For many people any editorial topic other than today’s first leg of the Boca-River battle for continental supremacy would be the grossest impertinence. But as Liverpool’s Bill Shankly said all those years ago: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death, it’s much more serious than that” – our humble newspaper does not aspire to such exalted heights but will stick to mundane matters of life and death.
There could be an editorial in today’s clash – not only exulting in such a historically unique occasion but also deploring the international disgrace implied by the absence of away fans, which exposes Argentine football as the sporting equivalent of a failed state in a country which could organise the Youth Olympics so successfully only a short time ago. But let us leave it at that for Boca-River, in the confidence that this weekend’s press will overflow with coverage and comment.
If we are going to talk about life and death, what occasion could be grander than tomorrow’s centenary of the end of World War I – an epic game-changer for this planet’s history whose appalling carnage was over eight million battlefield deaths alone while other factors such as Spanish flu and Armenian genocide more than doubled or trebled that toll? But here again humility kicks in and we will refrain from comment, other than to urge all readers to be at the British Cemetery in Chacarita as from 9.30am tomorrow for what will be a unique commemoration (whatever the elements).
The economic crisis afflicting Argentina over the last six months pales into insignificance when measured against the blood and mud of World War I but not even that is our topic today – instead it will be the 5,000-peso bonus offered as a sticking-plaster for that crisis to ease the massive loss of purchasing-power to devaluation and inflation. Perhaps not so much for the issue itself as what it represents. This country was born from an epic (of which independence hero José de San Martín crossing the Andes is the supreme image) and constantly lives in sight of grandeur with this weekend a case in point – today’s historic match and tomorrow’s even more historic anniversary. Yet the wheels are coming off all the time with such bread-andbutter issues at grass-roots level as this futile bonus while the urgent is forever crowding out the important.
Turning finally to the bonus itself, it is a futile move which seems to have achieved its intended aim of heading off an equally futile CGT general strike. But two wrongs do not make a right. The bonus is a confession of failure because President Mauricio Macri has the money thanks purely to an inflation (last month’s national revenues rose nominally by 42 percent from the previous October) he is pledged to halting. He also has the money because the public sector is largely passing on the tab for austerity to the private (perhaps not entirely Macri’s fault because he cannot obtain support from the provinces and Congress otherwise) – a private sector which now has to pay a bonus which less than half of companies can afford (at least according to business chamber claims). The simplistic formula of a lump sum is also discriminatory in its effects – a heavy burden for small firms but only a fraction of lost purchasing-power for skilled workers.
We could continue but enough has been said to show the nagging persistence of everyday problems within a crisis which shows no sign of going away any time soon. But the big picture is also just around the corner – not so much next weekend as the end of this month with the G20 World Leaders Summit.