August 20, 2014
A second place that is worth celebrating
Fans gather at the Obelisk to thank the team in an evening marred by violence
There was only ever going to be one destination after the World Cup final.
The iconic Obelisk started filling up early in the afternoon in anticipation, and after Argentina’s devastating, last-minute loss to Germany, played host to a collective expression of joy and pride spurred by the Argentine national soccer team unlike any other in decades.
Sure, the team may have lost, but returning to the top two in the world for the first time in 24 years was a time to celebrate. Families with children and groups of friends all gathered to express pride in their team.
The City woke up with a different air. The neighbourhoods of Boedo, Almagro, Recoleta, La Boca and Belgrano, to name a few, were the scenes of excitement as the anticipation for the afternoon’s game was palpable and Argentina shirts were seemingly everywhere. By nightfall, violence had broken out in the Obelisk, the same site where peaceful celebrations had taken place for more than three hours.
After having been a rallying point before the match in unprecedented fashion, the crowds returning to the Obelisco following the game, revisiting some iconic images and creating new ones for a generation that had never seen Argentina play a World Cup final.
Thousands upon thousands — impossible to count among those coming and going — the singing and the fireworks, streamed into the Obelisk from every direction, overcoming the initial shock of the late goal that gave Germany the World Cup. The mood, just like it had been throughout the day, was celebratory. But instead of the euphoria and electricity that was palpable in the streets of Buenos Aires up until kickoff, the game transformed the mood into one of pride, happiness, and recognition for a team that gave its all.
‘They earned it’
“To have your country lose a final and have this amount of people come out just fills you up with pride,” said 16-year-old Agustín, surrounded by teenagers, each of whom were overjoyed by the experience.
Nobody under 30 in the entire country can remember Argentina raising the World Cup so this was a moment to celebrate. And as much as every single soul in sight would have preferred a different result, there wasn’t a tear to be found.
“They earned it. They earned this,” said 20-year-old Stefi, referring to the team’s efforts and pointing to the seemingly unending columns of signing and chanting fans who wanted to be part of a celebration at the Obelisco.
“At first we were sad and we weren’t going to come down but the crowd convinced us,” she said surrounded by two friends decked out in face paint with the country’s sky blue and white.
“The result was a bit unfair, they only had one counter-attack and they scored,” said Walter, who had brought his family of five all the way from the Garín district to see the celebrations. “But this is beautiful. I wanted them so see it,” he added.
A new generation
Beauty in this case was the the fireworks — certainly planned for a victory but used with the same fervour — the constant honking of cars passing by, the impromptu and a cappella signing of the national anthem and a solitary bagpiper playing the melody to “Brazil tell me how it feels” to the roar of the crowd.
Beauty was also seeing how the Obelisco became the beating heart of a celebration that provided a measure of catharsis for years of World Cup frustrations and bitterness.
Such was the celebration, which included groups of teenagers converting the roofing of the Metrobus platforms into new celebration spots, such was the flag-waving that it begs the question what would have happened had Argentina won the Cup.
As has been the case throughout the tournament, many of the chants were directed against Brazil. But as opposed to the deafening echo of the same song asking Brazil how it feels, there seemed to be a preference for old classics that encapsulated the night’s celebrations.
“Argentina every I day I love you more and more, it’s a feeling that I can’t stop.”
Sung by a generation that that has never had any World Cup stories to tell of its own, the lyrics take on a whole new meaning.
Violence breaks out
Late last night, after more than three hours of peaceful celebrations, groups of fans unleashed a wave of violence just metres away from the Obelisk.
It all began when a group of around 15 people climbed onto a satellite truck that journalists from Clarín Group’s Todo Noticias (TN) channel were using to broadcast what until then had been a joyous event.
After that incident, small groups of people broke away and began destroying signs and other property near 9 de Julio Avenue, while other people reportedly attempted to loot a clothing retailer on Florida street.
The violence led to a response from Federal Police forces, who used a water cannon in an attempt to take back control of the iconic avenue.
At press time, vandals — who chanted slogans and threw stones at the police — had not yet been dispersed.
It was a sad, exasperating end to what had started out as a day of celebrations and national pride in the face of defeat.