Carlos Tevez and Dario Coronel had a great deal in common. They were born in the same year, grew up in the same neighbourhood and, unsurprisingly, shared a passion for football. ‘Together they were dynamite’ was the consensus of those who had the good fortune to see the pair linking up and hitting one-twos in the junior teams of clubs like All Boys, Santa Clara and Villa Real.
So inseparable were they that they frequently spent entire days in each other’s company. That all changed when Cabañas, as Coronel was dubbed because of his physical resemblance to then Boca Juniors player Roberto Cabanas, was selected to join the youth team of Velez Sarsfield. With Tevez not chosen to follow him there, they spent more time apart, although it was his friend’s growing attachment to a local street gang that would eventually make their separation permanent. Jettisoning a promising career in football, Coronel went the way of armed robberies and drug dealing, before reportedly taking his own life at just 17 when surrounded by police.
Coronel’s story is closely linked to that of the Barrio Ejercito de Los Andes, better known as Fuerte Apache, one of many complexes of high-rise tower blocks that fill some of the most disadvantaged areas of Buenos Aires Province. Nor was his story a sad exception. Among its streets, where some 30,000 inhabitants were squeezed, many youngsters came to a similarly tragic and unreported end. Tevez, however, made sure he was not among their number.
The man they call El Apache managed to sidestep the temptations of crime and bad company to forge a career in professional football. Currently delighting fans of Juventus in the Italian Serie A, Tevez frequently uses his background and goal celebrations to vindicate the lives of those who, with hard work and sacrifice, are struggling to extract themselves from difficult circumstance.