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Returning to Córdoba (TCC) (short)


SCIAG

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Author's Notes: This is the sequel to Actually, I AM a fat Spanish waiter. So there, and follows directly on from the closing scene. Whilst reading the previous story is not essential to enjoy this one, I recommend it, so the jokes make sense. This story, like its predecessor, is fairly light reading compared to some of my other stuff.

About the Author: SCIAG is a 24 year old from Reading in the south of England. The author of the critically acclaimed "There's No Time Like The Present", the seriously disturbing "Never Cross an Austro-Hungarian" and the award winning story that he is still living off of, "Call of Sport 2205: World At War", he started writing for FMS in July 2008. Whenever he is asked why he hasn't written anything good recently, he mutters something about "big plans" and rapidly changes the subject.

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I had hoped that my Mourinho-esque celebration would have made somebody consider me as a potential manager. My first point of call was Stirling Albion. The Scottish Second Division side would surely be prepared to take me on?

I was laughed off. I was then told that Brentford had sacked Scott Fitzgerald. I headed south again. Stirling to London is a horrible drive, never do it. Seriously, don't. The worst part is the North West of England. They should re-name Greater Manchester as Greater Traffic. Anyway, despite the tremendous commitment I had shown, they didn't take me on. I explained that I had taken a side in financial turmoil to the top of their league, I pointed out that we had put four past Barcelona. They gave the job to Peter Reid.

David Gold at Birmingham ran out of patience with Steve Bruce minutes after Peter Reid was appointed. I sent my CV ahead of me and dashed to St Andrews. I thought my links with some of the players would put me in good stead, but by the time I got there, some Dutch guy had the job.

I even re-applied for the Córdoba job, in the hope that my re-emergence would give the players all the incentive they needed to break the bad run of form. It didn't work. They appointed some clueless half-wit. Apparently Marcos Alonso was a good player, but his achievements as a manager were less impressive.

I watched over Córdoba from afar. The midfielders now had more defensive roles. I disagreed with that, of course. Javi Flores and Arteaga couldn't defend for their lives, but now they were practically being asked to play as second full backs.

Alonso's first act as Córdoba boss was to release Pierini, Villa, and Esteban. Sure, they were getting on, but Pierini had an important role to play, Villa was decent, and Esteban could at very least have commanded a fee. He then bought in a defensive midfielder. He was even worse than Esteban, and was on a massive wage. This saw Navarro dropped completely, even when Bordas picked up an injury. Antonio was restored to the first team at the expense of one of the players of the season, Davide Giubilato. Even Fiore wasn't immune to being dropped. He was out for David Valle. Kily and Ruben, who had barely made a mistake between them all season, were also out, for the utterly useless Dani (another donkey) and Oscar Sanchez respectively.

The club was, no doubt, worse off than it would have been with me. Javi Flores rescued Alonso from a premature sacking by repeatedly scoring goals to make up for those we were now shipping. In five games after I left, the club had two losses, two draws and a win. They conceded nine goals in those matches. Only the goals of winger Flores and his replacement, Guzman, stopped all of those being defeats. Córdoba remained 11th, and the financial situation only worsened without me. The high compensation packages paid to the three released players, in addition to the high signing on fee and wages of the new signing, had only made the future bleaker.

Then, in the fifth match, disaster struck. Alonso picked a trialist- the young midfielder I brought in from Everton for a month. He played pretty badly from what I can gather, but the fielding of an ineligible player really interested the Spanish FA. Córdoba had to give up their win. They dropped to fifteenth, one place above the relegation play off. Now they had half the points total of the league leaders. It looks like there will be no such thing as Córdoba soon.

From a personal point of view, I gave up on getting a job in football. However, as winter started, I received a call from the job centre.

I was to fly out to Argentina. I had a job with a top flight side. Unable to find any information about football in Argentina, I had no idea where exactly I would be heading. I knew it wouldn't be Boca Juniors or River Plate, the only clubs I could name. I quickly checked the major cities in Argentina in the hope that one of them held a clue. There were no cities called River Plate or Boca Juniors.

There was one called Córdoba...

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I landed in Buenos Aires. As I passed through customs, I saw a large man holding up a sign with my name on it. I came over to him.

“Córdoba?” I asked. He nodded. He led me to his taxi, and drove off.

Eight hours later, I was shaken awake. He'd driven me right to the stadium! I paid him, and gave him a generous tip. I couldn't really afford it, but I'm sure it was cheaper than any other way of getting to Córdoba.

This stadium was the second biggest I had managed in. Only Camp Nou beat it. Córdoba certainly faired better here than in Spain.

Nobody challenged me as I headed down what looked like a player's entrance. My suspicions were confirmed when I reached a long corridor. On either side of corridor were two doors, and at the far end, I heard a crowd roar.

I was nervous as a nervous ball of nervousness with a nervous syrup nervously poured over its nervous back. I still barely knew any Spanish. Anxiously, I walked down the tunnel until I was next to the two doors. One of them had a sign on it that read Belgrano. The one opposite read Away. Well, if this was Córdoba, they wouldn't be the away side. Belgrano must be their nickname or something. With that decided, I knocked firmly on the door marked Belgrano, and strode in.

As I said, my Spanish isn't good, so I'm not sure if I was being asked about seals, or told to mind my own business. It was one of the two. Regardless, when I explained that penguins are better than seals any day of the week, I was thrown onto the floor outside the door.

Then the away door swung open.

“Señor!” cried the man in the frame. I looked up. “Señor, it is brilliant to be seeing you! The players were beginning to worry! I have put them in a... formation? Yes, I am thinking that formation is the word. It is the one you used at Córdoba. I hope is fine!”

Slightly confused, and only partly because of the man's broken English, I stumbled into the away changing room.

“Um, woo.” I said, knowing that this time there would be no translator. I could give them a lecture on the mating habits of the Outer Mongolian Wombat and they wouldn't be aroused.

Now, we're in the present again. I really hope this bloke knows what he's doing. And how does an Argentinian know how a Spanish Third Division side play?

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A free kick comes into the box. There's a major mix up between the defenders and the goalkeeper, who spills a shot. A striker gets to the rebound. We're 1-0 down already. It is possible that this team are worse than Córdoba?

Well, at least the reds they get are deserved. A blatant elbow in the face from our left winger sees him heading for the bath after only 13 minutes.

“Is not good,” says my illiterate assistant. “He is fast. We need fast on wing, no?”

Yes, we do need fast on wing, but if he can't stay on the pitch for a quarter of an hour, he's unlikely to have a role in the future.

This requires a formation change. We go 4-2-2-1. Two attacking midfielders support a striker, who's a big chap. The two central midfielders should give us the balance of attack and defence we need. I'm worried that the absence of a striker partner for the big bloke will see him isolated.

Belgrano hit the bar with a long range shot, but we come at them. One of the attacking midfielders, Leguizamon, burst into the area. He had a chance to shoot, but didn't take it quickly enough, allowing the goalkeeper to position himself better.

We really do begin to dominate the territory. Eventually, we win a free kick. The defensive midfielder positioned the ball.

“Are you sure he's the best man to take it?” I asked.

“Trust us” my assistant said.

He approached it at a forty five degree angle. His strike was true. The ball swerved a lot, and got down unbelievably well. The goalkeeper couldn't keep up with the movement of it. We had an equaliser.

It didn't last long. Poor distribution from the goalkeeper saw them get the ball. Escobar, my centre back, didn't seem to realise the importance of the situation. His partner Crosa did, moving across to cover, but in doing so he left the other striker unmarked. The ball was squared. Goal.

“I'm sorry lads, it looks like we've lost this,” I said to thin air. “I have faith in some of you to turn it around. You're coming off son, that was disappointing. Hey, why don't you try this up front...”

Three minutes after the restart, the defensive midfielder tries another free kick. This one isn't as sweetly struck. It's caught by the goalkeeper.

As the half ticks on, we have no more attacks. Indeed, neither side threaten much apart from at set pieces. Then we make another mistake. A sloppy back pass is punished. It rarely isn't.

Oh, what I would do for my Córdoba defenders!

It doesn't end there. Again, there's a long period where neither side threaten. Our defensive midfielder tries a free kick from quite a tight angle. It's cleared, they work it to a striker who runs the length of the pitch, beating four players, and sets up his partner for an easy goal. Gudjohnsen or Modric he isn't, so my defenders must be really bad.

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Thanks, you two!

I was very confused after the match. We left Córdoba, and headed away on a bloody long coach drive. The players started shouting something in Spanish. Once more, I half suspected that they were singing about their favourite seals, but the tune was remarkably similar to a song I'd heard on the English terraces asking an individual or collective to identify themselves. It uses slightly stronger language than that. A few objects seemed to accidentally hit me on the head. I presume that this is some sort of South American tradition, throwing objects as far as you can when on a coach.

Finally, we're back. The stadium here is big, alright, but it's not Camp Nou. The size of Bramall Lane, possibly. I got out, and the coach drove away! Sh*t! Is this some sort of practical joke?

“Señor,” said a voice behind me. I span around. A man in a suit. Quite short, with matted hair. Very definitely South American.

“I'd like you to come with me,” he said. “We have many things to talk about! You like my stadium, of course?”

I played it safe, and nodded.

“That is what everyone says!” he laughed. “A fine piece of architecture! I designed her with my bare hands,” he explained.

This begged two questions. One, how could anybody consider that load of corrugated iron nailed together fine architecture, and two, how did you design things with your bare hands? Surely you need a pencil or something? Oh, and I hadn't said anything. Did that meant everybody was silent when they were asked about the stadium?

“Through here, of course,” he gestured, pointing me around the back of a wire fence. Suddenly, he whipped out a gun.

“Hands on your head, don't move!” he shouted. Sh*t! This guy wasn't the chairman at all! I stuck my hands on my head.

“Where are the drugs?” my captor shouted. I trembled. I knew nothing about drugs. What would he do to me if I couldn't tell him?

“Sorry, if you can't tell me, I have to kills you, of course!” he shouted. Then he started laughing. Oh, so he was a maniac too. Fantastic.

“It is a fake, of course,” he said. I nervously turned around. He threw the gun into the bushes behind him. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“This one isn't, though!” he cried. I groaned, but he didn't produce a gun. “I got you again!” he bellowed. I was starting to get annoyed.

“So, are you the chairman, or not?” I asked.

“Yes, I am. Of course. It is my club. Of course. I heard you did great things with that Spanish club. You had money problems, sorry, you try to sort them out. I want a manager who could take care of my money! So I hire you, of course.”

“Sorry, what club is this again?” I asked, sounding like a bloody idiot.

“This? This is Gimnasia, of course.” He laughed again. Did he spend his life laughing? “We have been in top flight for twenty years. You don't get that in England or Spain, no? We never win anything, sorry. We come runner up a few times, of course.”

I was beginning to wonder what his point was.

“My point is, I want you to bring in new players, for money. You must stop us spending too much, but I want the team to be better, of course. After that, I want us to do better in league, sorry.”

That was convenient. I had a chairman who could read minds! Now, why had he sacked the last manager?

“I sack the last guy because he make bad signings, waste my money, of course. Also, we get to Cup Final against Pele, but then we lose 3-0. Second leg soon! We will win, no, Señor? Cup need trophy!”

A match against Pele? How did that work?

No answer. Maybe he couldn't read minds.

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SCIAG is going to be away from the internet for a short while and has asked me to post this on his behalf, which it is, of course, my pleasure to do so.

A lot of rummaging later, I found out that the match was actually against Santos, Pele's old side. Evidently, Mr Munoz (the rummaging told me his name too) didn't know much about football. That was always worrying.

Guess what else worried me? The papers. So far, they had mostly left me alone. Today however, it was different. One of the local papers contained an article with the headline “locked in.” According to an anonymous source, I had locked the door of our dressing room after the match and left the players to starve. What rubbish. I hadn't been hungry, I mean, happy, but I had certainly not locked the players in.

On top of that, there was one article from Spain that was quickly circulating around the internet.

Julio Pineda was pouring out on his “nightmare” time, in which he had been dropped for “seemingly no reason”, and called a donkey to his face. I don't remember calling him that in front of him, but if I did, who cares? It's true! Pineda ruined Córdoba. His hopelessness made us change formation to stop him getting in the side! He had missed chance after chance which could have got us up the league, and possibly allowed the club to survive. Now it looked like they would be in receivership by August. He was unable to step up to replace Moreno, and equally inept when it came to doing the job of Davies or Asen. If I could, I'd stop him ever playing football again. I still haven't worked out why twelve clubs had seen something in him.

Obviously, these revelations worried Mr Munoz, but I explained to him that it wasn't true, and he seemed to accept that.

So, Santos would be in town soon. Their squad boasted Ze Roberto and Claudio Maldonado. They normally played a 4-4-2 diamond that some would call 4-1-2-1-2. We would start from 3 goals down. 3 down at half time. By full time we had to be level. This reminded me of Istanbul. How I wished I had been there.

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As before, I am still acting as SCIAG’s substitute, and posting it on his behalf. It is all written by him though

Well, I suppose you want a run through of the squad. You're not getting one. You know too much already. If you find any more, it will be the end of this. Information will come on a need to know basis.

Against Santos, we will play a 4-1-3-2 formation that will put pressure on the back line to perform. Without foreign player restrictions, we shall be able to field the best possible XI, although the bench will be weakened by the fact that we can't field players who weren't registered for the competition.

Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata (GELP) formation:

GK: C. Kletkicki

DR: A. Ormeno

DC: M Escobar

DC: F. Crosa

DL: F. Rojas

DM: A. Matellini

AMC: I. Piatti

AMC: A. Pacheco

AMC: G. Basualdo

ST: S. Silva

ST: L. Leguizamon

Despite our reckless attacking, it was Ze Roberto who saw most of the ball. Twice he tried free kicks from very long range, free kicks that only Juninho could realistically hope to score. Serve and counter serve, attack and counter attack. The game was in a delicate balance, and it looked like Santos had the upper hand. Pele was reported to be in the stands. That worried me secretly. Camp Nou was nothing to this.

Ormeno to Leguizamon. He holds up the ball, then spins and plays in Piatti. I'd have backed him to score, but he skies the ball. A sign. We can carve out chances. It will just be a matter of finishing them off.

Matellini brings the ball out of defence. Rojas advances. The Peruvian finds him. A diagonal through ball finds Leguizamon in space. He slots home. 3-1. That's a third of the work.

They move the ball well. Cleber Santana has the ball. He runs through and shoots. Kletkicki saves, but can't hold onto the ball.

“Clear!” I shout, sounding like a doctor with a defibrillator. Crosa finds Silva. He in turn passes to Piatti. Piatti to Leguizamon, who lays it to Rojas, who play it back to Silva. He sees Leguizamon in space. With one touch, he directs it to Pacheco, who only needs one touch of his own to play in Basualdo. He runs at the goalkeeper and scores . Two goals in two minutes. The lead is cut. We can win this...

Goal kick from Kletkicki. Too far from the front line. Crosa goes to help it on, but loses the header. Renatinho has the ball. He sprints at goal, using the space provided by the centre back's lack of discipline. Escobar comes to challenge him, and delays his progress. However, doing this leaves space for Marcos Aurelio. Renatinho finds him. Matellini does his best, but he can't get between Marcos and the gaping chasm in the goal. 2-4 on aggregate. Away goal for Santos. Back to three goals.

Piatti swings in a free kick. Basualdo heads it. It's clawed off the line by Fabio Costa. Silva leaps in, but a defender blocks it on the line. Pacheco pounces, but his shot flies over the bar.

Piatti has to go off injured. On comes Leal, and we go 4-1-2-3. Minutes later, Silva, on a booking, get a long talk from the referee. He doesn't get another yellow, although we worried that he would.

Leal has a shot saved. Pacheco puts one over. Leguizamon twists his man and hits the post. Silva forces save after save. Basualdo hits one from range that goes just over. A Leal shot deflects to Pacheco, who tries to squeeze it in, but hits the side netting. Rojas swings in a cross that almost creeps in. Crosa's header is saved. Then a breakthrough- Basualdo draws a defender, then finds Rojas on the overlap. The full back is behind the defence, and he cuts inside. He hits a shot with venom, and the gap is reduced to one goal.

On comes Ferreya, and we really go for it. 3-1-1-5. We have eight minutes, plus hours of injury time. Santos have wasted every second. When Santana picked up an injury, Ze Roberto spent 30 seconds wondering whether he should throw the ball back to us or not. In the end, he did, but our sporting gesture of putting the ball out wasn't matched.

Matellini picks up the ball. Leal starts to run, and Matellini sprays a pass that Beckham would be proud of. Leal's touch is maybe slightly heavy, but he manages to just catch up with the ball. As the goalkeeper comes charging out, Leal makes a desperate slide for the ball. He gets a decent connection. The goalkeeper is completely flat footed, and can't get to it.

The equaliser is a mirage. Santos have the lead, of course. Deary me, I sound like the chairman, sorry.

Man after man piles into the box. Something will come, something will. Five minutes on the board, and we're into the fourth. Basualdo is doing his best to supply something, but it isn't happening.

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Another post of SCIAG’s behalf

And then it does happen. Ferreya finds a tiny pocket of space. Basualdo lofts the ball over the defender who is stood between them. The diminutive striker looks across to the assistant. He's onside. The angle is narrow, and the goalkeeper is large. Silva is free in the middle. If Ferreya finds him, he'll score.

No consensus has ever been reached in football about whether greed is a good or a bad thing in a forward.

Ferreya drove the ball in low and hard towards the near post. The goalkeeper threw himself in the way. The ball bounced loose, span away, against the post... and over the line. 5-4 to Gimnasia.

Blimey. I just won the Copa Liberadores. I just accidentally won the Copa Liberadores. I had just accidentally won the Copa Liberdores for the wrong club at the request of a cackling manic.

“Señor!”

Talk of the devil...

“Señor! That is the best match of footballs I have ever seen, of course! I dream of this moment when I was little boy, and when I buy the footballs club, and when I sacked the last manager for losing! We beat Pele, sorry! Happiest moment of my life, of course!” He shook my hand enthusiastically. “No new contract, sorry.”

“What?” I'd won my second match five-one (balancing out my 4-1 loss in the first match, where I hadn't even picked the team!), and I was being let go already?

“I sell the club, of course! Rich man from Spain come over! Offer me money! I accept, of course, sorry. I have lived the dreams, of course. Of course, Señor Pineda offer me lots of money, so I accept, sorry.”

Mr Pineda? That couldn't be the Pineda, could it? The donkey himself, or at least a family member?

It's better to be safe than sorry. I'd better get back to Europe.

The End

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