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In Cuba, a Correspondence Exchange Spices up the 2014 World Cup

Foto de Joe Shlabotnik tomada de Flickr bajo Licencia CC BY-NC-SA 2.9.

Photograph: by Joe Shlabotnik from Flickr, under license CC BY-NC-SA 2.9.

As part of the coverage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, two Cuban journalists and bloggers began an exchange of correspondence in the online magazine Cubahora. The letters have gone far beyond the online publication, and are now being shared on social media. Rendered in each entry are the humorist and ironic tones of both these authors, the revelation of personal experiences linked to fútbol, as well as sly criticism regarding the state of the sport in Cuba.

Charly Morales y Diego Armando Maradona (Foto cortesía de Charly Morales)

Charly Morales and Diego Armando Maradona (Photograph courtesy of Charly Morales)

According to the first entry, “both [writers] answer to the name Carlos; Charley Morales Valido is the old Zorro of journalism, sports enthusiast and connoisseur of philias focused on how a Club truly feels. The second one is Carlos Manuel Álvarez, a young man who recently graduated just a year ago and shows his love for literature and the sport in a somewhat disrespectful manner.”

In the first letter, Morales recalls the 1990 World Cup and narrates how his favoritism for the Brazilian team over La Albiceleste (Argentinian team) came to be:

Creo que ni habías nacido cuando yo empecé a cobrar conciencia mundialista. Fue en Italia’90 que comencé a enfermarme de fútbol y a decepcionarme de esa Argentina que no era tan infalible como yo creía. Si un vejete como Roger Milla les hacía un gol y encima lo celebraba bailándole una lambada al banderín del corner, pues estábamos listos. No corté con la Albiceleste, porque se redimieron y llegaron a aquella triste final contra la Mannschaft de Mattheus, Klinsmann y Voeller, con aquel equipazo que hizo al inglés Gary Lineker decir su inmortal “el fútbol es un deporte en que juegan 11 contra 11 y siempre gana Alemania”. Aunque desde entonces jamás ganaron… (…) Ya para Estados Unidos’94 yo sabía que podía gustarme Argentina, pero mi corazón sería de Brasil.

I don't think you'd even been born yet when I began following the World Cup. It was back in 1990 Italy when my fever for fútbol began, as well as my disappointment in Argentina, who was not as infallible as I thought. If an old man like Roger Milla can score on them and on top of it celebrate by dancing the Lambada with the corner flag, well, then we were all ready. I didn't cut ties with the Albiceleste because they redeemed themselves and made it to the depressing finals against Mannschafr de Mattheus, Klinsmann and Voeller, who made up that huge team which led Gary Lineker to express his immortal line “twenty two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end the German's always win.” Although, they haven't won since (…) Then for the US World Cup '94, I knew I could be into Argentina, but my heart said Brazil.

In another just as provoking letter, Álvarez replies:

Mi fanatismo por Argentina llegó a niveles paroxísticos en Sudáfrica. También, déjame aclarar, la bolsa de valores del nacionalismo había caído mucho (…) 

Hoy, cuatro años después, la debacle de Sudáfrica ya se explica con facilidad. Ninguno de los mesías –y Argentina parece bastante mesiánica, más que nosotros, incluso- quería ganar demasiado. Maradona, como todo héroe, en un momento dado disimuló su falta de método con improvisación, con arengas. Quiso avanzar a corazonada, pero Alemania no cree en boludeces de ese tipo. Alguien como Maradona no se podía permitir la debilidad de reconocer que no sabía. Dijo que Messi era el más grande (Messi es mejor que Maradona, pero no más grande, que conste), que merecía un Mundial, pero nunca fue su Bilardo, porque un Maradona no tiene sangre para ser Bilardo. Sabella sí, que sacrificó a Tévez, porque puede traer ruido, y yo lo entiendo. Lo que me resulta incomprensible, como a tres cuartos de humanidad, es la ausencia de Willy Caballero.

My fanaticism for Argentina got to paroxysmal levels in South Africa. But, let me explain myself, the national stock exchange had plummeted (…)

Now, four years later, the South African debacle can be explained with ease. None of the Messiahs- and Argentina seems quite messianic, more than we are, and fact be- they really wanted that victory. Maradona, like the big hero he is, at any given moment disguised his lack of skills by improvising, and rallied. He had a gut feeling about advancing forward, but Germany doesn't believe in that kind of bullshit. Someone like Maradona didn't allow himself to be weak enough to admit that he didn't know something. He said Messi was the bigger player (and for the record, Messi is better than Maradona, but not bigger), that he deserved the Cup, but he was never a Bilardo to him, Mardona doesn't have it in him to be someone like Bilardo. Sabellla does, who sacrificed Tévez, now that's a big deal, and I get it. What I find incomprehensible, as does three fourths of mankind, is Willy Caballero's absence.

In regards to the very controversial Brazil vs. Croatia game, Morales stressed:

¿Qué no fue el Brasil categórico y divertido que su torcida espera? Correcto… ¿Qué el japonés Yuichi Nishimura se tragó el tupe de Fred y lo bajó con caipirinha? Sin dudas… ¿Qué el autogol de Marcelo fue una torpeza digna de un novato? Y peor…

Pero de ahí a insinuar siquiera que Brasil no fue mejor que Croacia, que no mereció esa victoria por encima de sus falencias, que el penal fantasma definió el partido… Eso, me vas a disculpar, más que objetividad es roña a la Canarinha…

De entrada, Neymar le aceptó el reto a Maradona, lanzado urbi et orbi en su show De Zurda, y tomó la batuta brasilera para ser un 10 en toda su magnitud, creativo y a su vez abastecido por un Oscar que coronó con un gol incontestable toda una tarde de un fútbol superior al planteado por sus homólogos balcánicos. Si somos sinceros, ese gol debería bastar para silenciar las suspicacias que generaron el autogol y el piscinazo.

Pero entonces esto no sería fútbol ni nosotros latinoamericanos…

Was Brazil not outright entertaining in it's twisted outcome? Correct… Did Japanese Yuichi Nishimura beleive Fred's performance and topped it off by chugging a caipirinha? without a doubt… That Marcelo's own goal was a rookie's mere clumsiness? And worst of all…

But to even insinuate that Brazil was not better than Croatia, that they didn't deserve that victory on top of it's shortcomings, that the penalty kick was what defined the game… That, forgive me, more than plain objectivity is an insult to the canarinhas (yellow shirts).

From the start, Neymar took on Maradona's challenge which was aired urbi et orbi on his sports show “De Zurda”, he took the lead in all his glory, got a ten out of ten, put on a show and got an Oscar, which he then topped off by scoring and playing a far more superior game, that could not be counter scored by the opposing Balkan players that evening. Let's be honest, that goal should have been enough to silence the mistrust generated by the own goal and theatrical dive.

But this wouldn't be fútbol if we Latin Americans didn't …

Nevertheless, Alvarez’ last letter, titled “Assumptions” was removed from the Cubahora site. In an article published in OnCuba, the author narrates:

Durante tres cartas me mantuve al aire. A la tercera, me censuraron, alegando no se qué razón típica de los medios cubanos, que no alcancé a oír, o que si oí, olvidé, por el bien de mi salud y la de mi familia. Al pinchar el enlace original de la carta titulada Suposiciones, un cartel anuncia: “¡Oops! Lo sentimos, página no encontrada…”. No tiene caso insistir. Yo seguiré creyendo, a excepción de algunas individualidades, que los medios cubanos son puro y duro panfleto, y que permanecen a años luz de algo parecido al periodismo.

I was online for three letters. The third one was censured, arguing some sort of typical Cuban media reason, that I didn't quite hear, or if I did hear it, I chose to forget, for my own good and the good of my family. When clicking on the original link to the letter titled assumptions, you get a “oops! sorry, page not found….” No point dwelling on it. I will go on believing, with the exception of some cases, that Cuban media is pure and simply put, pamphlets, and it remains light years from journalism.

In an editorial published this Thursday, Cubahora explains to its users the reason why the letter was removed.

Todo marchaba perfectamente bien, pero en la tercera misiva de uno de los autores, titulada “Suposiciones”, el equipo editorial detectó frases irrespetuosas y poco argumentadas, lo que resulta incompatible con la ética que debe primar en el Periodismo. Decía la carta en referencia al futbolista Diego Armando Maradona: “Burdamente, ha politizado De zurda. A veces Víctor Hugo Morales, con pena, trata de encauzar el programa, de sacarlo de esos pantanos: la izquierda que no propone nada y que lo único que sabe hacer es quejarse, no para arreglar, sino para alimentar su supuesto prestigio”. Posteriormente podía leerse: “El problema lexical de Héctor Villar no es la cocaína. Es la falta congénita de neuronas. Se cumple con él un estereotipo. Bonito de poca materia gris”.

En nuestro perfil editorial se plantea“los trabajos publicados deben mostrar la utilización de un lenguaje claro, ideas precisas, sin exceso de adjetivos, palabras redundantes o afirmaciones no basadas en evidencias”.  En virtud de ello, pedimos al autor valorar apenas estas ideas, sobre la base del necesario respeto.

El autor no aceptó la solicitud de la revista, lo cual respetamos, por supuesto, pero también debimos asumir el deber y derecho que le asiste a Cubahora de no publicar aquello que no estuviera en consonancia con sus principios editoriales declarados.

Everything was going perfectly fine, but in one of the authors’ third letter, titled “Assumptions,” the editorial team found phrases that were disrespectful and poorly presented, which is not compatible with the ethical standards of Journalism. The letter spoke in regards to Diego Armando Maradona: “Crudely, he has politicized De zurda. Sometimes, Victor Hugo Morales, will shamefully, try to get the program back on track, trying to get it out of that mess; the left side doesn't propose anything, and complaining is the only thing he knows how to do, not to fix things, but to feed his supposed prestige.Subsequently one could read: “Héctor Villar's lexical problem is not cocaine. It is his congenital lack of neurons. He is the typical stereotype. Good-looking, but not much to him.”

In our editorial profile we propose: “Our published work should use clear language, specific ideas, without excessive adjectives, redundant words or affirmations without evidence.” According to this, we ask the author to comply with this request, based on a matter of respect.

The author did not accept the magazine's request, which we respect of course, but we also assume the responsibility and right to not publish anything on Cubahora which is not compliant with the stated editorial principles.

For the moment, the letters will still be published in the magazine OnCuba. Charly Morales’ last entry, “Curado de Espanto” (I'm over it) delivers a controversial question:

Y hablando de que cualquier cosa es posible… ¿Te imaginas a Costa Rica ganando el Mundial? Yo, sinceramente, estoy curado de espanto y nada me sorprende ya.

So, if anything's possible… What if Costa Rica won the World Cup? Honestly, I'm over it and nothing surprises me anymore.

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