The Magnetism of Walter Pandiani

What is it about Walter Pandiani?


I happened to catch the Espanyol vs. Getafe match, which turned out to be one of the more entertaining fixtures I watched over the weekend. And this was true before Walter Pandiani, the 76th minute substitute, scorer of the winner in aet, commandeered the match and its surroundings and tacked the message to every forehead.

Aka “El Rifle”—the nickname he tells us that was given to him very early in his career, back in Uruguay, by an assistant coach who said that when he, Walter, had the ball at his feet, he would “shoot” the goalkeeper. Even if something is lost in the translation, you get that his deadly explosiveness is a notable characteristic, a hint of which was discernible during his development.

Pandiani also confesses without a prompt that “many people” thought—and presumably still think— “El Rifle” meant he is well endowed, which he doesn’t exactly deny, “When I insisted that it was to do with scoring so many goals, people would just laugh – they didn’t believe me!”

If so, or just rumor, there is something more telling about this euphemism than there is in the analogy of the shooter. The young Uruguayan can set something in motion, he possesses the essential, if raw quality, of a catalyzer, measured by those who spot it, and then evaluate it with the properties of transience and resolution.

But Pandiani is much closer to being “El Bullet” or “El Bala”—he’s the thing in motion. On the pitch he is on a trajectory that rips through space, bends and pulls everything around it like speedy things in cartoons. He may even be the trajectory itself with the capacity to generate a ton of internal energy and occasionally unleash it into a match, the bullet’s sense of pure motion and direction. Here was a fifth week league match with the feel of a cup-tie.

*A simple search reveals countless jigsaw puzzles of Manchester United. Most feature a player, team photo, aerial shots of the stadium, or a classic squad from the past. There is one with David Gillis, before a Champions League match vs Porto FC, holding up one side of poster-sized Ford Foundation check, while a woman, presumably a Ford Foundation representative, is holding up the other end. In between and just behind the two stands what might be a Porto mascot who has, in a creepy way, put his puffy hand on the woman’s shoulder. There is also a puzzle of the pre-Glazer finance director Nick Humby posed at his desk. Hmmmm… Last, there is a puzzle of Manchester United vs Birmingham catching Walter Pandiani in action.

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