Paraguay may not be the first country to come to mind when thinking about world-class cultural scenes or stunning landscapes but it can certainly claim some of the globe’s quirkiest history!
From the first true attempt at communism (prominently featuring Nietzsche’s sister) to a colony of staunchly religious Manitobans who thrive on the production of yoghurt to the harbouring of the infamous Nazi Dr. Mengele, Paraguay boasts a kaleidoscope of historical idiosyncrasies.
Dani and I walk by the Club General Genes field every day on the way to work. The faded blue sign boasts “Established on December 17, 1929” in peeling flakes. The field looks its age! The cancha is falling apart and what may have once been the nicest field in Asuncion is now ringed by a crumbling wall and a small pack of feral dogs. I never paid it much attention but then I stumbled upon an awe-inspiring, walk-to-work-revolutionizing article on a Paraguayan website highlighting a unique moment in global history.
Please allow me to regale you with a tale of hot-blooded adventure mixed with a healthy dose of bad luck.
On a sweltering Saturday afternoon in 1957, a sixteen-year old Club Genes defencemen named Fidel Trido was playing a hard-fought match against a rival. At half-time, his team decided to shelter from the oppressive heat in the shady grove of trees that lined the edge of the pitch. The team huddled together, trying to listen to their coach’s advice but there was one tiny problem: a single-prop CAP-4 Paulistinha plane. The pilot was an avid fan of Club Genes who regularly took to the skies for a better “seat” to watch Genes matches, but this weekend, he aggressively buzzed the field multiple times as he circled the cancha. Trido’s team couldn’t hear their coach because of the incessant droning and they were becoming increasingly irate. Trido finally reached a tipping point of frustration, grabbed a bright-orange soccer-ball, sprinted to centrefield, screamed “I’m going to give him some of his own medicine”, and booted the ball into the air in what he no doubt thought was a simple act of defiance communicating his team’s annoyance.
The ball hit the nose of the plane, lodgeding in between the motor and propeller. The wooden propeller shattered. The plane plummeted from the sky, skirting the tree-tops ringing the field before smashing into the ground a few hundred feet away.
Apparently, everyone on the field stood in silence for a moment before stampeding towards the crash-site. Fortunately, both occupants of the plane were shaken (duh) but unhurt. The referee soon decided that enough time had been wasted, announced it was high-time that the match continued and invited both pilots to return to the field to finish watching the match. The mob returned and saw Club Genes soundly defeat their opponents. After the last whistle, the pilot searched out Trido, reassured him that there was no hard feelings, urged him to continue playing his hardest and then left the field. I can’t say this for certain, but I’ll bet that’s the last time he ever brought his plane to a football match!
I love Paraguay for stories like this. On the surface, the country may feel a bit bland, but when I begin scratching beneath the surface, I never fail to be impressed.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for the Club Genes cancha. Now, when I begin my walk to work, my day is brightened by visions of a bright-orange football streaking into the air and knocking a plane out of the sky.