The passion of Argentina’s supporters has been one of this World Cup’s most memorable storylines. Their fandom has a religious vibe and they have an electric atmosphere.
Even though a few images of the Pope pop up here and there, it’s more a devotion to the two messiahs of Argentinian football: Maradona and Messi. The backs of replica Argentina shirts you don’t see any other names. T-shirts were worn by identical twins in the semi-final against Croatia. One featured Lionel Messi’s front while the other had Diego Maradona’s back. On flags, banners and headdresses you see mocked-up images showing Maradona handing a ball to Messi – as if imploring him to continue carrying the fight. I’ve seen Maradona-Messi tattoos on arms and legs.
Many are making the most out of the chance to see Messi at the World Cup. Argentina’s support is much more than a bunch of young blokes.There are dads with sons, mothers with daughters, parents with very young children. Some of the kids are too young to know what’s going on but it appears they are being taken so they can be told: “You were there when this happened.”
There were suggestions a lack of alcohol would make atmospheres stale but Argentina fans don’t need drink to fuel their passion. Three hours before kickoff, stadiums open and Argentina fans rush to grab their seats. Many want to be at the front row, and flags down. No one sits down and it’s clear plenty aren’t in the places they booked.
It seems that Argentina fans are organized in a hierarchy. The front is for the hardcore – and a small fight broke out at the semi-final between supporters wanting to be in that first row.
They have generally been friendly and polite. Fans can stand on the perimeter walls. A lot of the drums that play the songs have been left there. They include drums decorated by Messi, Maradona, and other notable players, such as Mario Kempes, Gabriel Batistuta, or Mario Kempes. There is one with a map of the Falkland Islands and the words: “Malvinas Argentinas.”
The Malvinas are a prominent part of the singing. There are two main songs the stadium reverberates to when Argentina play: “Vamos Argentina” (Let’s go Argentina) and “Muchachos, ahora nos volvimos a ilusionar” (roughly: guys, now we are excited again), adopting a tune by the nine-piece Argentinian band La Mosca, which has become the team’s anthem in Qatar. That’s the one the players were joining in with by the dugouts near the end of the semi-final and have also been singing in front of fans after games, and in the dressing room. It also contains the verse:
In Argentina, I was born
In the land Diego and Lionel
I won’t forget!
Las Malvinas’ lads
Argentina fans can still be heard singing and drumming in the stadium for at least an hour after the games. The pitch is empty and everyone else has gone – it is a remarkable sight.
Argentina had the most fans in Qatar at the beginning of the tournament than any other country. According to their embassy, 40,000 people had traveled from Argentina. Although Morocco had more fans by the semifinals, the sheer number of Argentina supporters was evident right away.
European countries have seen their followings drop significantly from previous World Cups. It begs the question of why Argentinians didn’t get discouraged, especially since their country is currently in economic crisis. Also, it takes approximately 24 hours to reach Buenos Aires from Buenos Aires. This makes it seem like people have been saving for years.
Winning the Copa América last year and coming in on an unbeaten run of more than 30 games must have made a difference. They are hoping to see Messi before the end. Many locals adopted Argentina because of Messi. Sunday’s final will be like a home game for Argentina, whose fans will completely dominate the small number of France supporters. What will that do?
Argentina fans don’t really do fancy-dress costumes – unlike Brazil – but as for the man who has come to matches dressed as the World Cup … he has to stand with his arms up the whole time to hold a ball on his head. It will not be a big sacrifice if Argentina lifts the real thing.
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