by Andy Billmeyer
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – The title says it all, “the World Cup is everything in Argentina.” Case in point, I was awoken on June 17 by cheers and horns in the streets. Argentina had obviously scored.
Pablo Alabarces, a researcher and head professor on “Popular and Massive Culture” at the University of Buenos Aires uses fútbol as an access to society and culture. Alabarces puts it perfectly by saying, “fútbol is the great cohesive force behind which different social groups and classes come together; it is a producer of nationality, which has been gaining ground while other once constructive spaces, such as public schools or the State have been relinquishing power.”
Alabarces considers fútbol “the great culture machine.” On a personal note, these words speak volumes.
A brief history of Argentine soccer and political policy can shed light on the nation’s current disposition. It was in the late ‘70s amid Argentina’s “Dirty War” (military dictatorship), when the game gave a struggling nation one common grasp. This universal ground that is fútbol gave the partisans conversation and invoked national pride. The time was only perfect for the emerging “best player to ever touch the field,” Diego Maridona, to take center stage. Maridona is now Argentina’s “controversial” coach. Some believe he’s not fit for the job since he was a player and not a professional coach. Maridona directs with much emotion, screaming and throwing his hands in the air while other coaches quietly sit the bench.
I sat down with Buenos Aires native Dario Cipironni to create a brief image of fútbol in Argentina today.
Q: How important is the World Cup to Argentina?
A: Fútbol is a very important thing. The team is very strong this year so I am hopeful. We have a very strong feeling inside [Argentina] about fútbol.
Q: Who is your favorite player on the Argentine squad? Who would you consider the most important?
A: My favorite player is Diego Maridona, now he is retired from play but is still the director (coach). Nowadays, my favorite player is Lionel Messi.
Q: Do you think Maridona is a good coach because he was a good player? Is he good enough to lead the Argentine team to victory in the World Cup?
A: Maridona was a player, so he is not a professional coach. Maridona feels about fútbol in a very strong way, he has more emotion than a regular coach. Argentines have different opinions about Maridona, but I feel confident.
Q: Where do you watch the matches?
A: We have a very strong passion for fútbol, so we often get together with family and friends to drink and eat. The passion is everywhere in Argentina.
Q: Has Argentina ever hosted the World Cup? Has Argentina ever won the World Cup?
A: In 1978, the Cup was ¬held in Argentina has also won it. Argentina also won it in 1986.
Q: How happy would you be if Argentina won the World Cup, what would you do?
A: I don’t want to tell before time (laughs), but yes it would be great. I wasn’t alive when Argentina won the World Cup in but it would be a very good experience.
For Argentina, this is a time of congregation. This beautiful game the world calls fútbol has an unmatched effect on the world. To put aside the wars and conflict, even for just a month, is a beautiful thing in itself.