Autumn in Buenos Aires: San Lorenzo and Carrefour

Autumn has arrived in Buenos Aires and the clearest sign is the number of sweaters and scarves that the Porteños are wearing. Mid-day today I was the only person walking around in short sleeves - 16 degrees and quite pleasant in the sun. My Canadian reaction to autumn is "enjoy it, it's not too cold after all" for an Argentinian it seems to be: "brace yourself, it might get really cold". At this rate, Argentinians are going to wearing Arctic parkas for 5 degrees above zero.

Coming winter also means the looming end of the Clausura tournament. San Lorenzo is sitting two points above near-top of the table Tigre and direct relegation to the Primera B. Of the remaining six matches, San Lorenzo needs to win at least four - and hope that Tigre struggles fails in at least two of their matches. Just to avoid direct relegation. Right now San Lorenzo is sitting in the third last spot of the promedios while sitting in the middle of the table, the Argentine-way of deciding which teams are the worst. The promedio is the ranking the average of points-per-game of each team over the last three seasons in the Primera A. San Lorenzo's greatest difficulty is that the two teams directly above, Rafaela and San Martin, have only had one season in the A. The mathematicians among us could explain better, but the result is that each three-point win for Rafaela and San Martin is more valuable. Tigre, thankfully, has had three seasons in the A and could create history by being the first team to win the league while directly descending to the B. It is a suitable reality for football in Argentina, where something is broken if it makes sense.

Today San Lorenzo is playing Olimpo of Bahia Blanca. The yellow and blacks are sitting at the bottom of the promedios and the table; guaranteed to be spending next year in the B. After some work, the Nuevo Gasómetro will be ready to host a night match. Two weeks ago, San Lorenzo needed to host Arsenal in the middle of the day because the stadium lights had yet to be fixed following the damaging storm. Enough of the lights will be working, hopefully, tonight for a 8 o'clock kick off. And yes I'm expecting to feel the cold.

While the Nuevo Gasómetro remains 'a work in progress', and I'm not talking about the completed stands and new roof promised by current club president Carlos Abdo, the march for the 'vuelta a Boedo' and the return to the Viejo Gasómetro hit a stumbling block. A week ago Wednesday, without much of their own publicity, Carrefour opened their Av. La Plata store. The French company has been working on the site for over a year putting a new roof - one that must be mentioned appears to be easily removed in pieces - on the building.

The group behind the Legislation of Historical Restitution and the marches for the Vuelta a Boedo has been organizing a few gatherings in front of the Carrefour; I was there a week ago Wednesday when they had opened. We were about six to ten persons (San Lorenzo was playing in the Copa Argentina at the time), equal to the number of military police sent to watch over us. Carrefour avoided any promotion of the opening and in the end very few people tried to shop, a few senior citizens from close by, parents picking up their children after school, and a few cars were all that passed us by to calls of "¡Complice! ¡Militar! ¡Sangre!". All references to the military dictatorship, which forced and profited from the sale of the Gasómetro. I should say, at times I wasn't too comfortable with things that things people from San Lorenzo were shouting. Racism is everywhere and football supporters in Argentina are trained from a young age to associate the release of anger to discriminatory language. "Bolivianos, Paraguayos, Peruanos" are used as insults because immigration from surrounding countries, much like in Canada and the US, has supplied cheap labour in Argentina. Any person with darker skin entering Carrefour was labelled as from a neighbouring country and told to "Go back to your country!" Not really the things I'd like to hear or support, but reflective of a much more complicated reality within Argentine society.

Today hinchas began protesting in front of the Carrefour at 10 in the morning. Later on, I'll be part of the procession from the "Tierra Santa" to the Nuevo Gasómetro 30 blocks away for the evening match against Olimpo. Carrefour is likely to suffer hundreds of football hinchas at its front gates for every local San Lorenzo match for the rest of the season.

Autumn is in full swing; the metaphor of transition is an ominous one for San Lorenzo - both in the relegation fight and with Carrefour. But if they make the best of it, win a couple of matches and keep the pressure on the city and Carrefour, maybe winter will arrive without too much trouble.

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