Much more than a matter of life and death


Thursday, June 09 was a busy day for Venezuelans. Rumors of looting were burning through Twitter and Whatsapp chats, 44 deputies got beaten up for merely showing up at the CNE, and about half a dozen different protests took place on the streets of Caracas. But at night, after this tense preamble, we saw something we haven’t seen in a while: good news.

Venezuela is once again upsetting a Copa América, and clinched a spot amongst the final eight with one game to spare, after beating Jamaica and Uruguay in Group C.

For the third time in the last four Copa Americas, Venezuela has managed to make it past the group stage, and this time they did so on one of the most turbulent days of the year so far.

This, of course, doesn’t make the country’s dire situation any better: people are still starving, there’s still no clean water, hospitals still resemble war trenches and crime roams freely, unlike political prisoners.

But still, this is morale boost, for our extremely beaten ego, should be welcomed as a reminder that sometimes tables do turn.

Yes, this is no more than grabbing a spot among seven other teams in the quarter finals. Hardly a milestone worth a caravana. But when you rank dead last in the World Cup Qualifiers, you’ve seen your football governing body turned upside down, endured locker room mutiny, and parted ways with your once “savior” of a coach, trust me, this is a more than welcome surprise.

When Bill Shankly famously said that football was much more serious than a matter of life and death, he had a point.

These days our souls have been heavy with so many news reminding us how brittle life is, and yet what 11 men did thousands of miles away was enough for us to collectively smile, forget about our problems for an instant and shout a cfrfyuygkk“vamos Venezuela, carajo!” It is not easy to put aside the collapse of a country that, to many, has robbed them from a decent livelihood. I cannot think of another event with that same effect, not even toppling those responsible for the current state of things.

This is why sports matter: they transcend, they unite, and when things click during tough times, they become a beacon of hope.

Just like being comforted by your better half. It might not solve your problems, but it definitely makes a difference.

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  1. I read once that an Argentinian mom was thanking maradona because when she talked with her children about the old times (86) the only thing they remembered was the world cup that they won. She said, thanks to maradona and futbol, they didn’t remember that she barely had any food at home and that they were eating only twice a day or even less in some occasions, and the plate was half empty.
    Let’s hope that in some future what our country is living right now is just a faint memory, a one that hopefully will teach us something. And if la vinotinto makes that memory less bitter, well …. 🙂

    • It’s a most welcome pat on the back indeed. Instead of thinking on how this might “distract us from our problems” (which I still can’t figure how this will make people starve less, but okay), it has to be seen as motivation. If they can do it, we ought to be able as well.

      Thanks for the anecdote!

  2. “This is why sports matter: they transcend, they unite, and when things click during tough times, they become a beacon of hope.”

    Perfectly said! Last night for 90 minutes would we could all find it in ourselves to unite for a common goal! It was priceles 1 1/2!

    • Yes, but she’s more of a Spaniard than Venezuelan, father is Basque, and she’s been living in Spain since she was 6 y/o. The Spanish tennis system deserves the credit for Muguruza’s awesome victory in Roland Garros. Heard her speak? She’s 100 Española by now.

      • Hey, when the Blue Jays are winning, it is a national celebration in my country. Makes even less sense. She’s Venezuelan dammit, and the Vino Tinto just pulled off a huge win.

        • Incorrect. She’s from Spain, lived there since 6 y/o. She can barely remember Vzla. And no, the Vino Tinto just pulled a little win, in Copa America. They wouldn’t stand a chance in Europe, and they will soon be beat, again, as always.

    • I’m with you Canucklehead.
      What an impressive feat!
      Venezuela’s football team had one good match. Good for them.
      Muguruza won the Roland Garros, one of the 4 grand slams, dominating Serena in the final and losing only one set the whole tournament!
      I’m surprised no one else commented on this. No tennis fans here?

      Those that say that she is not Venezuelan are just pulling at straws.
      She was born in and has lived in Caracas, her mom and brothers are Venezuelan, some still live in Venezuela.
      What does she need to be considered Venezuelan by some?
      A certificate of 100% purity?
      Yet you see many comments like those in the internet.

      So she grew and developed in Spain, good for her.

      • “What does she need to be considered Venezuelan by some”

        Easy. Learning there what made her famous in the first place. Muguruza’s victory is not venezuela’s because none of her skills were developed there.

        Aditionally, she shows no attachment with Venezuela at all, so, why bother?

          • Spot on. In my view, taking as ours a victory by a foreigner who happens to be born in Vz is a loser mentality. Even more if the victor shows full attachment to his new country.

            Victories such as Limardo’s (chavismo money and all) at olympics are those that should be embraced as ours, if at all.

            Did you see Argentinians taking Camoranesi’s world cup victory with 2006 Italy as theirs?. Nope, not at all.

            Even considering that Camo is more argentinian than an Asado al Sauce Viejo and he aqquired italian citizenship through a great grandfather from the XIX century, Argies didn´t bother in calling Camo “An argentinian champion”

            They have no need to pick random foreign heroes since growing them home happens to be the right choice.

          • I follow your logic,
            and if you follow it to the end,
            taking anyone’s victory as “ours” is just nonsense.

  3. Oh c’mon, it’s not like they won the World Cup, or even got to the semifinals of the Copa America, where only a bunch of countries play. Plus:

    “Yes, this is no more than grabbing a spot among seven other teams in the quarter finals. Hardly a milestone worth a caravana. But when you rank dead last in the World Cup Qualifiers”

    In a soccer game anything can happen, a goal or 2, but in the end the better teams prevail. The Vino Tinto is hardly an Elite Team, not even within the Americas confines. Let alone worldwide. Venezuela is good at baseball, terrible in soccer. Sorry to say. And they not even that good in Baseball, or any other sport, because they could not even compete with any of the USA or Japan teams. They are improving, but you make it sound like they won the World Cup in Europe. They barely beat freaking Uruguay. And they will probably be beaten in the next game. Get real.

    When the Vino Tinto beats France, or Spain, or Brazil in a major event, let us know! Then we’ll celebrate accordingly.

    • I think Venezuela is good in baseball

      also ¿Baloncesto?

      campeón del Sudamericano de Baloncesto 2014,
      Campeón del Fiba Americas 2015 (derrotando a Canadá, que contaba con 9 NBA activos en su plantel),
      Guaros de Lara Campeón de la Liga de las Americas 2016 ,
      Venezuela(Femenina) Subcampeón del Fiba Americas 2016,
      y veremos que sucederá en el Sudamericano de Baloncesto 2016…

      also, the soccer sub-17 femenino are pretty respectable & accomplished, I believe –

      & while the victory might not be much in ‘real’ terms, it did fill many with pride, hope, joy and I’ll be damned if such moods are not more than welcome and heavily needed in these times of misery…!!!

      • In baseball, Venezuela usually loses even vs the Dominicans or Puerto Ricans. They would the the worst team in the USA, and couldn’t beat even Japan. In the USA they could not compete against 30 different teams.

        In basketball, are you kidding? In the NBA they would never even classify for the playoffs. 30 teams would also beat’em.

        Same as in soccer. In Europe they wouldn’t even qualify for the Euro Cup, much less the World Cup.

        Get real.

        • honestly, just because they might not measure up to la creme de la creme does NOT mean that they have no merit

          they have successfully measured up to pretty tough competition and your complete disbelief in Venezuelan sports abilities is irksome –

          not even some teams in Europe can really qualify for the Eurocup & if you would see the difference in budgets, technologies, facilities, support teams, etc. that, for example, the Germans have compared to Poland you would know that in reality it really is not a level playing field (and that is true fro any other sport as well)

          the merit of succeeding, even if limitedly is the more successful when their means to do so were limited in the first place

          that is my opinion anyways
          & Is till maintain that we are pretty good in baseball

          also, the women DID measure up (pretty well) WORLDWIDE, thereby defeating both, the USA as well as many European superpowers — that has great merit

          “would be, would never, wouldn’t even”…is improvement impossible? (in real life teams can get better) are you a sightseer, by any chance? if so, please do tell me when will we finally see the end of our misery as I am really dying to know …!!!

          you also never even mentioned the value of lifting our spirits!! I would argue that that was one of its greatest merits!!

          (stop thinking that you have gotten ‘real’ just because you are too pessimistic for life).

        • US basket + baseball teams are made up of the best players they can find from all over the world, including pretty good Venezuelan players !

          they are not even comparable to national teams of any sport.

          and the basket 2016 finals was WON against a Canadian team that had NBA players in it!

          Venezuelans can aspire, a few of them already belong to very elite teams, enjoying quantity and quality training (unavailable to most sports players of this world).

  4. “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

    Shanks was right about almost everything, specially the above 🙂

  5. Chaos here when the final whistle blew. 24 exiles (and one by marriage… me) where HOWLING. We had the big screen going in the garage and neighbors thought we were having a second graduation party. Very loud and lots of ETOH and Venezuelan appetizers. I thought the cops were going to show up….


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