These past few days have had some unexpected pitch invaders. Fortunately, not the semi-nude-idiot-on-the-field type, but rather the four legged kind: a dog; two of them, actually. The first interloper came during the Argentina league match between River and Rosario. During the second half of the 1-1 tie, a mutt entered the pitch. It had some urgent digestive business to conduct near one of the goals. Not only that; please keep an eye out for the meek efforts by the fourth ref and the stadium official. They are, at best, two aging centerbacks incapable of catching up with the most talented winger on the other team. Both men seem overwhelmed by the rival’s movement, by his Cruyff-like arrogant demeanor; the two officials are unprepared for its change of pace and its diagonals. The dog had complete command of the third half of the pitch.
The crowd, obviously, loved it. Finally, it was San Rafael native Jesús Mendez, a talented midfielder on Rosario Central, who managed to put a stop to the prancing trespasser.
The second invasion takes place in Brazil: the pitch is muddy, the play is halting and the players are moving with that particular sense of abandon and carelessness that an unstable playing field seems to produce. It is undoubtedly a more prosaic affair. The intruder this time is a keen on defense, quick on the backpedal and not afraid to bite some ankles in its own penalty box. The opposition is mounting an attack and so the dog, in all its defensive vision, sprints 40 yards to intercept the incoming forward. It misses, however, its opportunity to slide and allows a shot to go by him. He is there, nonetheless, when the keeper blocks the shot. Quick on the ball, it is up to two defenders and the mutt to decide who clears the ball.
Before the dog leaves, he is applauded off the field by one of his teammates and he manages to throw a bite at a rival who, one can suppose, must have mocked him.
These two interlopers had a fairly amicable incursion into the world of professional football. Sadly, this has not always been the case. How can one forget the terrible destiny that befell the owl, let’s call it Junior the Owl, the unofficial mascot of Junior de Barranquilla football club. He attempted to land on the field, was struck by a pass, and before it could scramble to safety, Luis Moreno kicked it solidly in the face. RIP poor Junior; he died of shock and is sorely missed.