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Argentina erupts in ‘pure joy’ at World Cup victory after 36 years

Soccer is more than a game, they say. On Sunday, that platitude came to life in the heart of Buenos Aires.

It was visible in the faces of the young men and women who shouted from the top of traffic lights, in the girls who danced with the nation’s flags painted on their cheeks, and in the older men who fought back tears. In hugs between strangers. The hymns that flew over the city. The simultaneous beat of a sea of ​​people to the rhythm of the drums of victory.

Soccer is hope, and hope is contagious.

Argentina’s hard-fought World Cup victory over France in Qatar has unleashed an outpouring of emotions in the South American country. Joy and relief compete with deep gratitude to the team led by Lionel Messi, who was finally able to lift the coveted trophy that had eluded him. It was Argentina’s first World Cup victory since 1986, when Diego Maradona led the country to glory.

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“Good, Argentina, good,” one man said to himself in a low voice, as he looked out at the crowds descending on the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, the iconic symbol of the capital, to celebrate victory.

“It really is a feeling like no other,” said Marilé Oviedo, 32. “Is happiness. That is what it is.”

Buenos Aires
Argentine fans celebrate the conquest of the World Cup at the Obelisk with fireworks [Mariana Nedelcu/Reuters]

Tens of thousands of people poured through the arteries of the nation’s capital toward the obelisk, chanting, singing, jumping, and dancing under giant flags that stretched across entire avenues.

Anthems reverberated from the ornate balconies of Avenida Santa Fe, paying homage to Messi and the spirit of Maradona, who passed away two years ago, who many believe looked down on them today.

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“I’m Argentinean! It’s a feeling I can’t stop!” they sang. “I’m Argentinean! It’s a feeling I can’t contain.”

The World Cup final was as dramatic as it gets. Argentina dominated the game for most of 90 regulation minutes, until French phenom Kylian Mbappé scored twice in one minute to tie his team. A thrilling extra-time period followed, with each team managing to score a goal, leading to excruciating penalty kicks and the brilliance of Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano “Dibu” Martínez in saving two shots.

Messi had said before the tournament that this would be his last World Cup, although after this victory he told an Argentine outlet that he was not done with the national team yet.

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Penalty shootout hero Emiliano Martinez won the tournament’s Golden Glove [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

The victory unleashed a wave of euphoria across Argentina, where people have been struggling with an economic crisis and inflation close to 100 percent this year. The World Cup was, for many, a needed reprieve from a brutal 2022 that had left people disillusioned and exhausted.

Near the obelisk, people climbed onto bus shelters, climbed the foliage of a giant BA sign, set off firecrackers and sang the de facto Argentina World Cup anthem, Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos a Ilusionar. ) in loop.

The phrase “Champions of the World” was projected onto the obelisk, and a giant T-shirt-shaped banner was unfurled across the glittering opera house of the Teatro Colón. In Messi’s hometown of Rosario, neighbors gathered around his childhood home with flags and horns.

President Alberto Fernández said he had no words to describe the moment, except for tellon Twitter: “Always together, always united.”

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The team was also congratulated by leaders from around the world on Twitter. “Your joy crosses the Andes,” wrote Chilean President Gabriel Boric. “This will go down as one of the most exciting soccer games ever!” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

The team will return to Buenos Aires on Monday, where the crowd is expected to gather again to welcome their heroes. as they did when the team won the Copa América last year.

Arrangements are being made for official celebrations, although local media reports that the team will avoid the obelisk and the presidential palace for security reasons due to the large number of people likely to want to join.

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“We are seeing an incredible effervescence, a display of pure joy,” said Mario Guarella, 80, who left his apartment on Santa Fe Avenue to join the thousands of people marching toward the obelisk. “It’s the culmination of all that sacrifice and effort.”

His eyes filled with tears, talking about what it meant for his country to have won the trophy. “I feel a unity that I hope can serve to end the division in our society,” she said. “Light blue and white is bringing us together, as it always has.”

María José Zeni, 43, with her toy poodle Carlitos in her arms, said she cried for most of the game. “We always have to suffer to enjoy it even more,” she said, standing on Santa Fe avenue. “I’m happy for Messi, for the team and for all Argentines. We always have to fight for things. Finally, this is some joy.”

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Rodrigo Ronchetti, 40, stepped out with his family, marveling at the endless stream of people waiting to reach the obelisk. He was pretty sure his family wouldn’t make it there: the crowds had started gathering the night before in anticipation.

In a stroller, her daughter Amanda, just one year old, writhed in her Argentina jersey onesie. “Best day of her life,” she said, smiling.

Although Messi said he is not done playing for the national team, many Argentines have a feeling that the end of an era is near.

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Argentina captain and striker #10 Lionel Messi lifts the FIFA World Cup trophy during the trophy ceremony after Argentina won the Qatar 2022 World Cup Final between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail , north of Doha, on December 18, 2022. (Photo by Adrián DENNIS / AFP)
35-year-old striker Lionel Messi lifts the World Cup trophy [Adrian Dennis/ AFP] (AFP)

“I don’t know if we will ever see someone like that again,” said Rubén Barrionuevo, 42, watching from the sidelines in Buenos Aires. He took solace in the fact that the next generation is behind the scenes.

“There are many children on the small neighborhood courts who play very well. One day, someone is going to get out of there.”

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