Carlos Tevez grew up in a rough neighborhood called Fuerte Apache.
That was all I knew about the upbringing of the legendary footballer’s life before watching “Apache: The Life of Carlos Tevez” on Netflix. And while that original statement is still true, this series attempts to paint the picture of what that truly meant.
Carlos Tevez carries with him at all times the memory of where he came from. Not only is his nickname “Apache” he also has scars visible on his neck that pay homage to his painful childhood.
That is where the show begins. In 1984, when Carlitos was a baby (not sure exactly how many months old), he pulled down the hot water that had been prepared for mate and spilled it all over himself. He sustained 3rd degree burns to 50% of his body. But burning half his body was not even the first trial that young Carlos would have to overcome.
When still in his mother’s womb, his biological father was shot and killed. Born without a father, and then when still a baby, his mother abandoned him. He was left to be raised by his aunt and uncle. We all know that Tevez went on to play for Boca, in Europe, and as a member of the Argentine national team. He is one of the most accomplished footballers in his country’s history.
The show follows three main storylines. That of Carlos Tevez, his best friend Danilo “Uruguayo”, and a group of criminals that run Fuerte Apache. The three storylines intersect over the eight episodes as we near the inevitable stardom of Tevez.
The show’s main focus is the relationship between Carlos and Danilo. Two teenagers who show promise as young footballers but will only succeed if they can overcome the environment they were born into. The character of Danilo is based on Dario Coronel, Carlos’ real-life best friend from his youth. Coronel and Tevez played together at All Boys and as the story goes, Coronel was a better and more complete player than Tevez.
The show unfortunately moves in too many directions and tries to intertwine too many peripheral characters. It would have worked better to spend more time focused on Carlos and Danilo instead of trying to tackle the other less interesting storylines. Specifically, the group of criminals who run Fuerte Apache. I get why they needed to be in the show – I just wish they were in less of it.
The timeline also gets fuzzy. We meet Carlos and Danilo as 12-year-olds. Over the eight episodes, the pacing of the show gives no indication as to how much time has passed. Tevez joins Boca and within a few episodes his reserve team wins the league title. This give the viewer the impression that all the events taking place in the show were within a time frame of about one year. As we reach episode eight, Tevez is now 17, about to make his debut for Boca’s first team. The actor looks the same and no effort was made to age him.
While the show at times struggled in its basic storytelling, it succeeded when it focused on the relationships that mattered the most. Carlos and Danilo. Carlos, his guardians, and his birth mother. And of course, Carlos and Boca.
From the get-go, the show made sure its audience knew exactly what kind of neighborhood Fuerte Apache was. Both drugs and murder make it onto the screen within the first 10 minutes. Everything I’ve read about Fuerte Apache leads me to believe that the influence of drugs and the regularity of gun related violence in the neighborhood was accurate.
Luckily for Carlos, he had the support of his aunt and uncle, acting as parents, to help him keep his head above the water of the proverbial whirlpool that is Fuerte Apache. Many of the other characters were not so lucky and got pulled down into the cocaine and bullet filled sewage.
It’s a tale as old as time. A new generation is born into poverty and crime. Those young men and women may try to get out, but when they realize its pays more to sell drugs and commit crimes, they chose that path over hard labor. Especially when it’s the path most of their community is choosing, often their own family. The cycle continues to repeat itself.
This is not a story unique to Fuerte Apache or Argentina, it is a cycle that happens around the world. What may be more unique to Argentina is that a third path can also present itself. A path that Carlitos and Danilo both are given the opportunity to take. A path that only appears to the select few. It is the path of football. The opportunity to rise above your ranks in life and bring your family and future generations with you.
The true power of the show comes from this battle. Fuerte Apache will chew up all who live there, but the question is if the characters in the show will be spat back out and survive or if they will get swallowed up and destroyed by their surroundings. It is the battle of good trying to overcome evil. Unfortunately, in most cases, evil prevails.
At the beginning of each episode Carlos Tevez, the real Tevez, comes on screen to say a few words that tie into the upcoming episode. Stuff about his aunt and uncle, Danilo, or what it was like to play football in Fuerte Apache with bullets flying around. The addition of Tevez lends itself nicely to helping the viewer buy in to the show and its authenticity.
“Apache: The Life of Carlos Tevez” is not a perfect show. Just as many characters do, the audience can also find itself lost inside of Fuerte Apache, confused by what’s happening and where the show is heading. But where the show fails in world building, it excels by making the audience care about its protagonists. What will happen to Carlos? We may know the eventual answer, but we still care about the road it takes to get there. And what pulls the most at your heart, what happens to Danilo?
We may never want to travel to Fuerte Apache, but for eight episodes, its worth your time to walk in the blood-stained footprints of its residents.
Jimmy lived in Córdoba, Argentina as a teenager and is still an active Socio for his beloved club, Belgrano. He currently lives in Seattle, WA and runs the Belgrano – English twitter account.