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Latin Americans cheer on Lionel Messi, not Argentina, in World Cup final

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — When the subject of Argentina comes up, Jimmy Becerra, like many Latin Americans, rolls his eyes.

Stereotypes about the South American country — and especially its football fans — have been passed down from generation to generation in this part of the world, including in Becerra’s family: Argentinians are arrogant, the 35-year-old Uber driver says year. They think they are superior to the rest of their continent. In football, he says, they are unbearable.

But this World Cup, he doesn’t care about any of that. He is everything for Argentina.

Well – for Messi, at least.

“It’s time for him to win one,” Becerra said. Not only is he a great player. He looks like a great guy. …

“He doesn’t look Argentinian.”

Now, as Argentina take on France in Sunday’s final, their biggest star is bringing Latin Americans together to cheer on a country they love to hate.

One reason: they have no more options. Colombia, Chile and Peru did not participate in this year’s tournament. Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Uruguay did not survive the group stage. Brazil were eliminated in the quarter-finals.

However, it has not been easy. Argentina’s national football team, two-time world champions, has long divided the continent, causing both admiration, annoyance and jealousy. But in what is expected to be 35-year-old Lionel Messi’s final World Cup, the Argentina captain is somehow shattering the region’s long-held apprehensions. on the country.

“People don’t seem to know what to do,” said Antonio Casale, a Colombian broadcaster. “They don’t want Argentina to win, but they want Messi to win.”

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It’s a complicated mix of feelings that goes beyond sport, said University of Buenos Aires historian Martín Bergel, “an ambivalence somewhere between fascination and repulsion.”

Many Argentines resent the stereotypical portrayal, based on a cartoonish oversimplification of the wealthy and supposedly arrogant porteño., or resident of Buenos Aires – a trope derided in Argentina itself.

The origins of the image are difficult to pin down. But Bergel suspects they date back to the 19th century, to prominent Argentinians such as Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. The president and prominent writer, credited with modernizing the country’s education system, “was arrogant,” Bergel said, “and had an almost prophetic idea of ​​what Argentina could be.”

At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina was an economic power, bigger and richer than Canada, and Buenos Aires was a cultural and intellectual center comparable to London and Paris, and develop tanguero icons Carlos Gardel to the architect César Pelli to the writer Jorge Luis Borges.

Argentina has long been considered by Latin Americans to be one of the whitest countries in the region. Unlike Brazil, which has at least rhetorically embraced its multiracial heritage, Argentina is seen as composed of and largely dominated by people of white and European descent (an image that does not include the country’s indigenous and mestizo population).

Today, in the midst of economic and political crises — Vice President Cristina Fernandez of Kirchner was found guilty of bribery this month and sentenced to six years in prison – the Argentinian spectacle is starkly different from its heyday. But the stereotypes persist, especially at international football matches.

The home of football greats Diego Maradona and Messi, Argentina is blocked bitter rivalry with Brazil, Latin America’s other soccer giant, the most successful team in World Cup history with five league wins. The teams compete each year. The match is called the Superclasico de las Americas.

In 2014, when Argentina qualified for During the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentinian fans held nothing back from their joyful pride in playing for the title on Brazilian soil. “Brazil, tell me how it feels,” chanted the Argentines, “to have your daddy in your house?”

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Unsurprisingly, Argentina found little support from hosts Brazil that year.

“It was unthinkable for Argentina to win a cup on Brazilian soil,” said Brian Winter, Americas editor. Quarterly. “They thought Argentines would be intolerable for decades or centuries to come, hanging it over their heads.”

This time, Winter said, “it’s definitely different.” He noticed an outpouring of support for Argentina, partly in thanks for Messi and partly in the hope the Albiceleste could bring the Cup back to South America after four straight European wins. This solidarity seems strong enough to overcome the fear that yes, Argentines will continue to brag and dominate everyone else for decades to come!

In a recent survey, Argentina was the first choice among Brazilians win in Qatar if Brazil didn’t. A Spanish newspaper called it “unthinkable fandom”.

It’s not about Argentina. It’s about Messi,” said Guga Chacra, a Brazilian GloboNews commentator who has lived for years in Argentina and even has a dog named Messi. “Besides that, he’s a genius, he’s a guy normal. … His head is always lowered, as if he had all of Argentina on his back.

There is also the fact of Argentina’s opponent on Sunday. France have beaten Brazil three times in the World Cup, once in the final. Brazil are the last country to win two World Cups in a row, in 1958 and 1962 when Pelé entered the field. The Brazilians certainly don’t want to see Les Bleus, the 2018 champions, match the feat, Chacra said.

Still, there are resisters, beyond even Messi’s reach.

Eliezer Budasoff, Argentine editor at El País offices in Mexico City, assumed he would find at least a few Mexicans supporting the Latin American team when Argentina faced the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. He was wrong. When Argentina scored their first goal, he was the only one in the Mexico City bar to jump out of his seat and cheer. Everyone else supported the Netherlands.

When the match went to penalties, a friend grabbed him: “Let’s get out of here.”

“If it wasn’t for him,” Budasoff said, “I think I could have gotten beat up.”

Budasoff has been trying all week to convert his colleagues in his Mexico City office into Argentinian supporters, with mixed success. Carolina Mejia, 27-year-old photographer and video editor, puts down roots for France. The Argentina team are “arrogant”, she said. “They play in this very individualistic way.”

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Yet, for many Latin Americans, Sunday is all about one individual.

How much for your Messi shirt? asked a man at a downtown Bogotá swimwear store.

Shopkeeper John Fernandez, 35, has been selling football shirts in the Colombian capital for 13 years. It is never seen so much interest in Argentina’s blue and white striped shirts with Messi’s name on the back.

Of course it takes root for Colombia when the country qualifies for the World Cup. Otherwise, he supports Brazil, because The Brazilians remind him of the Colombians: “They are gay, like us.

But he felt he had to back down Argentina this year. A Messi win would be good for business during a peak week for Christmas shopping. His jerseys would fly off the shelves.

But it would also mean an Argentine victory.

“Who will be able to bear them then? said Becerra, the Uber driver.

He shook his head and laughed.

“Oh no,” he said. “I could regret having encouraged Argentina.”

World Cup in Qatar

The most recent: the world Cup got closer to the end on Saturday with Croatia takes third place in the tournament beating Morocco, 2-1. France and Argentina will play for the world championship on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time.

Probably Messi’s last World Cup: For Lionel Messi, the World Cup represents a last chance to step out of Maradona’s shadow. For the Argentinians, a respite from the incessant bad news.

Today’s worldview: In the minds of many critics, especially in the West, the Qatar World Cup will always remain a tournament shrouded in controversy. But Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani wants people to take another point of view.

Perspective:America is not the laughingstock of men’s football right now. It’s about something, and it’s more in tune with what works for the rest of the world rather than doggedly forcing an American sports culture — without the benefit of top talent — into international competition. Read Jerry Brewer on the future of the United States Men’s National Team.

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