As a child, Barclays wanted to be a footballer, but his father told him that it was a smelly job for poor people and his mother that God had not invented soccer or the ball and that kicking balls was a waste of time to earn a living.
His father wanted him to be a military man, the general who because he was lame he could not be, and his mother dreamed of him being a priest. Overwhelmed by such stiff-uniformed futures, Barclays clung to the childish illusion of succeeding as a footballer.
Although he stood out in school for his ability to avoid opponents and his refined kicking technique, Barclays was not the best footballer in his class. He was good, solvent, often mischievous, but not outstanding. He was not strong enough, rough, fast enough. He was delicate with the ball, avoided all forms of roughness, avoided physical shocks and was not distinguished by being fast or powerful. Given his limitations for rough play, the coach of the school team used to ask him to play as a midfielder and take care of what he did best: touch the ball in first, extend long passes to the forwards, try with medium-distance shots. .
But Barclays soon understood 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 soccer, he would be a sports journalist, match reporter, traveling commentator, 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 championships. For that, it was essential to speak well or speak beautifully or speak in a histrionic and vociferous way, and Barclays felt capable of doing all of this effortlessly.
Determined to be a sports journalist, he frequently escaped from school and went to the main clubs in the city, to watch the training sessions of the first division teams. Dressed in his school uniform, he kept a notebook, took notes, evaluated the performance of the players in practice. To get in to watch practice, he sometimes had to bribe club goalkeepers with a ticket or two, and then he became friends with all of them.
In addition to reading a football magazine that came to him every week from the Argentine capital, and watching the weekly games of the German league that the state channel, Barclays, was showing in black and white, obsessed with football, trying to escape from the military future or religious that his parents had drawn up for him, he decided to go to the stadium on weekends, to the stadiums, to see the best teams in the league play. He went alone to the field, although always accompanied by a small battery-powered radio. To pay for the entrance to the least uncomfortable tribune, the one in the West, during the week he stole some money from his father’s wallet while he was taking a shower. Barclays assumed that his father did not realize that he had thinned his wad of bills. When his father asked him how much 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 the manager of a football club. 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 stands with the battery-operated radio pressed to his ear and a small notebook on his lap in which he made notes on the performance of the players, Barclays watched the game with absolute concentration, as if he were the coach or the owner of the club, as if he were the Napoleonic military man 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 painstaking effort, meaningless. 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 unfair.
From his seat, listening to the radio, the voice of a legendary commentator, very fat, who drank liters of Coca Cola while directing the transmissions and commenting on the games, Barclays looked back and distinguished, in the distance, inside a radio booth , behind thick glass, that very fat man who must have been the happiest guy in the world: famous, popular, millionaire, he earned 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 soccer, 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. Now he had a sports journalist’s card and could enter the stadiums without paying admission. Now he could sit in the reporters’ box, although not in the radio booth of his idol, the obese commentator, addicted to coca cola, capable of drinking liters of that soda while recounting a game. With his reporter card, Barclays interviewed several national team players, certain coaches, and the most influential sports journalists. He felt headed to crown the dream of his life: to be a man who lived on football, not playing it, because it did not give him the talent for so much, but at least talking about it, commenting on it, relating it. That is why he recounted imaginary matches while walking to school and, at night, he often woke up dreaming of feverish games, shouting anthology goals, sometimes scoring goals himself, wearing the national team jersey.
Several accidents seemed then to overshadow Barclays’ dreams.
One night, at halftime of an important game, Barclays left 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, puzzled, as if he were looking at Buddha, at Muhammad, at Jesus Christ. With his headphones on, the fat man gave him a hostile look and made some unfriendly gestures with his hands, which Barclays could not understand. The obese commentator immediately stripped off his thick black headphones, opened the window, and said to Barclays:
-Turn off your radio, asshole, it’s connecting and you’re screwing my transmission!
“A thousand apologies,” Barclays stammered, embarrassed, and turned off the radio.
He then showed him his newspaper ID and asked for a short interview to be published on Sunday. The obese commentator made a dismissive or dismissive gesture, drank Coke and replied:
-Don’t be an asshole, kid! How am I going to give you an interview, if you are a kid and you don’t know how to shave your bozo! Shave your bozo, asshole, and go to school! And interview your teacher, rather, so that you do not get thrown off the year!
Then the obese commentator, the football Buddha, closed the window, put on his headphones, and proceeded to Olympically ignore the beardless reporter.
Humiliated, Barclays returned to the box, but no longer turned on the battery-operated radio: his adoration of the obese commentator was broken, broken.
A short time later, playing a friendly match with the school’s national team, facing the boys from a public school who came from lower-middle-class families, no white or white or the son of diplomats among them, all brown, mestizo, zambos, acholados , Barclays suffered another unexpected humiliation. The referee whistled a free kick in favor of the Barclays school, who, at the suggestion of his teammates, got confused between the rivals’ barrier, trying to obstruct the goalkeeper’s vision. Suddenly, one of the boys of popular origin allowed himself to caress Barclays behind, trying to lower it, to humiliate him. He pinched her buttocks and whispered in her ear:
-What a good ass you have, gringuito.
Barclays froze, not knowing how to react. She didn’t find the courage to confront him and hit him, or to move from there. He stood, petrified, as they reached into him for the first time in his life. He never knew if others saw their hand reaching into him. But he did not reject the attack. On the contrary, perhaps he secretly enjoyed it. That plunged him into a deep depression about his future:
-If I like to be touched, can I still be a football commentator, or is it 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 frustrating before he was eighteen and of legal age: in effect, the conservative newspaper went bankrupt due to a lack of readers and the card. it became a useless document that led to failure.
In addition, Barclays understood that being a soccer chronicler in his country was a job condemned to torture, to self-flagellation, since the team attended two World Cups in which it was outraged by the Argentines, who scored six goals, and the Poles, who they made him five.
When the obese commentator died (of diabetes, of course), Barclays felt that he had lost an uncle in his family and left some flowers at the wake.