June 14, 1978, noon. Graciela Palacio de Lois hurries to meet two comrades on Avenida del Libertador. That day Argentina plays, but far from where they are now. The looks are on Rosario, where the national team would be measured against Poland. She is afraid. She has dozens of papers hidden through her body that denounce that in Argentina people are tortured, killed and disappeared. She meets two comrades, Angela "Lita" Paolín de Boitano and Liliana de Cristófaro. They take advantage of the tide that walks towards the Monumental Stadium –the emblematic field of the World Cup 78– and they get lost among the people who go that day to watch the match between Italy and Germany. They have something else in mind: enter, leave the papers, stick some stickers and get out alive. For several months they have known that such a feat can cost them dearly. Even so, they don´t doubt: it is necessary to denounce the dictatorship that took its people.
Graciela had been several times on the River Plate stadium before entering the career of Architecture at the Buenos Aires University (UBA). There, she met Ricardo, a boy who was born in 1952 in Lanús and had grown up in Burzaco, where he played rugby in the Pucará club. The two militated in the Peronist University Youth (JUP). They had married in February 1975. Lita's son, Miguel Ángel, had accompanied them in the marriage. On August 15th, 1976, when Ricardo and Graciela already knew well that the comrades fell and did not return, their daughter María Victoria was born.Graciela had been several times on the River Plate stadium before entering the career of Architecture at the Buenos Aires University (UBA). There, she met Ricardo, a boy who was born in 1952 in Lanús and had grown up in Burzaco, where he played rugby in the Pucará club. The two militated in the Peronist University Youth (JUP). They had married in February 1975. Lita's son, Miguel Ángel, had accompanied them in the marriage. On August 15th, 1976, when Ricardo and Graciela already knew well that the comrades fell and did not return, their daughter María Victoria was born.
Lita stepped on a football court with Graciela for the first time. She and her husband were Boca fans, but they had never been to see a game. Daughter of Italians, she married in 1951 with Miguel Ángel Boitano, who was twelve years older than her. On December 16th, 1952 Adriana, her eldest daughter was born; Miguel Ángel, on January 1st, 1956. The two went to a bilingual Italian school that was in front of their house. Lita was widowed in 1968, when her son and daughter were still children.
Miguel Ángel was kidnapped on May 29th, 1976. Ricardo was taken from Belgrano neighborhood on November 7th of that same year. Graciela, with her two and a half months baby, started the search that took her to the organization that still integrates Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Polítcas, which had been formed on September of that year. She learned from testimonies that her husband's fate was none other than the Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada – ESMA (School of Mechanics of the Navy), meters away from where she met her two companions on June 14th of 1978. Lita began the search for Miguel Ángel along with her daughter Adriana. On April 24th, 1977, Lita saw two men lifting Adriana on a litter to put her in a car and then ran to enter another car that was moving with the lights on. Neither fear had remained, only fight determination.
The tickets were bought with the money of exiles that were out of the country denouncing the dictatorship. They had the material: flyers and stickers, some adhesives that they put in their hands and they stuck fast to avoid being detected.
"We went in as anyone," says Graciela standing outside the River´s stadium, shortly after the 40th anniversary of the World Cup 78. "We went bathroom by bathroom, floor by floor, grandstand by grandstand, leaving flyers and putting stickers. While we didn´t come to see the game, we stayed until the end to see if people took those flyers. We couldn´t know that because for reasons of security, of fear, people did not do it openly” she says.
"Few details we can give because it was quite stressful, because we were afraid, nobody will deny it" Graciela acknowledges. “We knew that the stadiums were full of people from the intelligence services or the armed forces who controlled what was happening. It was one more thing of everything we did during these years".
To search while others shout the goals
Lita went to live with her parents after the abduction of her two children. Graciela returned to the province of Buenos Aires to her family's home after a task group took her husband.
"The World Cup covered up many things. I think the triumphs of Argentina helped a lot to make people forget", says Graciela. "They said we were the anti-Argentine campaign, that there weren´t disappeared or the political prisoners, that we were working against a great World Cup. For us it was not a festive atmosphere, we didn´t cared about the World Cup results".
The relatives of the disappeared felt they were going against a country that had decided to take to the streets a nationalist fervor that anesthetized any suffering with Argentine flags fluttering in almost every corner of the country.
"What I have ingrained in my mind, and I won´t forget until the last day of my life, is the day that the World Cup was won", says Lita Boitano outside the River Plate stadium. "Each one of us, the relatives of the disappeared, reacted as we could that day. Many didn´t leave their homes. I was alone. I was a widow. I did not have my children. I left my parents and I went for a walk because it was the only way to vent and to see the reactions”, she says. She went to Santa Fe Avenue. "It was full of people and all that rejoicing. Me, I was crying. I went alone. I thought that out there maybe I could hear the word 'disappeared'. The truth is that I was afraid to say it myself. It really was something very sad".
Graciela says that her dad watched the games, although the World Cup wasn´t the same for them as for the rest of the neighborhood. After Argentina´s triumph, she -who always knew that the World Cup served to cover the drama of the disappeared- bought a little book of Clemente. "Although Ricardo played rugby, he was not a football fan, but he was a San Lorenzo fan. I bought it, I said: 'If one day he appears, I will show it to him'. It was a form of self-deception”.