SThe air vibrates even before the crucial penalty kick. Seconds become an eternity. Then the shot, the victory, the explosion, the collective ecstasy. Complete strangers euphorically hug each other. Fathers go into crying fits in front of their bewildered children. “We are world champions!” everyone shouts incessantly.
A little later, hundreds of thousands flock to the streets of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, which were empty during the game. Crowd chants echo through the center from all sides. Motorcades are looking for a way through the crowds. Everything moves to the Obelisk, where Argentines gather when something significant happens and where the biggest party in the country takes place that day.
Hardly anywhere can this world championship title be more important than in Argentina. Everyone could see it in the stadiums in Qatar. Thousands of Argentines have traveled to Qatar in recent weeks to cheer on their national team. The Argentinian football clubs helped a lot by contributing to travel expenses. Other Argentinians used all their savings to be there.
“Argentina wanted the title more than anyone else”
In Argentina itself, soccer fever had gripped the masses long before the World Cup – the last of its hero Lionel Messi. At times there was a lack of decals for the scrapbooks. Even in football-mad Latin America, experts more or less agree that football plays a more important role in no other country. A large proportion of Argentines define themselves through football, through the club. Every four years, this fanaticism merges into one great unit, in which all borders and conflicts disappear.
“Argentina wanted the title more than anyone else,” believes a young man who watched the game on a small television with dozens of others in front of a small neighborhood shop. “This is the reward for our suffering,” he says. The Argentines didn’t just have to suffer in that crazy final game or after the unsuccessful start against Saudi Arabia. Many Argentinians have had a difficult time for a long time. The country is in a deep economic crisis. The annual control is scratching the 100 percent mark. Many Argentines do not have enough income to finish the month. The World Cup in recent weeks has offered them an opportunity to escape into a collective dream that has now come true.
When and if the Argentine internationals will arrive in Argentina is still unclear. No program has been set yet. As a precaution, President Alberto Fernández had already invited potential heroes to the presidential palace. A photo with Messi is in great demand – even among politicians. Fernández had failed to travel to Qatar despite being invited by the host. The political risk was assessed as too high. Imagine if Argentina lost with the President present. The superstitious Argentines might have blamed him.
It is also unclear whether Messi will make it into Argentine soccer heaven thanks to the title he has won. Diego Maradona is still enthroned there today, the deceased football legend who is so alive in Argentina, who last kissed the trophy for Argentina 36 years ago and is still worshiped like a god to this day. A fan carrying a faded picture of Maradona doesn’t know the answer to the question. “Bigger than Maradona is difficult,” he says. But he still can’t believe what just happened, time will tell.
Time will also tell how long Argentina’s collective euphoria lasts. Events like these tend to be very short-lived. In the case of Argentina, the joy will probably continue into the holidays. Then comes January and with it the reality in which everyone in the country is fighting for their own club again, the borders and rifts open up again. However, December 18, 2022, which will go down in history as another heroic saga, they will share forever.
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