Posted: 12/11/2008
Title: BUTCH CASSIDY AND WORLD CUP ARGENTINA

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      Believe it or not but 'Butch Cassidy' real name Robert LeRoy Parker had Geordie blood. His mom was Ann Gillies from Newcastle who emigrated to New York and then on to Utah and married American Maximillian Parker in 1865, and Robert was born the next year.

    Most of us have seen and enjoyed 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'. starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman probably many times, and how they met their end in a blaze of bullets in rural Bolivia, after bank robberies in various countries of South America.

    One of the most interesting and intruiging World Cups I attended was Argentina 1978. I was waiting to pick up press credentials in Buenos Aires when I got to meet the BBC correspondent from Stanley in The Falkland Islands whose name was Patrick Watts. He ran a local league with 2 1/2 teams, augmented by visiting sailors, and I think penguins on the wing. He used to get the weekly flight to Comodoro Rivadavia in Patagonia and make his way to the Argentine capital to watch league matches when he could. The World Cup organizers made him register as a domestic journalist since they had claims on the Falklands which they called Islas Malvines.

   Anyway we watched the opening match at River Plate's stadium Estadio Munumental: West Germany 0 Poland O, and then Argentina 2 v Italy the next day. The stadium is just over 1km from the notorious Naval Mechanical School where thousands were tortured and killed within sounds from the World Cup matches. I then flew to Cordoba where Scotland were based. Arriving at the small airport I was greeted by the LOC as a neutral observer and finished up at the Press Centre at the Jockey Club with a free ride and every day I was on the local TV station giving my views in poor Spanish about the Cup. 

    I watched 3 matches there including Scotland 1 v Iran 1 and Scotland 1 v Peru 3.  Playing for Iran in all 3 of their matches was Hassan Nazari who later played in USA and now runs the Dallas Texans club who are very succesful nationally and who won Gothia Cup last summer. For Peru their star was Teofilo Cubillas who also later played for coach Ron Newman and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, alongside Gordon Banks, George Best, Gerd Muller and others. Cubillas and his family settled in Florida to this day.

    It was interesting to see the thousands of Scottish supporters congregate daily at a local bar where they stayed all day while outside hundreds of locals would stand 2-3 deep to watch Scotsmen get drunk. Although a distinguished university city, European visitors were normally few. I sat in the city centre park each day,and a local would sit next to me and click, their family would take a photo with a foreigner.

   At the time Argentina was under the grip of the JUNTA, and one evening I was invited to a basement bar to celebrate the  Day of the Journalists, an annual event. We had a great time and one local newspaper cartoonist drew a not very nice cartoon of the leader of the junta General Videla, a homicidal thug,for me on a paper napkin. With only 16 teams competing then there were a number of off days with no soccer. On one such day we journalists were taken on a slow day out into the lake district and hills which was quite boring. By the time we reached La Falda (the skirt) in the Punilla Valley, an Italian demanded to be driven back to Cordoba.

   I was fed up as well as I was sat at the top table next to the mayor of La Falda for a special lunch and speeches. HOW WRONG I WAS. It turned out to be THE HIGHLIGHT of my trip. On my other side was a local woman of Welsh descent who was to be the interpreter. She told me how her great great grandfather had led the first settlers from Wales to Patagonia to help run the mines, and to farm.It was fascinating stuff, including the story of how her ancester had been personally held up and robbed of the payroll by Butch Cassidy and his gang, I was enthralled by her tales.

   Later in the week I flew on to Mendoza in the foothills of the Andes and was at the Scotland victory 3-2 over Holland, where I met General VidelaHolland made the final, only to lose to Argentina, while I later took a bus over the Andes all the way to Santiago, Chile.

   If you remember the Falklands War 4 years later, the Argentinians 'invaded', captured Stanley the capital, and their first target was the little shack where the BBC transmitter was. Patrick Watts was marched outside with his hands in the air and later sent home to London via Montevideo and I saw him interviewed outside Parliament. He was awarded an M.B.E by the Queen and returned to the South Atlantic and now runs a successful tour company for tourists.  www.visitorfalklands.com

 

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