Saturday, June 10, 2006


Getting married in Paraguay, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Of England's opponents in Group B, I have only been to Paraguay, and that was for the day, crossing over by boat from Formosa in Argentina. Formosa is the capital city of Formosa Province in the wet chaco area of northern Argentina. It is normally very hot and humid there, but I arrived in the middle of winter in August, when the temperature didn't get much higher than 15 degrees on the last day, a pity as I was wearing just shorts and a T shirt all day.

However, on a slightly warmer day, we crossed the Parana River to reach Alberdi a couple of miles up the river on the Paraguayan side. The river is used to transport all sorts of contraband, contraband being the biggest industry in Paraguay, where for example most of South America's supplies of Scotch Whisky originate!

Alberdi looked and felt like a wild west town, guns were freely for sale and all belts had a holster for a gun, plus holders for bullets. Illegal furs were for sale and everywhere there were saddles and leather chaps. This is gaucho country. Real gauchos.

We spent some time wandering around the shops, full of the cheapest and badly made clothes, candles to be lit to any number of Catholic saints, plastic things made in China, hair grips and this wedding dress, which rather took our fancy, the arm stuck on with sellotape saying everything about the state of affairs in Alberdi.

I once read an excellent book about Paraguay, a really good read, called 'At The Tomb Of The Inflatable Pig', by John Gimlette. You get a very good look at Paraguayan history through reading this book and a very good sense of the strength of the Paraguayan character, notably of the indigenous Guarani people. These Guarani people were those who were featured in the excellent film 'The Mission'.

Lunatic South American dictatorship seems to have been invented in that country, way early in the 19th century, with monsters such as Dr Gaspar Francia, Carlos Antonio Lopez and, worst of all, Francisco Solano Lopez. It was he who committed the country to a devastating war against Brazil AND Argentina at the same time, which was pretty reckless. The Guarani soldiers fought exceptionally bravely, carrying out near impossible orders from the generals and in the end, most of the Guaranis in Paraguay were killed. A very sad story.

So, Paraguay has the name for harbouring ex-Nazi leaders and for having had the facsictic Stroessner as President, but this is only an extension of what had been going on for centuries in that country.

So, coming back to today, and the football, we should expect to see a great display of toughness from the Paraguayans. Good luck to them, but I hope England's undoubted class and toughness will see them win.


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