Ten Minute Tragedy: A Soccer Opera

Assignment #6 – Write a scene with 2 people in a room. Happening offstage––outside of the room––is a major moment in history.

Setting – Dressing room of team Peru at Estadio National in Lima, Peru May 24, 1964

  • Baritone: Hector Chumpitaz (aka: El Capitan de America) – Legendary Peruvian footballer in the prime of his career having just joined the national team
  • Tenor: Angel Eduardo Pazos – Uruguayan referee & alcoholic who’s been dry for two years

Set up/opening orchestration: Peru is hosting Argentina in an important soccer match, one that Peru is watching to win with great anticipation. In the last two minutes of play referee, Angel Pazos, disallows a Peruvian goal that would have equalized the game. The ref’s actions cause two Peru fans to invade the pitch in an attempt to harm the ref. Police intercept and begin violently beating the pitch invaders, setting dogs on them in front of 53,000 rabid fans causing further reaction from the crowd. Leading in to this scene, police have just release fifteen canisters of tear gas into the seething body of predominantly Peruvian soccer fans. Terrifying panic ensues in the stadium.

Lima 3
El Capitan de America, Hector Chumpitaz, watches as police take down a fan who has invaded the pitch – BBC News Archives
Hillsboro 2
Crush point at Hillsboro stadium  www.news.com.au

Archival images of the Lima event as well as other national soccer stadium tragedies are splashed all around the theatre, audio of panicked crowds intermingle with the orchestration. The audience should be feeling the pressure of panic all around them. The orchestration quiets slowly as the sound of cleated boots walking heavily down an empty hallway in the sports complex rises over the panicked sounds. We hear a door being opened and the lights come up on the team dressing room. Hector stands in the doorway, holding onto the handle in an attempt to steady himself.

Hector
The police
the police
though they didn’t let their dogs loose*
they did let them tear his clothes off*
tear his clothes off
tear his flesh off just a bit
and the other one
the other one
beaten by many men with batons

Lima 1
Peru Police drag the pitch-invador away in front of 53,000 people in Lima – BBCNewsArchive

blood on the pitch
blood on the bitch who bit his arm
tore his favorite jersey clean off his body

The people
the people were disturbed*
by the way in which they took the Pitch Invaders away*
dragging them like cadavers
in front of fifty three thousand people

This is why the crowd began to get very upset*

Audio rises over Hector’s voice of a new level of terror and panic echoing off the walls of the stadium. Hector is sitting now at his locker having taken off his shirt. He studies the dramatic red stripe that cuts across the chest of his new Peru kit. Angel enters holding a cup of water.

Angel
How about that?! Eh?
How about that?!

Those Pitch Invaders nearly got me
Did you see that
they nearly crushed me for that call?
What a bunch of crazy dicks
short on knowledge
never went to college
drunk on any cheap swill they can find

I don’t mind
it’s all part of the game
glad the police came down hard
to keep the yard from brimming over

Angel walks over to a radio on the wall and turns it on – music of 1964 Peru floats out over the air. As he turns on the radio his hand hits a hip-flask full of whisky that someone had stashed for later. He takes the bottle down and looks at it sitting there in his hand.

Are you ok, Hector?

Hector
The police
the police

Hector
How about that?! Eh?
How about that?!

The music stops abruptly and a reporter gives the breaking news about the riot at the stadium.

Newscaster
Ladies and gentlemen, this is breaking news about a riot that has broken out at Estadio National. Police are trying to contain the unruly mob with tear gas. Please avoid the area around Estadio National for the foreseeable future. Repeat, a riot has broken out at Estadio National. Please avoid the area.

Gun fire outside on the pitch is heard from the dressing room – men are screaming. Angel goes to put the bottle back where he found it but the disturbance scares him and he decides to keep hold of the bottle for now.

Hector
The world is broken
there is nothing to be spoken for
There is something terribly wrong here
which I am not able to fix

Angel

Lima 2
Police rushing the pitch-invaders  BBCNewsArchive

What’s going on, Eh?
Gun fire on the pitch?!
Son-of-a-bitch I have to get home
to see that my daughter is safe
She loves this game as much as I
though I forbid her from attending
this is no

place for good girls to be banging about

Hector
Don’t go out there!

Angel
Hector, that’s touching
I’ll be safe now
everyone has already forgotten about my call
that got them on their feet in a squall

Hector
Don’t you listen?!
Can you not hear the sound of people dying out there?
Our people
Our Peruvian people

I dread to see the sights that await us
when we emerge from this cave of cowards

Angel
Cave of cowards?! Speak for yourself El Capitan de America

Hector
Where is everyone then? Who else is in here but us, Angel?!

Angel
They all must have found a way out, somehow.

Hector
Maybe they are all dead
Maybe I should kill myself

Angel
Don’t be such a Shakespearian actor
There are other factors at work here
and I’m sure no one is dead!

Newscaster
Breaking News: there is a report coming in from Estadio National of thirty, no, no, excuse me fifty, fifty people dead at Estadio National! This is a horrible…wait, wait, another report…a hundred…an estimated one hundred people have been crushed to death in a stampede at Estadio National. This is terrible ladies and gentlemen, terrible

Hector
Ahhh, this is too much
There is nothing to do
no story I can tell to make the people laugh
no soccer ball to kick to make the people cheer and be happy about the day again
There is nothing I can do
There is nothing I can do
Mama, I am so sorry
There is nothing I can do to fix this

Angel
When I was three I wanted to be a footballer
I wanted to spend my life on the pitch
honing my foot work
practicing my kicks
Football was my life, my love, my path out of misery
My papa would be proud of me
if I was to be a footballer

Never was I good enough
Close but not quite good enough
so I took the only path that was by me
to be a referee – still I would stay close to the game
but it is not the same
Not the same in any way at all

Never am I happier then when I’m on the pitch
except, perhaps, for when I used to be able to drink a fifth
but that joy was fleeting

As the ball is in play and you chip it across the sky to land in the hands of the keeper
my heart wants to burst with love
The beauty of the rhythm of the game of my life keeps me alive and well and sober

My one regret is when the ball lands in the net
I see the glee on the striker’s face
perceive the pain of the keepers miss
and yet I am not part of that moment
I must endure while the world stops
to celebrate or lament the goal
I am not a part of it – I am separate – other – hated
or worse, ignored completely

A loud crash comes from outside

Hector
I am leaving the game, Angel.

Angel
El Capitan? No, no, you cannot do this

Hector
This I can do!

Angel
This you must not do! Peru, Peru needs you now more than ever

Hector
Football is dead to me just like those hundred people lying dead in our stadium

Newscaster
Breaking News: ladies and gentlemen, it grieves me mightily to tell you that Peruvian police have confirmed three hundred fifty eight deaths by internal hemorrhaging or asphyxiation in a terrible tragedy at Estadio National in Lima. There is rioting in the streets outside the stadium still – I beg of you to steer clear of Estadio National until order has been restored.

Angel
Three hundred fifty eight – gone
because of one lousy call I made
My call – my call made this happen
My call for footboll, the game I love
has brought death and destruction
to the world
The worst stadium disaster in history
is because of me

Hector
We don’t know what would have happened*
If the police had removed the Pitch Invaders*
in a peaceful fashion*
But I guess we can’t think about that now*
We have to face what’s out there

Angel Eduardo Pazos, you made the call you made
that is your job
I watched Kilo Lobaton rise his foot*
to block the ball*
and saw it rebound into the goal*
it was a foul*
in my humble opinion
though my opinion does not matter

Angel
El Capitain de America your words are sweet and powerful
I am the one on the wrong side of history
You, you are the one who matters now
You must help to heal Peru
You leave the game you kill a whole nation
Do not do that to your country!
Do not do that to your country!
Do not do that to your country!
I beg you – for love of the game
do not leave us now, dear Hector

Angel weeps at Hector’s feet as Hector sets his jaw and rises to put his jersey back on. He walks out of the dressing room leaving Angel alone with the bottle of whisky. Once alone Angel opens the bottle and greedily, tragically chugs the liqueur down.

Hillsboro 1
Hillsborough Disaster memorial.File photo dated 15/04/89 of fans being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough, during their FA Cup semi-final football match against Nottingham Forest. David Giles/PA Wire URN:8694092 (Press Association via AP Images)

 

Black out

©Marianna Mott Newirth

*From an article by Piers Edwards BBC Sport May 23, 2014 “Lima 1964: The World’s Worst Stadium Disaster”

 

 

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