The night the World Cup was played again

The 47th edition of the Book Fair had a pearl: the presentation of Qatar – Live again (October editorial). Diary of an amazing trip. 147-page booklet by journalist Juan José Panno, who, in the manner of the old chroniclers, recounted the World Cup that Argentina won in December. He did it not only from a football point of view, but from an emotional and social point of view. Because Panno also toured the periphery of the tournament.

At the age of 73, he left the comfort of the accredited journalist and walked the Qatari streets to talk with exploited workers who, he said, showed him their intimate economic reality: “We saw the luxury, everything impressive about Qatar. Very particular: a beach without people with signs that said it is forbidden to play ball, it is forbidden to enter with animals. And at the same time we were going to other places to see other worlds. We went two or three times to a poor neighborhood because we ate cheap Shawarma. We went to the neighborhood where the guys who built the stadiums lived. There we saw the match for third place (Croatia-Morocco). All exploited men whose passports were withheld, all of that is true. They told us that they had no choice but to work to transfer money to their families. But in that time that we were there, a month, one cannot judge any society. We were hallucinated all the time with the things we saw ”.

During the presentation, the journalists Daniel Míguez and Alejandro Apo and Carlos Flores Romano accompanied him with their guitar. But among the public there were other enormous references of journalism and friends of the author. Among them, the writer and director of the National Library Juan Sasturain and the journalists Ariel Scher, Alejandro Fabbri and Adrián De Benedictis, who this Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. will present his World Cup work, written together with colleague Pablo Vignone, in the Ernesto Sábato Hall. The final of all time. De Benedictis was singled out by Panno himself for his status as a “travel partner” in the Qatari experience.

“The title, Volver a vivir, appeared to me when I was writing it, because I was reliving everything and at the same time thinking about how those who were in Argentina would experience it. It was like that all the time. The World Cup ended up being a collective construction. The players on the field won it but we all suffered it everywhere. My idea was that each reader would resonate, while reading the book, what was happening to him at that moment”, summarized Panno. Then he was emotional: “Against Mexico I went with a double chinstrap because of the Covid. It was a bad game, kid, in which nothing happened until Messi appeared and scored the goal. Next to me was a 30 or 32-year-old boy, my son’s age, who was with a tablet doing today’s journalism: tablet, photos, and also watching the game. When Messi scored the goal we looked at each other and gave each other one of those hugs that I still feel on my skin. Strong, strong, so strong that I felt that this kid could be my son. And maybe he felt that I was his father. But we didn’t talk, we didn’t say anything to each other. He finished the game and was a ‘bye teacher, bye kid’. I don’t know who that kid is. But that’s football. That is the synthesis of football: a hug”.

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Panno, who saw the Argentine National Team the three times he was world champion, has a great career in journalism, to such an extent that he is considered a master of the profession. He worked, among other means, in The graphic, Clarion and in this journal Page 12, where he is currently a columnist. He is also the author of books, such as Myths and legends in the history of the World Cups and Heart and short passes, between many more. In the photo that appears on the back cover of Relive Panno shows the replica of the World Cup that FIFA delivered in Qatar to journalists who covered nine or more World Cups. Panno covered those of 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022.

“The only time I cried in Qatar was when I received a WhatsApp from my daughter Lucía with the video of the kids from the Colón (Theater) singing ‘Muchaaaaaachoooooooo’. I was excited to see that video. The book is that: a bit of football and a bit of telling what life was like in Qatar, ”she said.

It was then that he highlighted, among his experiences, “the encouragement of the Argentines and the support of the Asian fans. From Bangladesh, Pakistan, India. I think it has to do with an adoration in principle for Maradona and now for Messi. There is an Argentine fan of export, which reaches everywhere. Guys want to be a part of it. They went with their Argentine shirts and sang ‘Meeeessi, Meeeessi’ even on the subway and they felt represented”.

“I, who do not have cabals, began to have them as the National Team progressed in the World Cup: a busy selfie for my children. Everyone was making fun of it, ”she laughed shortly before the end of the presentation that became a meeting of friends and family. Because her granddaughters, Bruna and Cata, joined the party from the stage and took the microphone to sing the soccer version of Muchachos a cappella, now we were excited again. They were the ones who without saying so summoned those present to the joy of musical applause and the intonation of the iconic song. What followed were smiles, shouts and hugs. Same as in December. As if this cold and rainy night in May the book had summoned to celebrate the World Cup again.

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