The Argentines Who Haven't Heard of Messi

Copa90 Collective

The Argentines Who Haven't Heard of Messi

Author

Un Cano
Un Cano
6 mins
Article by
Un Caño
Copa90 Collective member
Un Caño

Argentinian outfit Un Caño explore football from a cultural perspective, delivering an independent, intelligent and thoughtful insight into the game.

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Less than 700 kilometers from Buenos Aires, 1300 Mennonites live in a colony without electricity, internet or television. Therefore they only know about the best in world football if the outsiders talk to them about him.

The colony is not easy to get to: from Guatraché, the nearest town you must pass through 35 kilometers of a road without signs, without a soul in sight. It’s not coincidence that the route to the colony is in such bad shape: for centuries, the Mennonites have strived live away from modernity. Away from the devil’s temptations. And partly they have succeeded: they don’t listen to the radio or get information from newspapers or magazines; some just read a publication edited in their dialect in Canada that is sent monthly to local subscribers. Besides that they read the bible and only the bible.

In the Mennonite colony the streets are natural there are wooden houses, in this place live about 1,300 Mennonites. They own about ten thousand hectares which is half the size of the City of Buenos Aires. There are ten thousand hectares of sheds and traditions, cheese makers and carpenters, stores and schools, and nights fueled by oil lamps. Ten thousand hectares of cattle, chickens, dairy farms,orchards, pines, unlit streets and cemeteries without crosses; ten thousand hectares of austerity, renunciations and silence.

I ask Pedro (15 years old) if he know who Messi is? It seems an unnecessary question to ask a teenager born in Argentina, or to that point, in Kuala Lumpur, or in Indonesia. Because even in Jakarta, more than 15 thousand kilometers from Argentina snacks are sold under the name of Messi. But Pedro looks at me doubtfully. Think a few seconds. Finally he says yes, he knows, he heard about Messi is the best in the world but has never seen him play.

Somebody told me

Who told you?

The people that visited the colony

And do you like football?

Yes

What team do you support?

Me? Boca

Who made you a Boca fan?

Somebody told me to support Boca, as they’re the most victorious team

Have you ever seen a match?

No

Do you find out their results?

I find out late

Late?

I have to wait until people come and tell me

And do you play football?

No we can’t

So what do you do with your free time?

I go to mass

Pedro wears a blue coverall with suspenders, checkered cotton shirt and beanie. Since he was born and raised in the Mennonite Colony. He lives from stories that  are seemingly from another world: there is a player who is better than all the players, a team of a blue and yellow shirt which is the most victorious and there is a God always watching. Pedro grew up without television, no Internet, no PlayStation. And he survived. And even he seems healthy and strong.

Do you go to school?

No

Why?

Because here you only go to school until you’re 12

And then?

We work

What is your work?

I install sheds with my dad

Have you ever been outside the colony?

Once

Where did you go?

 

 

To Rio Gallegos

Did you like It?

I don’t know, I didn’t see much

Next, I met Juan who’s is in a shed, piling bags. He is a broad-shouldered man with cold eyes. Only after a while he told me that he lives there since he was 8 years old, when he came from Mexico. Today he is 40. He has his wife, three childs, his farm, his neatly trimmed garden, his house and a place reserved in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Juan tells me that once traveled to Buenos Aires to buy supplies for the colony, but he didn’t had a good time, he didn’t like Buenos Aires. He was afraid of being robbed. And suddenly a phone goes off. Unbelievable: in the Mennonite colony a cell phone rings. It’s a Blackberry. Juan brings it out of his pockets. Reply to a message. He explains that although the colony don’t approve the use of cell phones, there are many who have one, mainly for work, to arrange sales.

For years, after a major drought the Mennonites had no option to open to the outside, selling their furniture, their corn, cheeses, dairy products. Today the colony produces 15,000 litres of milk per day, 1,500 cheeses a day and lots of mozzarella eaten in the “pizzerias” in Buenos Aires.

Juan says he is a Boca supporter, but he doesn’t know that Boca finished third last. He knows about Riquelme. Juan knows Juan Román. “It’s the idol, although everyone complain he don’t run haha”. When he traveled to Buenos Aires he went to La Bombonera with a friend. He doesn’t remember the match but he did not enjoy the experience: “It’s stupid, football is stupid – us watching the game and the players earning a lot of money”.

In Guatraché, the nearest town, there is a small hotel with ten rooms called Residencial La Chacra. Dirty floors, damp walls, sheets eaten by moths. In the main room there is a counter, four tables, three lulled parishioners, a map of La Pampa and a TV with a Champions League match. Oscar, the manager, tells me that he was born nearby and then he ask me what am I doing here.

 

I came to write an article of the Mennonites

Ah, yes, the mennonites. There is one of them staying in the hotel right now.

Here? A Mennonite?

Yes. He came to watch the game.

The game?

The Champions League game. Every time there is an important match he rents a room. He knows a lot about football, he loves it.

The Mennonite tells me that he would be killed. He’s 40 years old, blue eyes, ruddy cheeks. wearing, of course, his coverall, his checkered cotton shirt and his cap. He tells me that he will get killed if his bosses find out that he came to Guatraché to watch the Champions League game. So he asked me for discretion and to not put his name in the article. He told me that before in the colony there were some football games were organized. Especially on sundays.

But not now, it’s a pity that the current bishop wants to know nothing to do with football. But this mennonite however loves football. He enjoy’s watching mainly European football. He talks about Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Götze, Lewandowski and Robben.

 

How do you know that much?

Because of the Internet. I follow everything through my cell phone

The Mennonite tells me he is also a Boca supporter and explains that in the colony there is a lot of Boca fans because one time a “turkish” (nickname) went to the colony to sell merchandise and convinced a lot of them to become supporters.

 

How did he convince them?

Giving them crates of beer.

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