From a football-crazed country known for its world-class players and its repeated economic crises, Argentine fans are making great sacrifices to be in Qatar to see their team try to win the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
Passionate and noisy, the euphoria in Doha has grown to the rhythm of “Muchachos” — the unofficial anthem of the fans — and with each victory of Lionel Messi and his team ahead of today’s final against defending champion France.
In a corner of the Souq Waqif bazaar in the capital, locals and tourists gathered around a young woman clad in the Argentine sky blue-and-white stripped jersey juggling a ball with her feet. In a hand-written banner in English and Arabic, she asks for tickets to the World Cup final at Lusail Stadium. Passersby leave change on a hat placed on the ground.
“Football for me is everything,” said 24-year-old Belen Godoy, who has been in Doha for a month and attended nearly every Argentina game by buying resale tickets.
“I left my family. I spent all my savings,” she said. “I’ll return to Buenos Aires and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent ... but no one can take away what I’ve lived.”
Nearby, Cristian Machinelli walked along one of the winding cobbled alleys of the labyrinthine bazaar draped in an Argentina flag decorated with images of Messi and late soccer great Diego Maradona kissing the World Cup trophy.
Maradona led the team to its last World Cup title, in 1986.
“I sold a Toyota truck for this,” the 34-year-old Machinelli said. “It’s what I’ve been spending here so far, and I have enough left to buy the ticket to the final. There’s no explanation, no reasoning, except that we Argentines are just crazy about soccer, and we’ll do any craziness to support (the team).”
There are no official numbers on how many Argentine fans have traveled to Qatar. Not all of them come from Argentina, however, with many living in Europe and the United States.
Although not always the majority in the stands, the fans’ encouragment during matches — chants accompanied by drums — seemed to help their team at crucial moments. [AP]