football

BLAST FROM THE PAST – PAUSE FOR ARGENTINA

BRAZIL REPORT

 

Brazilians like audacity. Perhaps it is a feature of the amiability that has featured in Brazilian culture for so long.  Nobody likes to take offence and nobody imagines giving offence.  The consequent audacity reveals itself in the arrogance of criminals and the size of the skimpy bikinis on the beaches.   Argentina is supposedly different, the people still like fun but they are quieter than the Brazilians.  The Argentineans invaded the Falklands slowly and in stages.  At first, nobody noticed.  The Brazilians would have marched in behind a parade.  Everybody would have had fun, and the Brazilian girls would have soon led the middle aged Falkland males astray.   The lustre of Thatcher may have bridged a cold Atlantic but she would have been obliterated by the Samba.

There is a fine crime novel set in Argentina that is written by Stuart Cohen.   The book is called ‘The Stone Angels’ and it begins with the murder of an American State employee.  The corrupt Buenos Aires policeman worries about an The Stone Angelsinternational scandal.   He fears American protest and an international investigation into the interference of the Argentinean Government in criminal investigations.   Dictatorships and oppression have made the Argentineans wary.

In Rio they react with more aplomb.   A fortnight ago Victoria Tcaciuc was found dead in a hotel in Rio.  The US Consulate in Rio stated that the 38 year-old Tcaciuc was a contract employee.  She was planning to visit four more Brazilian cities before returning to the States.  No other information has been provided about the murder victim.    There has been no outcry from the Americans, and their response is particularly muted.  The official statement is brief.   The Americans say that they are deeply saddened and add that they have passed on their condolences to relatives and friends.    If there is an international scandal buried in the details of this murder, we will not be told it by the Americans.   Of course, it helps when the suspected murderer walks past the CCTV.   The arrested man is called Alessandro Rufino Oliveira Carvalho.  He denies the murder.  He says he did visit the hotel but that they merely watched television while Tcaciuc smoked a cigarette.  He left the hotel room with the American State employee still alive.    According to Carvalho, he met the American woman at a craft fair.  This is hardly satisfying neo-noir.   When Carvalho insists he did not have sex with Tcaciuc, it is tempting to believe him.  But who knows what to think.  Brazilian hotels provide free contraceptives for hotel guests.  A hotel room is not the place to take a stranger and think you can remain chaste.  Some Brazilian men have been critical of Carvalho.  They consider him a poor and too timid example of Brazilian manhood.  And who wanders around craft fairs buying jars of marmalade and picking up foreign women so they can take you back to their hotel room and let you watch them smoke toasted tobacco.  This does not happen at the craft fairs of rural Britain.

These days South Americans are neither impressed nor intimidated by the USA.  Admittedly, oil is important but there is a belief in Brazil that the American obsession with the Middle East reflects not only US strategic interests but also their decline in power.    Scandals are now home grown and shock does not require dead visitors from once powerful countries.   Thuane Nunes Ferreira has been arrested for using artificial limbs to trick a biometric machine built to record the attendance of staff.    Instead of using real fingers to leave fingerprints with the machine, Ferreira signed people into work with artificial limbs. The police received an anonymous tip.  Whether the phone call was made with a real or silicone finger has not been revealed.    The police say that they have uncovered a fraud that involves 11 doctors and 20 nurses.  They suspect, though, that the fraud is more widespread.  The police think as many as 300 fictitious civil servants have been created using artificial fingers, ‘ghost workers’ who never appear in work.    Before making arrests, the police observed the hospital for 2 weeks.  The mathematics was simple.  Count the number of people passing by on the CCTV and subtract the number in the building.  The difference equals the missing artificial fingers, except the fingers used may not be from hospital stock.   The police have only found six and are reluctant to say that they know how they have been made.   The manufacturers of the tricked and less than perfect biometric machine have been coy.   Ms Ferreira has admitted guilt but has said that she had no choice.  Signing in ‘ghost workers’ with synthetic limbs was a condition of her employment.  Imagine telling Mum and Dad about that job interview.    Her boss, Jorge Cury, has insisted that the claims of Ferreira are ‘absurd’.

‘I knew nothing about it,’ he said.   ‘I have been a health official for 25 years.’

Critics of the public services are not surprised.  They believe that once everything is privatised staff will become dedicated and beyond reproach.   They claim that civil servants lack either talent or inspiration and that this makes them prone to corruption.

Bruno Fernandes had plenty of talent.  He was the former captain of Flamengo, a football team from Rio de Janeiro, and he was expected to play for Brazil in 2014.  Flamengo is one of the most successful teams in Brazil.  Fernandes has enjoyed money and fame but he was not particularly adept at domesticity.  Fernandes was sentenced to 22 years for murdering his lover.  The relationship tormented him, he said, and he either agreed with friends to murder Eliza Samudio or, if you listen to Bruno, simply failed to protest when his friends killed her.   They could stand seeing him suffer no more.

‘I didn’t know,’ said Bruno.  ‘I didn’t ask for it but I accepted it.’

Fernandes made this statement in court while he held a bible.  His lawyer has been watching too many Brazilian ‘telenovellas’.  Bible or cheap trick the judge was not impressed.  The

Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes

revelation that Bruno fed the remains of his wife to the dog did not help the accused.  In these circumstances the name Bruno is interesting.  The dog that ate part of the murdered woman has not been named.  The ex-wife of Fernandes was also charged in the conspiracy to murder.  She was acquitted.  She  offered consolation and understanding to her ex-husband in what must have been a difficult period in his life.

Bruno is appealing against the decision but there will be more than one governor who is already revising his or her plans for the prison football team.   The woman who was murdered leaves a four-month-old orphan.   According to friends, the arrival of the child affected the relationship badly.  Fernandes said that he was not the father of the child. The mother insisted that he was and that he should be making some maintenance payments from his not inconsiderable footballer’s pension.  The civil servants in Brazil who administer child maintenance are not surprised.  A lifetime in what is often difficult work, whatever the country, can disillusion even the most talented of civil servants.  Some of them even become cynical.

As Howard jackson is touring in Argentina at the moment, this blog is being used as a blast from the past.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

 

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FOOTBALL BONUS

THE ANFIELD INDEX PODCAST

 

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It is now competitive and it is not just the football.   Fans of Liverpool Football Club are now anticipating a place in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League. In the first leg of the quarter-final Liverpool defeated the supposedly invincible Manchester City. After a 3-0 victory all that LFC needs is a half decent result in the return leg.   Gags Tandon, like most Liverpool fans, will be relishing what remains of the contest. The friends and admirers of Tandon call him The Podmaster.  The Anfield Index Podcast is not the only football podcast available to Liverpool fans.  Like Liverpool Football Club, it is obliged to compete with others. Both institutions need an audience.   So far Gags Tandon has done rather well. In the language of football, The Anfield Index Podcast has momentum. The creation of Gags Tandon is on a roll.

Success is more complicated than too many of the successful will have us believe.  Elites with vested interests to protect like to preach that success is determined by hard work and ability alone. Gags Tandon has those qualities but, more important, a generous nature and democratic spirit. The achievements and popularity of The Anfield Index Podcast would help anyone sleep at night and look into the mirror.  But success and achievement are never instant, and history invariably contains irony.  Sometimes that irony is transformed into the ace in the hole that all successful ventures need.

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In the past the football fans that visited the stadium to watch the match would claim their attendance as a badge of honour. The assumption was that a fan had to attend the game to understand the nuances and complexities of a football contest. Lack of attendance at the ground also confirmed partial devotion.  In Liverpool its history intensified the sense of local pride.  The Anfield Index Podcast is not Scouse free. Local fan Graeme Kelly appeared on the Podcast and provided a memorable scoop.  He predicted well before the mainstream media the arrival of Jurgen Klopp. But unlike some of its rivals The Anfield Index Podcast has not attempted to have an authentic Scouse identity.  Gags Tandon is from Wolverhampton, and fellow stalwart, key contributor and ubiquitous editor, Nina Kauser, is even from Manchester. Nothing damns the irrelevancy of regional boundaries as much as a Mancunian revelling in another Liverpool victory or the realisation amongst Scousers that Kauser really does hate Manchester United.

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Rather than reject those whose worship of the Football Club was obliged to be from somewhere distant The Anfield Index Podcast has welcomed the people that some fans dismiss as ‘tourists’. Two years ago Nina Kauser did a virtual world tour and talked to fans from different countries. Her interaction with people from around the planet revealed how much English football had been redefined by worldwide interest. The supposed weakness of The Anfield Index Podcast was transformed into a unique asset. The presumption that outsiders understood a key element in Liverpool culture was an irony that could have haunted The Anfield Index Podcast.  Instead, the irony became the ace in the hole.  Scousers were now discussing tactics and performances with fans not just from elsewhere in Britain but also from other continents.  The Anfield Index Podcast was conceived in a bedroom or study in Wolverhampton but, like Liverpool Football Club, it has become a global concern. Britain may have voted for Brexit but the producers and the fans of The Anfield Index Podcast rejected insularity and reached out to others. It is that act of faith, commitment, open-minded tolerance and trust that makes it special.

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An ace in the hole, though, is not the same as the jewel in the crown. That acclaim belongs to something more specific and to something other than a phenomenon. The Podcast has a wide range of content. The number of shows available for listeners is impressive, and each show exists for a reason. The football podcasts mix shared celebration, nervous anticipation and detached analysis, and the others address different aspects of popular culture.  After every game Nina Kauser hosts a phone-in with angry or ecstatic callers. The show delivers extra post-match adrenalin when Liverpool has been victorious and therapy and the consolation of shared bewilderment after a defeat. Kauser is complex and interesting.  Not uninterested in glamour she combines modern urban cool with the no nonsense authority of Northern icon Mrs Merton.   Talking Tactics is chaired by Leroy Mah who has expertise and knowledge but sounds like he might be a shy man.  Somehow his self-effacing presence helps the show to be unusual and endearing.  A quiet man suits the emphasis on curiosity and ensures the avoidance of hysteria.  Dave Hendrick is anything but quiet. He has both listener appeal and a few enemies. Hendrick is just the right side of sanity, which, of course, adds to the excitement. Angry about the limitations of the human race he exists to challenge conventional wisdom and leave cerebral pretenders emotionally bruised. Hendrick must watch football matches in his sleep. His encyclopaedic knowledge and a compulsion to have an opinion about everything and everyone make him fearless. Dave Hendrick was quick to understand the weaknesses and flaws of previous Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Both men are adept with words but it was no contest. Rodgers was abandoned by both Liverpool and the Premier League. Hendrick continues to share his considerable scorn for intellectual slacking.

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But a jewel in the crown for football fans requires more than admiration and respect. Football fans are addicts, and their addiction requires an opiate that sustains the high of the drug.  The show Under Pressure was an instant hit. Gags Tandon is the host and he  is helped by three informed guests. Subjective opinion is dismissed as taboo. In Under Pressure all assertions have to be defined and justified by conclusive statistics. The pressure in the title refers to the number of presses by Liverpool players of the opposition team and perhaps the work that goes into preparing data for the show. Gags Tandon watches and re-watches football matches so that he can count and analyse every instance of when a Liverpool player has pressed an opponent. The instances also include the failures, so the collection of the statistics takes time. The pressing statistics collected by Tandon are then supplemented by any other performance analysis that is available. Under Pressure raises football commentary to another level and rejects the lazy platitudes of the generalists in the mainstream media.  For too long football journalists had assumed that all they had to do was sprinkle fatuous clichés on empty-headed match reports.

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Visiting fans to Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club, have sung about the fans not being Scousers any more. Liverpool crowds have been described by rival supporters as tourists. Last Wednesday, Scousers and tourists combined to make a racket that frightened the life out of a very well paid football team. That crowd and The Anfield Index Podcast are noisy reminders of the new potential of English football and how it has changed. The Podcast is also proof that some successes require something more than the hard work and merit with which our masters lecture the unlucky and misnamed failures. Tandon appears to be a workaholic but there is also admirable rebellion within the man. Industry and dedication to self-improvement appeals to our rulers because they think such notions will persuade ordinary British people to be obedient. Gags Tandon and his crew work hard and they accept the demands of deadlines and the ever present need to expand and revise content.  But for all their industry and discipline they are anything but obedient.

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Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.