Cinema | A soccer player’s escape from Argentina … into philosophy

Claudio Tamburrini


His football dreams would play out in a setting different from what he had envisioned. Naturally, after torture, confinement and months of hiding following escape, resuming football training was not realistic. One of the Attila guards had promised that, after Tamburrini’s release, the two would reunite to play football. The guard, Tamburrini observes wryly on supplementary DVD footage, never called.

Tamburrini’s period of hiding, before accepting political asylum in Sweden, was only interrupted during the mass public celebrations during the World Cup finals in Jun 1978. “Did I do the right thing?” Tamburrini asks himself in a 2006 reflection, “The Right to Celebrate.” He reveled with thousands following a 6–0 semifinal victory over Peru, a match that Argentina needed to win by at least three goals in order to advance to the final against the Netherlands.

Military leaders seized on the World Cup—“the greatest mass cultural manifestation of the modern era,” in Tamburrini’s words—to show their legitimacy to a world audience. Junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla welcomed former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the VIP viewing area. Other survivors from among the disappeared recall in documentaries such as Mundial ’78, la historia paralela (World Cup 1978: The Parallel Story) that they were forced to ride with captors through the mobs celebrating the 3–1 win over Holland.

Graciela Daleo, in a BBC interview, remembers being escorted in a green Peugeot 504. With others, she was taken to a restaurant, where they sang victory songs with “[t]he guy who had tortured you with electric drills.” The perception of such parallel worlds contributes to Daleo’s sense of onrushing madness, with the World Cup zeal adding stress:

I don’t know, the football thing becomes the dominating thing even in the concentration camp. The torturer who had tortured you when you were kidnapped, if he supported the same club as you did, this terribly mad ghostly bond would be established. Whenever I hear that song by [Joan Manuel] Serrat, “Fiesta,” where he sings “the villain and the rich man shake hands, the differences don’t matter” … I don’t know. I’ve got an anger that has less to do with a sociological analysis and is more a gut reaction: I hate World Cups because they dissolve the class struggle. In a way, during the World Cup it seems we are all the same. We are not all the same. (175–76)

To recognize the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s victory at the 1978 World Cup finals, several human rights groups, including Madres de Plaza de Mayo, staged “La otra final”—for “life and human rights”—at River Plate stadium.

Tamburrini offers another formulation, while respecting the memory of the period that has now been enshrined in projects such as Instituto Espacio para la Memoria, or the National Memory Archives. The observation that footballers are poor narrators of their experience does not apply to him.

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