RR: First of all – please tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name, how old are you, and where do you come from?
SM: My name is Sebastian Masciandaro, I am 39 years old and I live in the Villa Urquiza neighbourhood, belonging to Capital Federal here in Argentina. I am part of the Supporter Official of Sunderland here in Argentina together with Nico and Martín Di Paola.
NC: Hello to all the Mackems, my name is Nicolas, I am from Argentina, more specifically from Rosario, the birthplace of the flag of my country and the city where renowned Argentine athletes who traveled the world were born, such as Messi and Marcelo Bielsa among others.
RR: Sunderland is a long, long way from Argentina... how come you became a fan of this football club?
SM: Its colours, the warmth of its people, the city. It is a whole. I am in love with that club and that city. We have many friends with Nico that we talk to on a daily basis. We feel very close despite the distance.
NC: Well my passion for the club began when many players from my club in Argentina, Newell’s Old Boys, came to the club, such as Scocco or Vergini. From there I became interested in the club and whenever I could see it on television I did, I started researching their history and their fans and was amazed at the passion they have for the club. I was struck by the fanaticism and feeling of a city towards its club – it is what most has identified me with Sunderland.
RR: Argentina has a fantastic history in the sport, and so many of the world’s greatest players have hailed from the country - perhaps, most notably, names such as Maradona and Leo Messi stand out. Just how important is football to the Argentinian people?
SM: Football is everything here. Big crowds. Great importance at all levels. But the best football in the world is English, we must copy many things from there, especially in the organisation of tournaments.
NC: Soccer here in Argentina is everything. A country where economically as well as socially it was not one of the best, soccer has been a lifesaver for us. Great footballers have passed like Maradona or Leo Messi, they are somehow the flag abroad. For us, they have been the most influential people in recent times, that marks how important football is in the country.
RR: I’m going to guess that you also follow a team in Argentina - which club do you support? What is their culture like, and what are the supporters like?
SM: River Plate – the biggest club in the country and in South America. It has great predominance and has one of the most successful managers in the world: Marcelo Gallardo. The culture is of a club that has always been characterised by playing football well. “The White House of Argentine football”, in clear comparison with Madrid. Fans? Almost 20 million in a country of 50 million inhabitants.
NC: Exactly, as mentioned earlier, my club here is Newell’s Old Boys, cradle of great footballers and characters in the world of soccer worldwide, to mention some Messi, Bielsa, Martino, Batistuta, Pochettino, Maxi Rodriguez among others. Here soccer is lived with a lot of passion, it is said that the Rosario classic is one of the best in the world, the rivalry is very strong, to the point that friendships, marriages and more have been broken due to the rivalry.
RR: I guess this is a very emotive question... but why do you love Sunderland?
SM: It is a mixture of everything. The city, the people, the players who have passed through there. Beyond the distance, it is waiting for the game and sitting in front of the TV to enjoy or suffer as if we were there. When the ball rolls in the Stadium of Light or in another stadium, we feel present in that place.
NC: I like Sunderland for its history and its followers, finding a club in which soccer is lived with so much passion is difficult and here that can be seen clearly, the family, the pre-game, its fans that despite spending many bad things continue to travel and accompany the team in good and bad moments, that makes a difference and I could see it and begin to love the club
RR: Here’s a little fact for you... Only one Argentinian player has ever been capped by the national side while they were a Sunderland player - Santiago Vergini, who played twice for Argentina in 2014. One of our most popular players of all time, however, is Julio Arca, who moved to Sunderland as a young boy and eventually stayed here for much of his adult life (though I understand that he has now moved back closer to his family). How much do you know about Sunderland’s history with Argentinian players, and how highly do you regard Julio Arca?
SM: Julio Arca is a friend of ours. We have daily dialogue with him. Great player, better person. Today he is living here in Argentina. Scocco has played there and has triumphed and multi-champion with River Plate. The first was Claudio Marangoni, a symbol player here several decades ago.
NC: Exactly, Vergini has played for the national team, unfortunately his performance was not the best and he had a short participation. I met Julio when I began to get inside the club, after we were made an official branch we had a formal contact and he is a great person, here in Argentina, although he was international with the U20 team, he does not have great recognition, it is a shame because we do not know. I understand that he has come to live again in Argentina but he follows the club very closely.
RR: Have you ever visited the Stadium of Light for a game?
SM: I haven’t visited it and it won’t be long before I do. For me it would be a dream come true. Not just attending a game there, but following the team when playing away from home. I know I will fulfil it shortly. Being with my friends, seeing Sunderland, as I said before, would be a dream.
NC: Unfortunately I could not visit the Stadium of Light, I was very close there in 2016, in London but for a matter of time I did not get to Sunderland, it would be and it is one of the goals in my life, not only to live a match in the stadium but to get to know the city and its inhabitants. We’ve been lucky to meet many citizens and fans of the club such as Peter Farrer, Peter Finnon, Trevor Winter among others, I would love to go to the Colliery Tavern on a Saturday, have a beer with the boys and march to the stadium.
RR: How difficult do you find it having to follow the team from so far away?
SM: It’s difficult. But we feel very close at the same time, since we watch all the games and we keep in touch daily in a WhatsApp group (it’s called SAFC, CARP & Colliery’s). Our friends make us feel like we are there (special mention for them Jimmy and Damon Breen, Trevor, Will, Richie, Andy, Joe, Peter and Peter Farrer Jr and John Snaith from the Colliery Tavern. I didn’t want to forget about another great friend of ours – Peter Finnon. We are Mackems in Argentina!
NC: Luckily with current technology, communications are much easier, in order to watch the game we must buy the full season on SAFCSee, that has a cost. Unfortunately due to television and copyright problems, many games that SkySports transmits are difficult to tune in since Argentina cannot see their videos. As official supporters we would like the club to give us some kind of benefit in this regard, we carry out a hard work so that people around the world join the club despite one of the barriers bigger than the language.
RR: Have you managed to convince any of your friends to become Sunderland supporters too?
SM: Many have been struck, more than by me, by the Netflix series. They have sent me so many things from there, that I have given a friend or relative something to start looking at the club with affection!
NC: Yes, he has a shirt and everything haha – when we started on Twitter he was surprised and started as a joke, but over time he ended up being a fan of the club and watches all the games.
RR: What is your one wish for the football club?
SM: That in this period of reconstruction with new owners, the club will go back to what it was at the time. I have a lot of faith that it will. I see a lot of positive energy in every change that has been made since Parkinson and the previous owners left.
NC: My wish for the club is to be a Premier League team again – I know it will take time, but I do not lose hope. In recent times we have gone through bad moments both football and institutionally, but I have no doubts that we are going to resurface and mark our history. Greetings to all the Mackems in Sunderland and around the world!