The World Cup at ESMA
Testimonies, Objects, and Experiences. Living in the Clandestine Center during the 1978 World Cup
40 years since the 1978 World Cup and on the verge of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the temporary exhibition The World Cup at ESMA aims to describe, through the voices of survivors, how they experienced the sports championship from one of the main Clandestine Centers of the civic-military dictatorship.
The Officers’ Club, the building that was the core of the CCDT&E at ESMA, is located only blocks away from the River Plate Stadium, one of the main sports venues where the tournament matches were played. Kidnapped victims at this clandestine center were able to hear the fans cheering while they were being tortured, shackled and hooded, and yet they also managed to find ways to retrieve some moments of humanity. That strange life at ESMA was one of the unique features of this place and it often managed to avoid the horror and ease the constant presence of fear. Approximately five thousand men, women and children went through ESMA. Some 60 people survived the World Cup. This temporary exhibition gathers the everyday experiences at ESMA during the 1978 World Cup, featuring objects and testimonies provided by survivors at the 1985 Trial of the Juntas and the ESMA Trials that have been taking place since 2004.
This is the first time objects made by survivors during their imprisonment at the ESMA clandestine center will be displayed
- Ricardo Coquet’s “purse” A black leather document case with a secret pocket made by a detained-disappeared person from ESMA at the request of the ESMA Task Force. Forged documents were transported to Paris using this purse.
- Spanish Playing Cards Made out of cardboard by the detained-disappeared during captivity. The drawings were made on paper with the suit of swords changed to be torture instruments.
- Press Pass Documents fabricated at ESMA with the purpose of enabling Lisandro Cubas to participate in a press conference by Cesar Luis Menotti before the inaugural game of the 1978 World Cup. At that time, Cubas was being held as a detained-disappeared at ESMA, and this interview was part of the forced labor he was subjected to.
“The World Cup was taking place, and I was surprised by the fact that they had brought a television set for us: I do not know if it was meant to make [the detained-disappeared] feel worse or to distract them. So, while we listened to the screams of those being tortured, we could also hear the cheers for the goals.”
Ana María Soffiantini. Kidnapped between August 16th, 1977 and August 19, 1978. Testimony at the ESMA Trial, Unified Case, 12/12/2013
“That’s when I asked permission to Febrés, who was let’s say leading the vehicle I was being transported in. I asked him if I could lean out, because the car had a small retractable roof. I asked if I could lean out and see the people. And he said yes. So I stood on the seat and got my head out, and I started crying when I looked at that, and then I realized: if I started screaming that I’m a disappeared person no one would pay attention, because this is part of what I was saying about us not belonging to the world of the living”.
Graciela Daleo. Kidnapped between October 18, 1977 and April 20, 1979. Testimony at the ESMA Trial, Case 1270, 4-29-2010.