It’s been over two months since the coup, yet our country is still reeling. It’s now June, and Videla’s junta – which is still being propagated as the “National Reorganization Process” – seems to be more than just the next ticket holder in the proverbial line of rulers. The military, once viewed with admiration and respect, is now feared. I would be naive to say something like this wasn’t expected – as soon as President Peron died we knew that Isabelita would prove an incapable leader – but no one could have predicted this. Everyday, I am crushed beneath the enormity of my own fear. I am constantly aware that I may be detained for my former political activism – that my own abduction is more than just a possibility. But ultimately, I fear for my family – that my father’s pride in his Italian heritage may prove hubristic – that the next coffee I have with my mother may be our last – and this fear incites a burning, unquenchable rage that burns within the very depths of my being. Disappearances are becoming rampant, and the reality is that none of us have the power to act. I feel completely and utterly helpless – suffocated by the very city that once gave my life purpose. Streets that once teemed with life are now heavy with a palpable sense of terror – patrolled by a seemingly endless parade of empty men filling military uniforms.
And yet, I am expected to carry on with our training and preparations as host of the upcoming World Cup like nothing has changed. How am I supposed to think of futbol in times like these? At first, I tried to find refuge in la pelota, to use the game I love as an outlet for my ever-growing frustrations and anger – but now any time spent on the pitch feels nothing if not trivial. After the success of my own futbol career, and subsequent retirement following my final seasons in San Martín, my country’s governing body of futbol, Asociación del Fútbol Argentino, asked me to move to Buenos Aires and serve on the staff of César Luis Menotti. I jumped at the opportunity – but now, as I sit here in my office, mentally juxtaposing the scene laid out before me – I can’t help but to notice the widening disconnect that’s developing within my country. Outside of my window, uniformed men patrol the streets – an extension of the junta’s iron fist – shaded by the massive shadow cast by the under-renovation Estadio Monumental towering in the background.
And as I stare at the clean-shaven face reflected back at me in the glass, I recall a piece of an article I stumbled upon last year while in the United States for a friendly match with US National Team in Boston, which read “although there is widespread reluctance to use the term, it is now impossible to ignore the fact that civil war has broken out in Argentina.” But I realize that now, as I gaze out on the urban panorama below me, that it’s not a civil war that we’re fighting, but an uphill battle against ourselves – an internal fight in which I have no impactful role to play. So for now, I must continue to prepare for our month in the international spotlight as a member of La Albiceleste – disgusted by my own lack of power – while I desperately try to ignore the towering, monumental shadow the desaparecidos will continue cast over the background of our nation’s consciousness.