The Oath of a Football Fanatic


On the eve of Ottawa Fury’s first ever home match, the world lost one of its most valuable authors: Gabriel García Márquez, a fanatic of his Barranquilla Junior, seven times champions of Colombia’s Primera A. Not born a fanatic of Junior, García Márquez became one on the occasion of his first ever live match, already a grown man and journalist. Documenting his transformation, wrote the short article below, which he titled “The Oath”. Every fanatic has their own moment when they realize their own passion. Come Saturday we hope Ottawa finally loses its sense of shame and converts, wholly and completely, into a fanatic of our Ottawa Fury FC. Any errors are my humble mistakes in translation.

The Oath

By Gabriel García Márquez

The Colombian Nobel Laureate retells the football match where he lost his sense of shame and became a fanatic.

And so I resolved to go to the stadium. As it was a most talked about event, I had to go early. I confess that never in my life have I arrived so early, never have I left so exhausted. Alfonso and Germán never made an effort to convert me to this Sunday religion of football. Above all else they easily doubted I would convert into the possessed person, stripped of the veneer that could be considered the last vestiges of civilization, that I became on the stands of the Municipal stadium. I realized, in a moment of lucidity, that I had become an ungodly fanatic. Many times in my life I had taken pride in something that yesterday, for the first time, disturbed me: my sense of shame. Now I understand why these gentlemen, normally so stiff, feel at home when they put on, according to the rules, their colourful hats.

With this one gesture they automatically transform into someone else. It is as if the hat is nothing else but the uniform of a new personality. Maybe my education as a fanatic is still too fresh to allow me to share my observations on yesterday’s match, but let us agree that one of the essential conditions for fandom is the absolute and complete loss of one’s sense of shame. With that, I will say of what I saw – or what I think I saw yesterday afternoon – to start to wet these well guarded sporting feet. In the first half, it seemed to me that Junior dominated the Millonarios from the first second. If the white line that divides the field into two halves means anything, than my belief is true, for the ball rarely if ever, in the first half, could enter the side that corresponded to the Junior’s keepr. (How’s my debut in football commentary?)

“I don’t believe that I have lost anything today in my irrevocable entry – publicly – into the saintly fraternity of fanatics.”

Moreover, if the players of Junior had instead been writers, it seems to me that the maestro Heleno would have been an excellent author of crime novels. His slow calculation, his controlled probing investigative movement, and finally his rapid and surprising conclusion were  worthy of a creator of a new detective for crime fiction. Haroldo, for his part, would be like Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, with the ease in which the Brazilian could be anywhere and everywhere, always working, simultaneously serving eleven gentlemen. It was as if he was not trying to provide a goal but, rather, to rewrite all the hefty volumes of Sr. Marcelino. Berascochea would be no more and no less than a prolific author. He would write seven hundred volumes, however, on the importance of pinheads. And the great art critic would be Dos Santos – who carried himself as if four – cutting off the passage of all the wannabe writers that hoped to reach, with their best efforts, the gates of immortality. Latour would write verses. Inspired full length poems. Something you could not say of Ary. There is nothing to be said about Ary; his teammates on the Juniors did not allow him the opportunity to show anything more than his most modest of literary contributions.

Because of this the Millonarios, including the great Di Stéfano, if I know anything, were only rhetoric.

I don’t believe that I have lost anything today in my irrevocable entry – publicly – into the saintly fraternity of fanatics. My only desire now is to convert someone else. I believe it will be my distinguished friend, the doctor Alberto Reyes, who I will take to the terraces of the Municipal for the first match of the second part of the season, with the hope that he does not leave – from a sporting perspective – a lost sheep.

Original can be read in Spanish here.

Translated by Matt Hawkins

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