An ode to argentina fansMonday, July 14, 2014
A round of applause for the ‘twelfth man’
for the Herald
Massive support drove country’s players onward throughout the tournamentIt’s hard to stay professional in the aftermath of such a heart-crushing last-moment defeat, but the relentless support of Argentine fans not only in the final, but throughout this 2014 World Cup is truly noteworthy.
Not for 24 years had the country been so united, leaving aside all bitter political enmity and social barriers to build a united front. All of this for something as trivial as soccer — at least to the untrained eye.
This overwhelming sentiment of support mobilized and permeated the Brazilian border, with tens of thousands of Argentines streaming into the neighbouring giant together as the twelfth man.
“The atmosphere really caught me off guard,” Javier Mascherano said after the team’s debut match against Bosnia. “It felt like we were playing at home.”
That continued in every single Argentine match. But there was probably no larger Argentine invasion — except for the final that is — than when the Albiceleste faced up against Nigeria in Porto Alegre. The stadium appeared to be practically all light blue and white.
In the final though, there was competition for the Argentine chants, and that was from the Brazilian jeers against Argentina — and in favour of the country that destroyed them 7-1 in the semi-final. Still, the approximately 40,000 Argentines in the monstrous Maracaná were heard for the entire 120 minutes.
Perhaps in no other country is being a soccer fan as heartfelt as in Argentina, but many foreigners don’t understand the deep roots of the sport here. The English brought it over when they built the railway system, making the Argentine league the second oldest in the world.
That masses of Argentines flocked to Rio de Janeiro over the last week, many of them leaving behind partners, jobs and lives, was anything but surprising.
By no means were they drowned out by the Brazilian majority at the Maracaná last night.
Songs of “Brazil, tell me how it feels,” and chants of “Olé, olé olé, Messi Messi” were loud and clear, giving players that touch of extra motivation — ultimately not enough to bring home the World Cup title, this time.
“La 12,” or the twelfth man, is unofficial name of the fan base of the most popular club in Argentina, Boca Juniors.
But the nickname does not only apply to the La Boca-based club. The thousands that took to the streets throughout the country were a testament to that. The parties that were ultimately not to be would have certainly lasted late into the night, but the streams of light blue and white that drenched the traditional point of celebration for Argentines was certainly enough to warm the hearts of downbeat fans following such a disappointing loss.
Under an hour after the controversial Italian referee, Nicola Rizzoli, blew his whistle to hammer the last nail into the Argentine coffin, a truly heart-warming scene was seen at the Obelisk as thousands of people took to the streets anyway — celebrating hope and pride rather than victory.
Some Argentines follow soccer religiously and go to the stadium every Sunday, others see their interest in the sport reignited every four years by the World Cup — but it seems that passion is present in almost every single one of the 40 million Argentines.
Even after the deed is done, Argentine fans do not hide away and, usually at least, continue to support their players, and surely this will be manifested at Ezeiza Airport when the squad arrives back to Buenos Aires this morning.
The extra push needed on the pitch is almost always matched by the paternal comfort required at a time of defeat.
The defensive solidity, spirit and heart of this team are the characteristics that resonated the most with Argentines, qualities that were most adeptly embodied by Javier Mascherano.
The players offered these qualities as part of the give-and-take relationship with fans, with both parties rewarding each other for their loyalty and support.
In the end, the chant of “Brazil, tell me how it feels” was left in the shadow of the the eternal “Oh, Argentina, it’s a feeling, I can’t stop” and “Olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olá, every day I love you more.”
Although perhaps not as late into the night as a victory may have led to, fanfare around the Obelisk was a fitting tribute to the role taken on by run of the mill Argentines from the opening match against Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 15 up to yesterday’s final.