If you’re like me (from the States), the World Cup is probably something you know about and might watch should you be channel surfing. However, if you’re Argentine, then the World Cup is something you’ve been waiting the last four years for. In fact, soccer is pretty much a religion here. (Seriously, there’s an actual church dedicated to Argentine soccer superstar Diego Maradona.) And, from what I’ve heard, there’s no better time to be in Buenos Aires than during the World Cup. The parties and festivities are supposed to be legendary.
There certainly have been a lot of ups and downs leading up to this year’s World Cup for Argentina. Maradona was chosen to coach the Argentine squad despite having no coaching experience and the team almost missed the World Cup for the first time since 1970. Since recovering, Maradona’s been fined and banned for a TV tirade, run over the foot of a reporter, had surgery after being bitten by his own dog, demanded new luxury toilets be installed in his South African suite, been accused of financing violent Argentine soccer hooligans trips to South Africa and promised threatened to run naked through the streets of Buenos Aires should Argentina win the World Cup. You just can’t make this stuff up.
There’s almost as much hype and drama surrounding Lionel Messi, FIFA’s top player and Argentina’s best hope for a World Cup title. His World Cup qualifying performance was less than spectacular and he received a lot of criticism. Full blown media coverage resulted when he scraped his knee in practice. No one knows if the Argentine style of play will allow him to be the standout player that he is for Barcelona. (Argentina is not a favorite to win the World Cup and Messi names London, Spain and Brazil as the teams to beat plus talks about his close relationship with Maradona in a recent CNN interview.)
None of this is damping Argentine spirits though. After a 5-0 thrashing of the Canadian team in an exhibition match on May 24 at a sold-out River Plate stadium, the Argentine team looks strong. And, the Argentine team doctor, Dr. Donato Vallani, has just given the go ahead for players to have sex during the World Cup. “The players can have sex with their wives and girlfriends during the World Cup,” he said on Radio Del Plata. “Players are not Martians.” “But,” he added, “it should not be at 2 a.m. with champagne and Havana cigars.”
If you want to get a true sense of the Argentine spirit regarding football, check out this commercial from TyC Sports, a local sports channel. In my opinion, it captures the essence of the Argentines.
The first Argentina World Cup match is June 12 versus Nigeria. You can enjoy all the games with the BA Pub Crawl World Cup Kickoff Party on June 10 too.
Want to read more about Maradona? Check out these great articles:
– Love and Loathing in Buenos Aires: My Life Chasing Diego Maradona [The Independent]
– The Resurrection of Diego Maradona [FT.com]
– Maradona is in charge at World Cup and Argentines brace themselves for shocks [Canadian Press]
And, if you’re looking for the World Cup schedule, check out the cool poster below by designer David Watson from Trebleseven to raise money for Soccer Aid, an English charity that raises money for UNICEF.