Reconciliatory Anguish

Argentina: Dec. 29, 1990 

It’s been about 6 months since my return from Italy – six months since my official divorce from the game that had carried me through so much. I visited Napoli – saw the home my father grew up in, sat on the bed and stared up at the same ceiling he did for so many years. I connected with cousins I had never met, was told stories of pasts so different – so much more peaceful – than my own.

I felt what it was to feel the thrill of futbol again –  this time as a coach, as an advisor. I let myself experience, if only for a month, what is was to be happy, or at least what I thought it meant to be once. Despite initial trepidation at the idea of representing La Selección, I soon realized that this was my goodbye to o jogo bonito, that the elation of winning wasn’t as powerful, and the defeats were simply sour. Defeat used to eat away at me – I’d spend nights lying awake analyzing every touch, every pass, every aspect of my play in order to be better – to be the best. Now, perspective has changed that – the game that once was the vibrant soundtrack to my life is now painted in muddled grays. Everything is relative, I’ve learned – what’s a World Cup final defeat compared to fourteen days of torture? To years of systematically enforced fear? 


This is why the game that I once loved is simply that, the game that I loved. A relic of my past that I’ll never experience as I did. What was once an emotionally empowering, spiritual, even cathartic experience is now borders on banal.

The boy that I once affectionately called the “otro Diego” is now the only Diego people at home know, and I realize now that’s how I now prefer it.

I find that there’s solace in anonymity. That I’m no longer suffocated by solitude, but relish in it.

I’m 55 now. 55. That’s still a number I can’t wrap my head around. 55 years upon this earth – I’ve seen so much, experienced so much, yet I still feel as though I know so little. Questions of morality flood my existence. Questions of my past. Questions for the future.

Why is it me who lived?

And today, Menem has pardoned the Junta. Videla is to be released from prison – a man I was once convinced physically manifested evil itself – now free to roam the streets of my beloved country, hands dripping with the blood of thousands of my people.

And as I watch Menem speak on the television, spewing rehearsed claims of “national reconciliation” and closing the door on the past, I can’t help but wonder – is this Justice?

I’ve come to terms with the past. I’m no longer angry, no longer demand retribution. But the thought of Videla – of Viola and Massera – walking free makes me sick, and I hate myself for being so weak as to wish they would just disappear.  

1 thought on “Reconciliatory Anguish

  1. ssvolk says:

    It must be so hard to give up fútbol, Diego. But how important for you to return to Italy. I’m sure that you were able to connect with your father in a meaningful way. And now, what are we going to do with this Menem. Every time you think you can trust the Peronistas to do something right, they turn around and disappoint. I guess the answer is not to rely on the politicians; if we want change, we have to make it happen. But tell me what you’re going to do now that you’ve left the beautiful game behind. (And can we ever leave it behind?)

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