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Wed, Jun

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My Argentina experience

Men can be basic creatures at times. A semi revealing bathing suit, a sporting event, even a cold beer.... all serve to satisfy a man's most basic desires.

For the football fan, and perhaps more so for the Trini football fan, rarely can anything compare to the national team playing against a top flight country or in a world cup qualifier do or die game.

We only have to look back to 1989 vs USA, 2005 vs Bahrain and 2008 vs England to remember how filled the stadium was and the excitement that accompanied those match ups.

When the friendly (for us)/ world cup warm up (for them), vs Argentina was announced and confirmed, and I can say this without fear of contradiction, no one was more excited than I was.

I've been a lifelong Argentina fan. At primary school in 1990, I cried as if I had lost a loved one, first when Cameroon won the opener and again when Germany won the final. A door in my parents' house remains emblazoned with the words 'Diego Maradona #10', written in liquid paper when I was 7 or 8 years old. As I grew older, my girlfriend (now my wife) would resolve our disagreements with presentations of Argentina football jerseys. My adoration of Argentina knew and continues to know no bounds. I am Argentina.

I respected Brazil as a football nation, but they always paled in comparison to my beloved Argentina. Brazil produced legends....Argentina gave us Gods.

I immediately knew that I would be in Argentina to look at the game.

As it turned out, I had to exclude myself from the TTFF charter to Argentina. My son, a young and budding wing back for W Connection's league topping U16 team had a game on the Sunday the charter flight was due to leave and I opted to be present at his game rather than on the charter flight.

As a result I booked my own travel arrangements on American Airlines and left Trinidad on Monday afternoon.

My excitement was at fever pitch. Argentina. The promised land. The cradle of my football life. Any true footballer or fan must make the journey to Argentina as necessary as the Muslims to Egypt, the Hindus to India or Giorgio Tsoukalos to the Nazca lines.

Stopping off in Miami I refuelled. I let my family know I was at my first stop and if they didn't hear from me for the next 3 days that they should fear not....for either I am inextricably bound and gagged by the throes of ecstasy or I have passed on in the only place other than my wife's arms that God understood and would allow me to pay Him a permanent visit.

The flight out of Miami to Argentina was delayed by close to an hour. So I was on the plane for almost 10 hours by the time I landed in Buenos Aires. It was a very minor sacrifice. Visits to Anfield and Old Trafford required more sacrifice and offered less reward.

I switched on my phone to catch the airport WiFi (which was not free) and to contact a friend with whom prior arrangements had been made.

It was here that my excitement turned rapidly to despair.

The icons on my phone indicated voice mails and 500+ messages from various group whatsapp conversations. I chose to listen to the voice mails.

My wife's brother had been shot in an apparent botched robbery. He was in the hospital in a critical condition. My wife left the message not as a request to return, but rather for more informational purposes. In fact, she insisted that I stay on to fulfill my destiny, assuring me that all was under control.

A choice had to be made. Without second thought, I began what turned out to be an inordinately traumatic experience in changing my return flight plans. I paid the exorbitant change fee and waited literally all day for a flight back to Trinidad via Miami. I had landed in Buenos Aires a little after 10 am and boarded a flight to Miami at 10:55 pm.

Crime had hit my family in quick succession over the past few weeks. It is this for which my Argentina trip will be remembered. Not the historic walks and tours I had booked. Not the soca warriors vs the albiceleste. Not the pre scheduled visit to Villa Fiorito. Not the trip to la Iglesia Maradoniana.

Rather my memory will be of a woman who feigned strength to allow her husband his dream. Of a society so stricken with the malady of crime that even the best thought out plans remain saddled with the encumbrance of it.

To my wife.....I will never desert you even though you were willing to grant me the permission to do so.

Don't cry for me, Argentina.... the truth is I never loved you...at  least not as much as I love my wife.

My consolation lies two fold.....I breathed the very air that He breathed, and I will be back. That I promise.