I should have seen it coming.
The first words out of Paul’s mouth as soon as they panned to the Argentine sideline the morning of this game were, “Oh, it looks like Maradona got a haircut.”
We were in Chicago and made the stupid mistake of deciding to watch the second half of the game in the cafe on the first floor of our hotel instead of in our room. So we take the elevator down, me with my blue and white striped cast blazing openly, and walk in to a big room…full of Germans. Most with face paint. I get booed all the way to my standing-room-only corner, where I spent the next 45 minutes listening to “JAH JAH JAH JAH JAH!!!!!” and German songs while Argentina completely lost it. I exited the room at the end of the game to a chorus of “Auf wiedersehen!”s.
Worst. Game. Ever.
Diego Maradona. Cheerleader, genius, demi-god, petulant child, garden gnome…call him what you will, the Argentine coach has been my favorite part of the World Cup this year. And as much as I totally love his antics and his incredible array of accessories (the salt and pepper beard, diamond earrings, gold chain, designer watches on both wrists, rosary beads), the element of Maradona that most captures his spirit and the soul of the Argentine team has been, in my opinion, his mullet. It frizzes when the team is struggling, curls and gains shape and volume when they gain a solid lead… Paul is convinced it holds the secret to Argentina’s success so far in the tournament, the modern day equivalent of Samson’s hair. Let’s hope Maradona thinks the same, because if he just lets this keep growing it is going to be awesomely large by the last game.
Our flight was at 8:50pm. The game was at 3:30pm. Catch a cab to airport at 6pm, make the flight on time. Right?
Down to Plaza San Martin for the game.
Got into the spirit…
…Argentina wins. Celebration!
…and celebration in the streets
Fortunately with my cast I qualified as disabled, so we got to go through the handicapped line at the ridiculously crowded airport and made our flight. So long, Argentina…
Argentina’s second game was at 8:30am local time today (Thursday). For a country that generally doesn’t get rolling before 10 or 11, being woken up at 8am with honking horns and vuvuzelas in the street was weird. Paul and I went down the street to a cafe for the first half (Jesus watched from the couch). The cafe was packed, we sat down, and I ran upstairs to the bathroom real quick (you can guess where this is going.) Of course, as soon as I settle in in the stall, the cafe freaks out…GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Son of a…
Fortunately, within the next 10 minutes, they scored again. At half time (score: 2-1), Paul and I decided to make our way down to Plaza San Martin, which was paaaaaacked.
When we got here I kind of expected every game to be a huge party, considering all the celebration beforehand. In reality, watching the game is a pretty intense experience. Until there is a goal, or a run on the goal, everything is pretty silent. Not a lot of chit chat, people are concentrating. Intense watching. Anyway, in the second half, Argentina scored two more times. Huge celebration. The announcers are beside themselves. Maradona is a genius. Messi is amazing. Argentina is on its way to the championship. All is right in the world.
Argentina’s first World Cup match. Under grey skies, Paul, Jesus, Drew, and I dragged ourselves out of bed to get down to the Plaza San Martin by 11 to watch the match on the big screen they set up. We were running a little bit behind schedule, and while Jesus and Drew were in line at a cafe on a main street outside our apartment to get coffee, all of a sudden the whole block exploded, horns honking and screams of GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! while confetti came streaming down from the surrounding apartments. Argentina scored in the 6th minute. And we missed it.
Long story short, our plan was to take the subway but get off a few stops early because we thought it would be faster to walk (which turned out to be completely wrong.) So we got off the subway and started wandering through the streets, which were completely empty. Guess why?
After about 5 minutes of walking, with no plaza in sight, people in the group started getting a little anxious. We tried to get a cab, no luck, asked for directions to make sure we weren’t going the wrong direction, got nothing, ended up walking for like another 20 minutes or so and finally got to the plaza, in the middle of the pouring rain, just before…half time.
We gave up on standing in the middle of a field in a downpour with no rain gear and decided to watch the rest of the game in a cafe with other drenched spectators. Much better plan. Lots of table banging and horn blowing (yes, in the cafe). And we befriended the waiter, who was wearing a Messi jersey (along with half the country) to counter Jesus, who was sporting a Maradona jersey (along with the other half of the country.) The waiter was awesome.
So, on a personal level, game #1 was kind of a big fail. In the grander scheme of things, much relief over the win. If Argentina had lost the first game I was seriously concerned that the entire country would have collectively fallen into a deep depression. Next game: South Korea on the 17th.
Viva la Argentina!
For those of you out there that are still out of the loop, the World Cup started today (with two tied games, Mexico-South Africa and France-Uruguay.) Argentina has its first game tomorrow at 11am (our time). Already every single street vendor in the city is selling Argentine flags, horns, blue and white striped hats, socks, shirts, gloves, underwear, onesies…everything. On the news tonight the #1 story was a combined “The first shots of Argentina before their game with Nigeria” and interviews with Maradona’s daughter, Dalma. From our 4th floor apartment right now, as we prepare to go out, I can hear people singing, yelling, and honking their horns in the streets.
Update: Brandon pointed out to me that “Now wave your flag”, not this title, is, in fact, the final line to the WC song. Whatever.
As some of you probably know (and as every man, woman, child, and unborn infant in this city knows) the World Cup starts the week after next. This is a big deal for Argentina because:
- Maradona is coaching
- Lionel Messi is Argentinian
- Argentina is celebrating its 200th anniversary, so everybody is feeling particularly patriotic (flags are flying everywhere)
This World Cup team has been dominating the news, with hours devoted to discussing what time the team bus is expected to arrive at the practice field, how many fans are there, goodies that the Argentinian football federation has sent to the team in South Africa, and what the team eats before and after games (mostly meat and dulce de leche, if you were wondering). There are 20 page inserts to the Saturday paper devoted solely to stories on the World Cup. Headlines like “The Road of Dreams” and “Cristiano (Ronaldo) Ready for Battle” (with a picture of Ronaldo in military fatigues, face paint, and perfectly coiffed hair…apparently the Portuguese National Team held a pump-up practice where they all dressed in fagtigues and Ronaldo was dropped onto the field from a military helicopter…seriously) abound.
This is going to be awesome.