It finally happened.
After a nerve-wracking match that left us all in need of a 15-hour siesta, Argentina managed to defeat the Netherlands and reach the World Cup finals, something we hadn’t seen in 24 years since the World Cup in 1990. Coincidentally, Argentina had to play against Germany as well. (Argentina lost but, whatever).
So this Sunday, 24 years after the golden cup was stolen from our hands, we finally get to come out of the shadows and enact our revenge upon those who wronged us so we can reclaim what is rightfully ours. It’s almost like the plot of one of those really bad – yet tremendously popular – movies from the 1990’s. Like Darkman. Did you ever see Darkman? It sucks. And yet I remember it fondly, for reasons I fail to comprehend.
Anyway, to make it even more cliché, this time we have a secret weapon that they never will see coming: the best football player in the world, Lionel Messi. Which is totally not a secret but that just sounded good in my head while I was saying it, so I’m leaving it there. The truth is: this Sunday will be an unforgettable experience and you get to be a part of it.
I need you to understand how monstrously epic this will be. If you were ever looking for tangible evidence that Argentines breath and live by football, this is it. Look around you. It’s omnipresent. Like God. Because football is a religion. Reason has been momentarily suspended and emotion has taken over. And while imbeciles like us – who detest football and arrogantly believe we’re somehow superior because we choose to watch Seinfeld reruns over the final match – sit alone in the dark at home like some kind of post-modern Ebenezer Scrooge, the rest of the world joins in a collective experience that mixes mass hysteria with brotherly love.
The truth is that football is just the beginning: the tip of the iceberg to a celebration that, in the face of an eventual victory, will infect everyone in this country with blood-burning ecstasy. It will bring people to their knees and make them cry, sometimes screaming, sometimes in silence. It’s the closest you’ll see to a declaration of world peace.
So as the countdown to the most incredible celebration of your life begins, here is a useful guide for those of you who are not from around here but want to party like an Argentine. And if you are from around here but you’re not “really into this whole football thing” then you might find it handy as well.
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON?
Are you serious? Did you even read what I just wro- Whatever. Fine. This Sunday afternoon is the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in which Argentina and Germany will clash in an unforgettable, heoric match that will decide the future of humanity. Also whoever wins takes the cup home. Argentina has won the World Cup twice (1978 and 1986.)
WHERE IS THE GAME TAKING PLACE?
Both teams will meet at the legendary Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
WHAT TIME DOES THE GAME START?
The game begins this Sunday at 4 pm, Argentina time. Be ready.
WHERE DO YOU RECOMMEND I WATCH THE GAME?
Well, let’s see. There are several options and it all depends on how you like to enjoy your sporting events.
- AT THE MARACANA STADIUM. Obviously this is what everyone wants. However, unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, or one of those guys, I would say your chances are pretty slim. Not only everything is sold out, but illegal vendors are all over the internet reselling their tickets for astronomical prices (up to 20,000 dollars) that could get you a small apartment in a third world nation. So unless you’re ready to sell both your kidneys and your liver in the next 48 hours, I would say this is pretty much out of the question.
- IN RIO DE JANEIRO. I get it. You want to be as close to the epicenter of fun as possible. And why not? Even if you can’t get into the Maracana stadium, listening to the hordes of fans screaming and singing from outside its historic walls has got to be a moving experience. And Rio is a beautiful place, so no matter who wins, you can head over to the beach for some post-World Cup fun, get drunk on Caipirinhas and quite possibly meet the love of your life. At least that’s what Hollywood has taught me. However, it may be a challenge to get there in time. I mean, you have 48 hours. Even Jack Bauer would have to think it twice. But, if you’re willing to give it a shot, I’m not going to stop you. The media is saying today that plane tickets are sold out (all of them, even Executive and First Class) and over 300 buses from all over the country are heading to Rio right now. If you’re reading this in the comfort of your home and suddenly decide to take a bus there, I have bad news: it’s a two-day trip, which means that you wouldn’t make it in time. Even as some 1600 families are driving to Rio, the trip is quite challenging, which has prompted Clarín to publish an infographic with safety tips and the most convenient routes to traverse the 2,800 kilometers separating Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro as fast as you can.
— DsD (@DsDiarios) July 11, 2014
- The National Government has set up several Puntos de Aliento throughout the country, where people get together and watch the game in HD and scream and cry and stuff. They are usually set up in an Espacio INCAA site, which means that the game is screened in a movie theater. There’s no cover charge, although you may have to struggle to find a seat. There are two Espacio INCAA sites in the city of Buenos Aires: one is the Gaumont Theater (Av. Rivadavia 1635, in Congreso,) and the other is ArteCinema (Salta 1620, in Constitución.) There are 38 Espacio INCAA sites throughout the country, and here’s a link to their site, in case you live in the Interior.
IN BUENOS AIRES:
- WITH STRANGERS (OUTDOORS). If you’re alone (or with friends) and don’t mind the cold you can always go join the mass hysteria and surround yourself with thousands of fans wearing white and blue who are ready to cry, swear and scream like their lives depended on it. It’s an amazing experience and it’s hard to remain impervious to their infectious cocktail of joy and fear. They will hug you, they will offer you drinks of dubious precedence, cry with you and add you on Facebook, because after sharing such an unforgettable event, chances are that you will be brothers and sisters forever. The City Government has set up two giant screens in Buenos Aires – one in Plaza San Martín (Retiro) and another in Parque Centenario (Caballito) – and planned other World Cup related activities there, so expect thousands (yes, thousands) of fans to attend. And also yes, it’s free.
- WITH STRANGERS (INDOORS). If you’re one of those people who can’t stand the cold, you can always go to a bar – any bar – and watch the game surrounded by strangers. But like Will Rogers used to say, a stranger is just a friend you don’t know. So no big deal. And yes, every bar will have a TV ready to entertain patrons who feel it’s better to watch the game surrounded by drunks than by their real family. Hey, I’m not judging. Why not just go with your buddies and befriend the drunks? Nothing wrong with that. You can even try going to Locos X el Fútbol (Recoleta) and share the experience with a trillion fans, although you may find it hard to get in there.
- WITH YOUR FRIENDS AT HOME. This is what most people will be doing, since the whole kumbaya moment when everyone holds hands and stuff only happens in the event of an Argentina victory. If the game starts at 5 pm, you can make sure that the pre-game will begin at noon, with friends getting together and cooking
asados and drinking beer and swearing and praying and swearing again and hugging and kissing and jumping up and down because they can barely contain themselves. People will be on their balconies hanging flags and waving at people on other balconies and on the street, because we’re all in this together and no matter what happens, Argentina will become a hive mind for 90 minutes that afternoon. So get out of bed early and run to the supermarket, since chances are everyone will be there filling their carts with drinks, meat, peanuts, nachos, chips, cheetos, cheese, ham, salame, crackers, bread and anything they can put in their mouth in an effort to calm their anxiety during the game. At around 1 pm, the air will be impregnated with the aroma of a million asados being cooked at once and I promise you, you will already be full by then, after enjoying the most delicious picada ever. And yet, you’ll keep eating because anxiety is contagious and OH MY GOD THIS IS IT. Televisions everywhere will be on, with reporters covering the excitement blanketing the entire country while everyone counts down the minutes to 5 pm. People will swear and express legitimate concern or just go insane and yell at the TV screen, “Tano” Pasman style. Remember “Tano” Pasman? Yeah, this guy:
WHICH CHANNEL BROADCASTS THE GAME?
- Both the TV Pública and TyC Sports will broadcast the final game in HD. DirectTV as well. If you don’t happen to have a TV but you’re near a computer with an Internet connection, you can watch the game online on their websites, here and here. [WARNING: The HD broadcast has a two to three-second delay. This means that the rest of the population watching the game in SD will spoil everything for those who aren’t. So if you do watch it in HD, chances are you will hear the entire world scream “GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!!!!!!” outside your balcony while players are still running after the ball on your screen. Turning the volume all the way may help, but silencing 40 million voices may prove to be an impossible task. You have been warned.]
SHOULD I BUY PROPS SUCH AS ARGENTINE FLAGS AND VUVUZELAS?
- Yes to flags, no to Vuvuzelas. Not only they are extremely annoying, they are also very 2010. You can buy t-shirts, and hats, and make-up, and rubber masks. Whatever helps prove your unwavering support for the Argentine team will make you belong automatically. This could be good to break the ice if you decide to spend it with people you don’t know. Nothing on Earth makes an Argentine prouder than seeing a foreigner wearing the t-shirt of the Argentine team. No Spanish? No problem! You’re wearing white and blue so you’re automatically adopted. Also, if you are indeed a stranger in a stranger land, tell them to teach you how to sing “Brasil, decíme qué se siente…,” the (unofficial) World Cup song. At least here in Argentina. If you need to start practicing now, here you go:
OK, THIS IS ALL VERY USEFUL, BUT LET’S SAY ARGENTINA WIN. WHAT THEN?
Well. That’s when the fun really begins. It’s hard to describe what will happen when Argentina win the World Cup. You have to be there to experience it with your own eyes and ears. The first second, millions will be stunned, still unable to process what just took place. Confusion. Did we win? Did we make it? Despair. Then suddenly, realization. The entire country will explode. Laughter, tears of joy. World peace. It’s like Christmas, New Year’s and your birthday all in one. For 30 minutes people will hug at home, kiss the screen, thank Messi, thank Mascherano, thank Maradona, thank Pope Francis and thank God.
Then comes the second part. Celebrations, Part II. You leave the comfort of your living room or bar and head out so you join millions of people who are singing and dancing in the streets. Fireworks. Music. Flags. Balloons. Horns. An inescapable feeling that everything is right with the world. Happiness. Immediate, tangible happiness.
Those living in Buenos Aires will first gather at their local neighborhood hot spot for an hour (like, if you live in Palermo, first you go to the corner of Coronel Díaz and Av. Santa Fe) and then, after hugging some strangers and and endless parade of selfies, thus begins the long walk to the country’s final destination: the Obelisco. That’s where The Celebration is.
It was already announced this afternoon that traffic will be restricted in certain areas of downtown Buenos Aires from 6:30 pm to Midnight because – let’s face it – the only thing anyone will be doing is celebrate. Clarín tweeted a convenient map showing where traffic will be blocked. The 9 de Julio Av. will be closed to traffic from Santa Fe Av. to Belgrano Av. The widest avenue in the world will be ours to invade.
— Clarín.com (@clarincom) July 11, 2014
The Obelisco is where the pilgrimage ends. Where hundreds of thousands of people coming from all parts of Buenos Aires convene on a cold July evening to kiss, dance and sing until, well, in some cases, until the sun comes up. Because no matter how horrible the weather is, nothing can stop that immediate, tangible happiness.
Don’t believe me? This was only two days ago, after defeating the Netherlands. Imagine what it will be like if Argentina win.
WHERE SHOULD I GO TO WELCOME THE TEAM?
No matter who wins, the players are already heroes and will be welcome as such. Chances are they will go to the Casa Rosada and will be greeted by the President, and everyone will go to the Plaza de Mayo to show their support, like it happened the two times Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986. The team will probably be back by Monday or Tuesday, so stay alert.
NOW, I REALLY HOPE THIS IS NOT THE CASE, BUT WHAT HAPPENS IF ARGENTINA LOSES?
If Argentina loses there will be sadness. Lots of tears. So if you want to cry, cry. Word of advice: don’t mock anyone. I’m not joking. DO. NOT. MOCK. You may get punched in the face and, in all honesty, you will kind of deserve it. And even in the case of an eventual loss, this country is damn proud of what the National Team has managed to achieve in Brazil, so chances are people will still take to the streets to celebrate.
WILL THERE BE RIOTS? WILL THE COUNTRY TURN INTO A POST-APOCALYPTIC NIGHTMARE WITH PEOPLE KILLING EACH OTHER AND SETTING THE WORLD ON FIRE?
Come on, man. No. No riots. Just lots of sad faces. There may be one or two idiots who out of frustration may try to break stuff, but that happens everywhere. So you have nothing to worry about.
YOU HATE FOOTBALL. WILL YOU WATCH THE GAME?
What I do is irrelevant. In fact, it’s kind of ironic that I ended up writing this article, since my complicated relationship with football has been widely documented (?). True, as a sport, I hate football. I find it excruciatingly boring, repetitive, unexciting and just plain dreadful.
However, the World Cup oozes a mystifying je ne sais quoi that has the ability to turn me. A few days after the opening ceremony, I’m hooked. Maybe it’s the epicness of the event. Maybe it’s peer pressure. Maybe it’s FOMO. I have no idea. Whatever it is, it manages to put a smile on my face that I fight and try to conceal as I whisper “good job, guys,” in an effort not to break character. Because I don’t like football, but I do like the World Cup.
I could try explaining a thousand times the kind of effect that football has on people and I would get it wrong every time. I’ve tried to join the collective excitement that people get when their favorite football team wins, and I’ve failed miserably. I think I will never get it. And that’s OK. However, I do get to enjoy that feeling of togetherness that suddenly invades an entire nation in which, if only for a few hours, everyone is equal. Even now, as I try to find the words that will help me describe that overwhelming sensation, I know for a fact that you just won’t get it. Your brain might. Your heart won’t. Once every four years, beer and soda companies run “moving, touching” ads that try to translate that feeling and fail miserably. I only need to watch them for a few seconds before I start rolling my eyes in response to those loud, overreacting sports fauxmmentators that feign excitement, in a shallow, plastic attempt to make us cry.
Forget it. There’s no point.
I will, instead, offer you a video that has gone viral in the last few hours, making the rounds on social media. A video that has managed to capture that je ne sais quoi I mentioned before by simply compiling a series of reactions from the moment Argentina managed to defeat the Netherlands two days ago.
And maybe… just maybe… it will help you understand.
Did you tear up?
Now you understand.
Enjoy the game. Vamos, Argentina.
(Featured image via eldia.com.do)