July 14, 2014
July 14, 2014
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – Although Argentines grieved when Germany scored the game-winning goal in the 113th minute of the World Cup final match Sunday, they remain grateful for the monthlong distraction from the country’s dire economic woes.
From mid-June to mid-July, Argentines watched the games on giant screens, in bars and through store windows. The image of Germany’s winning goal entering the net Sunday provoked tears and angry shouts but did not shut down the Argentine World Cup party, which continued late into the night in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital.
“Even if you win, even if you lose, I do not give a shit, I carry you within my heart,” the people shouted to the rhythm of drummers at the Obelisco, a historic monument in the city’s downtown area, after Germany scored the winning goal.
Beginning midday Sunday, thousands of people flooded the area, traveling on overcrowded buses and subways. Subway cars trembled when fans jumped. Football aficionados waved the nation’s light blue and white flag from bus windows.
When the World Cup began a month ago, the city government erected two giant screens downtown so citizens could watch the games in the streets. But the crowds were so large during the final match that people gathered around any television screens they could find. Hundreds of people thronged in front of bar windows and appliance stores.
“Look, look!” exclaimed Oscar Cecilio Gómez, 60, who has been homeless in Buenos Aires for 23 years, pointing at the crowds. “The World Cup is a beautiful party for me. When the World Cup finishes, my life will be the same as before.”
For Enrique Benítez, the World Cup was a screen that rose between Argentines and the country’s problems, particularly its runaway inflation rate.
“The World Cup is an excuse to get together and celebrate,” he says. “But you must not forget the serious problems that were left covered during these days.”
The World Cup distracted Argentines from their routines and preoccupation with the country’s staggering inflation. The celebrations that followed the country’s defeat Sunday suggested that Argentines were not eager to end that distraction. They preferred to continue the party.
Inflation is gravely reducing Argentines’ buying power. The national government has forecast a 2014 inflation rate of just over 20 percent. However, critics say the government consistently lowballs the inflation rate. PriceStats, an independent provider of inflation rates, estimates the country’s annual inflation rate at nearly 42 percent.
During the World Cup, Argentines discussed football more than politics or the economy, says Leandro Mansilla, a student in Buenos Aires. He took part in Sunday’s festivities, jumping and singing with a group of friends, all with flags in hand, near the Obelisco.
Life came to a halt each time the national team played, he says. Argentines threw parties in offices, retail businesses and schools. They filled their social networks with songs, prayers, jokes, predictions and analyses.
“The World Cup for us is the greatest thing there is,” Mansilla says. “The English created football. We play for the love of football. The only thing that I did in these days was to think about Argentina, all day. That is why even though we have lost, we are going to continue celebrating, and we are going to look for the players at the airport.”
José Roberto Arroyo, 57, says he became so emotionally caught up in the World Cup that he chose not to watch the final games. He couldn’t stand the nervous tension.
“My life changes when the World Cup begins,” he says. “I am not a nervous man, but I become very nervous with each game. My heart comes out of my chest. That is why I decided to not watch the last two – the final included.”
Arroyo, who traveled to downtown Buenos Aires to join the festive atmosphere, fondly recalls seeing Argentina win the World Cup in 1978 and 1986.
“It is always like this,” he says. “It is always a party. In ’86, you could not walk around the streets from so many people who were celebrating.”
Argentines need to celebrate to forget about the country’s economic crisis for a bit, Arroyo says.
“The salary is not enough,” he says. “If they give you a raise, it is still not enough. You go to buy a pair of shoes, and you cannot buy it. You always have to go searching for the best prices.”
Viviana Chaparro, 35, agrees that salaries are insufficient in the face of the inflation crisis. The country’s World Cup success was a welcome distraction, she says.
“I am sad,” says Chaparro, a hospital maid. “The World Cup was very beautiful, because we came with bad things at the economic level, and this lifted our spirits a bit.”
Unlike most Argentines, Chaparro chose to go home as soon as the final game ended. With a flag tied around her neck and flowing down her back, she was among the first to leave the celebration.
Many more stayed to celebrate. Among them was Blanca Gómez, 75, who toted a huge national flag.
“I celebrate because I am happy, despite the result,” she says. “If we lost, we lost. What are you going to do? With this, we had forgotten about the problems. But at the same time, you have to continue. You have to move foward, not backwards.”
No sources in this article are related.
GPJ translated this article from Spanish.