Argentina may well be waking up from its biggest ever hangover – at least if the number of revellers on the streets of Buenos Aires on Tuesday is anything to go by.
There’s no denying Argentina desperately wanted to bring the World Cup trophy back home. The strength of feeling after every match during the tournament was testament to that, the dedication of fans to celebrate every goal scored.
The pride of Argentinians is multi-layered. Yes, it’s their third World Cup win and that’s an achievement in itself, but it was more personal than that – in Lionel Messi they have a footballing star now rivalling their God-like Diego Maradona. How dare he not take home the only trophy he was missing – they wanted it for Leo.
But this is a country that also needed some uplifting – a chance to dream, to smile, to have some fun. Argentina has been facing an endless economic crisis and with soaring inflation, every day gets harder. The tournament was a chance to switch off and kick back – and wow, did they do that.
“We have suffered so much through these past years,” one Argentinian told me. “It’s the first time we have something to celebrate.”
Sunday’s celebrations were immense – a spontaneous party in the centre of Buenos Aires, replicated across the country. But Tuesday’s celebrations overshadowed them by a long way. It was, says the country’s media, the biggest party in the nation’s history.
“Today the people don’t care whether they eat or not,” said another reveller. “If people are happy and joyous, the money doesn’t matter. People are happy to spend it today.”
With an estimated five million people on the streets of Buenos Aires, they started early – Even by 8am there were dozens of people dressed in their Messi 10 shirts, already having a kip on the park benches, before the event.
It didn’t take long to realise few people would actually ever see the parade pass by – a small bus carrying the team versus an entire nation clamouring to see them. But that mattered very little to the majority of Argentinians – this was about enjoying the sun, a public holiday and the moment – Argentina’s moment.
With so many people crowded around the Obelisk in the centre of Buenos Aires, it became clear the parade was never going to be able to pass through the thick crowds. No matter, when the parade changed route, the people ran to them. When the fighter jets did a fly-past, revellers cheered. They cheered again when the team abandoned the bus and took a helicopter to wave to the fans from afar.
The team was the reason for the partying, but in a way it was just the spark – the fiesta flame kept burning and will for a while yet.
This is a deeply proud, yet troubled country. Argentinians are always teased for claiming to be more European than their South American counterparts. But this victory over France made them deeply proud of being South American. That was contagious and has brought the region together – even if it’s brief, it’s welcomed.
And like all good parties, they usually end in chaos – the over-excited fans jumping on the team’s bus, the drunk Porteños and the piles of litter made that abundantly clear.