Latin Americans are rallying behind Messi – but not Argentina


BOGOTO, Colombia – When the topic of Argentina comes up, Jimmy Becerra catches his eye, like many Latin Americans.

Stereotypes about the South American country – and especially its football fans – have been passed down through generations in this part of the world, including the Becerra family: Argentines are arrogant, the 35-year-old Uber driver said. They think they are superior to the rest of their continent. He said in football, They are unbearable.

But this World Cup, he doesn’t care about any of that. It’s all in Argentina.

Well – for Messi at least.

“It’s time to win one,” Becerra said. “Not only is he a great player. He looks like a great guy. …

“He doesn’t look Argentinian.”

Now, as Argentina face off against France in Sunday’s final, its biggest star is rallying Latin Americans to cheer on a country they love to hate.

One reason: running out of options. Colombia, Chile and Peru did not participate in this year’s tournament. Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Uruguay could not survive the group stage. Brazil was eliminated in the quarter-finals.

However, it wasn’t easy. Argentina’s national soccer team – two-time World Cup champions – has long divided the continent, eliciting a mixture of admiration, annoyance and Jealousy. But in what is expected to be Lionel Messi, 35, at his last World Cup, the Argentina captain somehow breaks through the long-awaited qualms in the region. about the country.

“People don’t seem to know what to do,” said Antonio Casale, a Colombian radio host. “They don’t want Argentina to win, but they want Messi to win.”

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It is a complex mixture of emotions that extends beyond sports, said Martín Bergel, a historian of the University of Buenos Aires, “a contradiction somewhere between fascination and repulsion”.

Many Argentines resent the stereotypical portrayal, based on a caricatured simplification, of the wealthy, who are supposedly egotistical.And the Or a Buenos Aires native – an ironic metaphor in Argentina itself.

It is difficult to determine the origins of the image. But Bergil doubts that it can be traced back to the nineteenth century, to notable Argentines such as Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. The prominent president and writer, who is credited with modernizing the country’s education system, Bergl said, “was arrogant, and had an almost prophetic idea of ​​what Argentina could be.”

By the early 20th century, Argentina was an economic powerhouse larger and wealthier than Canada, and Buenos Aires was a cultural and intellectual hub that compared itself to London and Paris. and developing icons from tanguero Carlos Gardel, by architect Cesar Pelli, by writer Jorge Luis Borges.

Latin Americans have long viewed Argentina as one of the whiter countries in the region. Unlike Brazil, which has at least rhetorically embraced its multiracial heritage, Argentina is seen as made up of people of largely white and European descent (a picture that does not include the indigenous and mestizos of the country).

Today, amid economic and political crises – Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was convicted of corruption this month and sentenced to six years in prison – Argentina’s present is very different from its golden age. But stereotypes persist – especially during international football matches.

Home of soccer players Diego Maradona and Messi, Argentina locked up bitter rivalry with Brazil, Another football giant in Latin America, the most successful team in World Cup history with five tournaments. The teams play each other annually. The match is called Superclasico de las Americas.

In 2014, when Argentina advanced World Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro, Argentine fans didn’t hold back any of their happy pride in playing for the title on Brazilian soil. And the Argentines chanted: “Brazil, tell me how it feels to have your father In your home?”

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Unsurprisingly, Argentina found little support from their Brazilian hosts that year.

“It was inconceivable that Argentina would win a trophy on Brazilian soil,” said Brian Winter, Americas Editor-in-Chief. my quarter. “They thought Argentines would be unbearable for decades or centuries to come, hanging on their heads.”

This time, Winter said, is “clearly different.” He noted great support for Argentina, partly in appreciation of Messi, and partly in the hope that Argentina could bring the trophy back to South America after four consecutive European victories. “This solidarity seems strong enough to overcome the fear that Argentines will continue to brag and bully everyone for decades to come!”

In a recent poll, Argentina was the top choice among Brazilians to win in Qatar if Brazil did not. A Spanish newspaper called him an “unimaginable fan base”.

“It’s not about Argentina. It’s about Messi,” said Goga Chakra, a commentator for Brazilian newspaper GloboNews who spent years in Argentina and has a dog named Messi. “Besides, he’s a genius, he’s this ordinary guy. … his head is always lowered, like the whole Argentinean on his back.”

There is also the fact that Argentina’s opponent on Sunday. France has defeated Brazil three times in the World Cup, once in the final. Brazil is the last country to win the World Cup twice in a row, in 1958 and 1962, when Pele lit up the stadium. Chakra said the Brazilians certainly don’t want to see Les Bleus, the 2018 champion, match the feat.

However, there are still obstacles, beyond even Messi.

Eliezer Budasov, an Argentinian editor in the offices of El País in Mexico City, assumed he would find at least some Mexicans backing the Latin American side when Argentina played the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. was wrong. When Argentina scored their first goal, he was the only one in the Mexico City bar to jump up from his seat and cheer. Everyone else was rooting for Holland.

When the game went to penalties, A.J A friend grabbed him: “Let’s get out of here.”

“If it weren’t for him,” said Bodasov, “I think I could have taken a beating.”

All week Budasoff has been trying to convert his officemates in Mexico City into Argentine supporters, with mixed success. Carolina Mejia, a 27-year-old photographer and video editor, is rooting for France. She said the Argentina team was “arrogant”. “They play in this very individual way.”

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However, for many Latin Americans, Sunday is about one individual.

“How much is your Messi shirt?” asked a man at a T-shirt shop in downtown Bogota.

Store owner John Fernandez, 35, has been selling soccer jerseys in the Colombian capital for 13 years. he is I’ve never seen so much interest in the blue and white striped Argentine shirts with Messi’s name on the back.

Of course, it is rooted Colombia when the country qualifies for the World Cup. Otherwise, he supports Brazil, because The Brazilians remind him of the Colombians: “They are as cheerful as we are.”

But he felt he had to back off Argentina this year. Messi winning would be beneficial Work during peak Christmas shopping week. His shirts were flying off the shelves.

But it also meant that Argentina won.

Who will be able to bear it then? said Becerra, an Uber driver.

He shook his head and laughed.

He said, “Oh no.” “I may regret supporting Argentina.”

World Cup in Qatar

Last: The World Cup finals came to a close on Saturday with Croatia claiming third place in the tournament by defeating Morocco 2-1. France and Argentina will play in the World Series on Sunday at 10 a.m. EST.

Possibly Messi’s last World Cup: For Lionel Messi, the World Cup represents one last chance to step out of Maradona’s shadow. For the Argentines, a respite from the relentless bad news.

WorldView today: In the minds of many pundits, especially in the West, the Qatar World Cup will always be a tournament shrouded in controversy. But Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, wants people to take a different view.

impression:America is not funny about men’s soccer right now. It’s about something, and it’s more in keeping with what works for the rest of the world than stubbornly forcing American sports culture—without tapping the best talent—into international competition.” Read Jerry Brewer about the future of the US men’s national team.

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