well or speak nicely or speak in a histrionic and vocind way, and Barclays felt able to do everything without any effort.
Determined to be a sports journalist, he frequently escaped from school and went to the main clubs in the city, to watch the training of the first division teams. Dressed in his school uniform, he carried a notebook, took notes, evaluated the performance of the players in practice. To get in to see the training, he sometimes had to bribe the goalkeepers of the clubs with a ticket or two, and then he befriended all of them.
In addition to reading a football magazine that came to him every week from the Argentine capital, and watching the weekly matches of the German league that passed in black and white the state channel, Barclays, obsessed with football, trying to escape from the military or religious future that his parents had drawn him, he proposed to go to the stadium on weekends, to the stadiums, to see the best teams in the league play. He went alone to the court, although always accompanied by a small battery-powered radio. To pay for the entrance to the least uncomfortable grandstand, the one in the West, he stole, during the week, some money from his father’s wallet, while he showered. Barclays assumed that his father did not notice that he had thinned the wad of bills. When his father asked him what money he would enter the stadium with, Barclays lied, saying that he had been invited by a friend, the family of a friend whose father was a football club manager. Maybe his father believed him, maybe he noticed the robberies, but he never told him anything about it or forbade him to go to football.
Once seated in the western grandstand with the battery-powered radio stuck to his ear and a small notebook on his legs in which he made notes on the performance of the players, Barclays contemplated the game with absolute concentration, as if he were the coach or the owner of the club, as if he were the Napoleonic soldier who supervises the war or the religious fanatic who directs the unctuous ceremony of faith. Indeed, football was, for Barclays, an act of faith, a religious confession, an all-out war between an empire and its mutinous colonies, an artistic expression, a virile struggle, a game of chess. Without football, life seemed like a painful, meaningless effort. You lived to watch football, to talk about football, to play football even if you weren’t too good. Football was the very meaning of life, the noblest and highest expression of human existence, a fusion of art, religion and combat that could be both beautiful and unjust.
From his seat, listening to the radio, the voice of a legendary commentator, very fat, who drank liters of coca cola while directing the broadcasts and commenting on the matches, Barclays looked back and distinguished, in the distance, inside a radio booth, behind a thick glass, that very fat man who must have been the happiest guy in the world: famous, popular, millionaire, he made his living watching football, commenting on matches, traveling the world to cover the big tournaments. Barclays didn’t want to be like his father, a violent and bitter guy, or like his mother, who spent his days crying and praying: he wanted to be like that very fat man in the radio booth, the happiest guy in the world, who didn’t talk about politics or religion, those thick swamps where so many people sank and drowned. but football, the most vibrant game ever invented.
In the summer school holidays, at the age of fourteen, Barclays, thanks to his mother, got a temporary job as a reporter for the sports page of an old, conservative newspaper. He now had a sports journalist card and could enter stadiums without paying a ticket. Now he could sit in the reporters’ box, though not in the radio booth of his idol, the obese commentator, addicted to coke, able to drink liters of that soda while recounting a game. With his reporter card, Barclays interviewed several players of the national team, certain coaches, the most influential sports journalists. He felt aimed at crowning the dream of his life: to be a man who lived from football, not playing it, because it did not give him the talent for so much, but at least talking about it, commenting on it, telling it. That is why he recounted imaginary matches while walking to school and, at night, he woke up often dreaming of amateur games, shouting anthology goals, sometimes scoring the goals himself, with the shirt of the national team.
Several accidents then seemed to overshadow Barclays’ dreams.
One night, at halftime of an important match, Barclays came out of the press box, climbed the stands one by one and approached the radio booth of the obese commentator, his idol. He stood for a moment looking at him with reverence and admiration, mute, as if looking at Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus Christ. With his headphones on, the fat man gave him a hostile look and made some unfriendly signs with his hands, which Barclays could not understand. Immediately the obese commentator stripped off his thick black hearing aids, opened the window and told Barclays:
-Turn off your radio, egg, which is docking and you are fucking me the transmission!
“A thousand apologies,” Barclays babbled, embarrassed, and turned off the radio.
He then showed him his newspaper card and asked for a brief interview to be published on Sunday. The obese commentator made a dismissive or dismissive gesture, drank coca cola and replied:
-Don’t go over the place, kid! How am I going to give you an interview, if you’re a kid and you don’t know how to shave your bozo! Shace the bozo, egg, and go to school! And interview your teacher, rather, so they don’t pull you out of the year!
Then the obese commentator, the Buddha of football, closed the window, put on his headphones and proceeded to olympically ignore the imberbe reporter.
Humiliated, Barclays returned to the box, but no longer turned on the radio in piles: his adoration of the obese commentator had been broken, broken.
A short time later, playing a friendly match with the school team, facing the boys of a public school who came from lower middle class families, no white or white or son of diplomats among them, all brown, mestizos, zambos, acholados, Barclays suffered another unexpected humiliation. The referee whistled a free kick in favor of barclays school, who, at the suggestion of his teammates, was confused between the barrier of the rivals, trying to obstruct the vision of the goalkeeper. Suddenly, one of the boys of popular origin allowed himself to caress Barclays’ butt, trying to lower him, to humiliate him. He pinched her buttocks and said in her ear:
“What a good ass you have, gringuito.
Barclays was paralyzed, not knowing how to react. He found no courage to confront and hit him, or to move from there. He stood, petrified, as his hand was reached out for the first time in his life. He never knew if the others saw how they put their hand in him. But he did not reject the aggression. On the contrary, perhaps he enjoyed it secretly. That plunged him into a deep depression over his future:
-If I like to be put in my hand, can I still be a football commentator, or will it be that I like football because, without realizing it, I like footballers, or certain footballers?
Barclays’ incipient career as a sports journalist with a newspaper card and a free seat in the stadium box ended up being frustrated before he turned eighteen and was of legal age: in fact, the conservative newspaper went bankrupt due to lack of readers and the card became a useless document that referred to failure.
In addition, Barclays understood that being a football chronicler in his country was a profession condemned to torture, to self-flagellation, since the selection attended two World Cups in which it was outraged by the Argentines, who scored six goals, and the Poles, who gave it five.
When the obese commentator died (of diabetes, of course), Barclays felt he had lost an uncle from his family and left some flowers at the wake.