x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A River flowing with tears

Yes, River Plate, with their 33 titles, got relegated. River Plate got relegated... Sometimes, if you repeat the truth enough, you almost can goad yourself into believing it.

The news footage from the Nunez neighbourhood of Buenos Aires contains so much crying that it appears somebody might have imported a big screen and showed some comprehensively merciless revival of Titanic.

Some home fans cry. Some away fans cry. Some players cry. Some people walk pavements and cry. You could not blame the referee if he, too, cried while wondering why he ever became a referee after he had to curtail the match without stoppage time because irked fans leaked on to the pitch.

River Plate, the colossus of the fervent football nation of Argentina, got relegated.

Yes, River Plate, with their 33 titles, got relegated. River Plate got relegated. River Plate got relegated.

Sometimes, if you repeat the truth enough, you almost can goad yourself into believing it.

As of the 1-1 draw with Belgrano on Sunday that cemented a 110-year-old club's unprecedented thud into a league with "B" in its title, one of the world's most emotional rituals had struck again.

That would be relegation - somehow more compelling than its fraternal twin, promotion - and that would be a beast flinging waves of a strange brand of grief that goes largely unexamined.

From afar and to the uninitiated in countries which lack relegation, it can seem formulaic. A few clubs plummet. A few rise. Casual conversation might note teams that "got relegated" before the subject quickly shifts.

Left among only themselves in comprehension of the sting, then, would be the fans sorting through what David Gold, the owner of relegated English Premier League club West Ham United, once called "a devastating thing" as he alluded to its destructive power, a power on gaudy display on the northern edge of the great Argentinian metropolis.

With this relegation, such ravaged feelings would figure to prove unusually complex.

In any museum of relegations, this one would have to occupy the lobby.

If you argued it as the most profound relegation ever, you could not be committing any flagrant irrationality. Just take a gawk at the sheer breadth of this thing.

Its tentacles reached into the fan base of the Buenos Aires club Boca Juniors, where the misery of the reviled rival River Plate became translated into mirth.

Amid all the blaring headlines on the website of the Argentina sports daily Ole, you can see giddy Boca Juniors fans having some sort of little marching fete while practicing one of sport's most cherished currencies: loathing.


Translation: The laughter that you give me.

This relegation, of course, ransacked the tonier rooms and hallways of an exceptional club long nicknamed "Los Millonarios," casting uncommon ire upon a national hero, the 1978 World Cup-winning captain and River Plate club president Daniel Passarella, and wreaking a shocking cover of Ole featuring a close-up of goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo's teary visage.

Accompanying headline: RIVER DESTROZADO.

Translation not required.

Not satisfied there, the relegation packed also the oomph to shock football observers in Buenos Aires, in Argentina, in South America, in Latin America and in knowledgeable or semi-knowledgeable pockets worldwide.

Even as Argentina's system operates on a three-year evaluation and River Plate's meagre 2009/10 season lent severe hindrance, this drop would not warrant any confusion with West Ham, Birmingham or Blackpool.


Translation: incredible but true.

Mostly, though, the beast will wring weeks and months of cringes and winces from the faithful who for varying reasons make a club a prominent aspect of their lives.

It will lurk in their homes and neighbourhoods.

It will, in some curious way, alter the way some view themselves even if fleetingly.

Certainly the humiliation helped fuel riots that injured 89 people in the atrocious aftermath. You would have to say that is one mighty beast.


Translation: Impossible not to cry.