Photo Credit: AP/Alan Meissner
Everyone has their superstitions. Some avoid black cats for fear of bad luck. Others cross the street making sure to only step on the painted part of the crosswalk. Me? My superstition resurfaces every 4 years during the FIFA Men’s World Cup.
Before I divulge the details of my particular superstition, let me explain a little about my background. I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, like the generations of my family that came before me. As a child, I’d hear stories from my parents and grandparents about their experiences growing up in Argentina during significant historical events. My grandfather recalled how his father fought in the Falklands War (or la Guerra de las Malvinas), and my parents recounted memories of avoiding any out-of-place packages in the street on their walks home from school during the Dirty War out of fear that they might be explosives. Much of Argentina’s history is riddled with war, human rights violations, corruption, and economic strife. One thing that has been a unifying force throughout, however, is the universal love for the beautiful game.
My family immigrated to the U.S. from Argentina when I was five years old. I can’t remember exactly when my adoration for the sport began, but I definitely don’t remember a time before. For many Argentines, soccer is almost an indoctrination. We are a passionate, resilient, and at times, stubborn people – arguably three of the biggest requirements of any superfan. As I navigated my way through childhood as a young immigrant in the US, there were many new mannerisms, customs, and ways of life that were introduced to me. I, like many other immigrants, had to find ways to make sure that I never untethered myself from my identity. My way of doing this was through soccer.
One of the most beautiful things about soccer is its universality. In almost every corner of the globe, the game is cherished and celebrated in its own unique ways. Every four years, this celebration gets the name of the FIFA Men’s World Cup, where a select number of countries, through qualifying rounds and eliminations, relish in their shared love and passion for the sport on the world stage. Naturally, however, playing on such a large scale can at times allow the state of global affairs to bleed into the game, creating a variety of political undertones with each goal scored (or not scored!) Take the last time Argentina won the World Cup for example. On the road to the final, Argentina and England played each other in a quarterfinal matchup. Led by Diego Maradona, Argentina defeated England with a score of 2-1 to move on to the semifinals. This game was not only the scene of Maradona’s notorious “Hand of God” goal, but it was also widely seen, in essence, as a way for Argentina to avenge its devastation at the hands of England’s imperial involvements in their country, most notably the Falklands War, which had ended four years prior.
As I progressed playing soccer through childhood and into adolescence, however, I began to realize that the love for the game knows no bounds or borders. Within my local soccer community were people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, races, and more. Sure, there would be disagreements on what formations would create advantages, or whether or not a player was offside, but at the most basic root of it all existed a deep-seeded appreciation and admiration for this beautiful game.
To me, and to all the other soccer fans in Argentina and around the globe, that is what the World Cup is about. It’s an opportunity for billions of people to come together in their shared love and pride of the sport. The beauty in witnessing teams represent their nation, whether it be in times of prosperity or strife, is nothing short of magical. It means so much more than just a trophy. This year, we saw the Iranian national team unite in advocacy against the country’s authoritarian regime and human rights violations by refusing to sing their national anthem. We saw the Moroccan national team become the first African nation to reach the FIFA World Cup semifinals.
We also saw Lionel Messi, at 35 years old, lift the FIFA World Cup trophy amidst an Albiceleste sea of blue and white. It’s been almost a week since their victory, and it still gives me goosebumps. Last weekend, a dream of mine finally came true. Since the first time I watched Messi play on the World Cup stage for Argentina 16 years ago, I had dreamed of this moment that always seemed out of reach. I’d wait another four years with high hopes that maybe this, this would be the year we would win. And born was my routine bred out of superstition, only this time, this year, it finally worked!
Nothing felt better than to French braid my hair into pigtails and put on my Argentina jersey, as I’ve superstitiously done every single World Cup match of Argentina’s from years past, and hear the words “Argentina are World Cup Champions!” In four years time, there will be a new champion (or maybe a back to back champion), but until then, VAMOS ARGENTINA and long live the beautiful game!
Written By: Megan Delaney, Operations & Analytics Manager at McEntee Law Group