We used to fight, work hard and achieve goals, we learned to sacrifice much to achieve them, and it’s OK. But every time you get an achievement, you cannot believe at first, however silly it may sound.
I do not remember everything in detail, only some episodes… I looked at my hands in gauntlets, listened to my breathing, which echoed in my helmet, I tried to breathe, but every breath was a great difficulty, and I tried not to cry. It was the way I felt myself after losing on the lists. Probably, I had had to train more. I even felt ashamed that I had not paid enough efforts when it had been possible and necessary. I finished the third round relying on my luck, because I could hardly breathe. I had paid so much effort but lost in the end.
Someone helped me to take my helmet off, and I sat down exhausted, sweaty and dehydrated, almost unconscious, cursing the heat. I knew that blaming the weather conditions was just an attempt to get an excuse for my defeat… my armor was too heavy… the lies you say, trying to find an excuse… it’s pathetic.
When I finally managed to control my emotions… I found myself as if in a dream. I lifted my eyes from my shaky hands and looked at the time-worn walls of Kamerlengo, felt breeze that filled my lungs with oxygen, saw the sun reflecting in my armor.
In the center of the lists two opponents started fighting, and the sound of swords amplified by echo in the walls of the fortress. What happened? I tried to recollect, but failed, as if the heat caused memory loss. I remembered my school years, the dragons I draw in the lessons, my stories about female warriors who fought against men. Men underestimate opponents just because they are women… I remembered my first medieval costume… It lasted only a few seconds, but helped me to turn my thoughts from my defeat.
I was wearing armor made by our guys, we travelled across half the world to get to Croatia for the World Championship. I started the fighting process, competing with the future world champion. I finished all the fights, despite the fact that I had never competed with professional fighters, despite the heat, despite the fact that I was wearing armor weighing 25 kg.
My dream came true! I was there! That was awesome! On June 12, 2014, 6 fighters and 3 squires came to Trogir after numerous quarrels and disputes. We were united by a single clear goal, namely to represent our country with dignity. The National Team of Argentina sounds well, much better than “a bunch of idiots dressed in medieval clothes and hanging around the world, spending their savings and all for the sake of meeting Russians who’ll certainly beat them.” We participated in “Battle of the Nations” for the second time. And this time our level of preparation was very different from the last year’s one.
Being captain of the National Team, I remember saying to the boys that our task this year was not winning, but clearing the way for those who would come after us. We would go into history as the people who brought Argentina to the international HMB arena. Let’s show them what we are capable of, or something like that… Of course, I could say, “Guys, we’re going to die, but we will be remembered as heroes, so let’s lose with dignity.”
This year gave us a lot of surprises. We won two fights, our training “paid off.” And when the guys went on winning, I felt not only joy and wonder, but even motherly fear. Team captains and our friends, as well as strangers congratulated me on the victories, and I did not know what to say. I was just as surprised as they were.
I watched my guys defeating their opponents thanks to a better strategy, like true professionals. And though the guys did not always agree with each other beyond the lists, they acted in a well-coordinated manner on the lists. Their fights looked like a well-practiced dance, they moved across the battlefield, as if foreseeing movements of their opponents, avoided attacks and won.
After the first round against Ukraine, I put aside my captain duties and became an ardent fan. I did not try to look too serious and professional, as I had been doing since my appointment as captain a year ago. I jumped and screamed like a crazy person, forgetting my words about “…clear the way for…” I just wanted to see the Argentines winners! “Strike at their legs! Le-e-e-e-gs!!!” I shouted like a madman, while my headpiece did not protect me from the rain. From jump to jump lumps of dirt flew from under my medieval shoes. My voice was getting rougher with every cry of support, but I did not care about that.
I remember when we were finishing our losing battle against Ukraine, a fighter of the Russian National Team told me that “miracles never happen”, and I could not find a proper answer since I was happy about the success of my guys. But today, I would simply tell him, “just give us time.”
Andy Di Francesco,
captain of the National Team of Argentina