Brimming with Life, Looting, and Frenzy: The World Cup Final in Argentina
No one in Buenos Aires wanted to talk about the World Cup final in the days leading up to it. It was as if even mentioning the game might seem to unleash some sort of bad voodoo on the country.
But then, Sunday came. A city that had been so uncharacteristically calm just a few days before exploded in to a sea of blue and white accompanied by the unending sounds of horns, drums and only slightly offensive chants aimed at the opposing German team.
My friends and I arrived to Plaza San Martin, one of the many city sponsored watch parties scattered throughout Buenos Aires, almost four hours before the game started. The line of fans not-so-patiently waiting entrance in to the still closed plaza spanned more than three city blocks. As we began to enter the plaza a van full of adolescent boys all armed with drums marched in front of us, leading us in to park like a band.
And in the 112 minute when Germany scored and ended the game 1-0, the hearts of an entire nation, a country that considers soccer more religion than sport, broke.
As the game approached the plaza continued to fill with seemingly endless waves of people and the energy of the unruly crowd rose higher and higher with each new chant.
When the game began the world, or at least Buenos Aires, stopped. There were no cars angrily honking at one another on the streets, there were no families enjoying an afternoon coffee outside at their local cafe. Everyone was glued to their nearest screen. And in the 112 minute when Germany scored and ended the game 1-0, the hearts of an entire nation, a country that considers soccer more religion than sport, broke.
I expected that to be the end of the day. I figured everyone would return home, the streets would remain silent and mournful and families would struggle through sad dinners before heading to sleep. But then, slowly, the horns started again. Then the drums. Then the raucous chanting of a country proud of their team’s first World Cup final appearance in 24 years and too full of enthusiasm (and alcohol) to waste time not celebrating.
We hopped on a bus headed towards the city center. The bus driver, too overwhelmed by the hoards of people jumping and chanting on his bus, didn’t even bother to charge us for the fare. In the center of the city, at the Obelisco, Argentinians set off fireworks and climbed every lamp post, subway station entrance and monument they could find.
Even though the celebrations eventually turned to looting and fights (something we thankfully left early enough to miss), I wouldn’t have traded seeing Buenos Aires energized like that for the world.
There are many things the people of Buenos Aires are passionate about, and soccer is at the pinnacle of that list. Being able to witness first-hand that passion and fervor throughout the weeks of the World Cup, culminating in an appearance in the final, is an experience I won’t ever forget.
Thank you Buenos Aires for constantly reminding me what it means to be brimming with life. Vamos Argentina!