- Jose Carlos Cueto – @josecarloscueto
- BBC World Special Envoy to Qatar
On the day of the final, the Argentine Guido Peralta followed a very particular ritual, although he already warned before the match against France that he might have forgotten something because the list is long and detailed.
“In the preview I go to the roast early and hang two of my four flags in the exact place. I go with the same shirt and chain, same clock, same pants, same socks and sneakers“.
These are some of his cabals when the Argentine team plays. And in Qatar he also followed them.
The albiceleste won their third cup, and made up for the lost opportunity against Germany in 2014 and got Lionel Messi the icing on the cake for a career that lacked a World Cup.
The Argentines trusted the talent of their team, but they also followed superstitions and customs whose only proven science is in their heads and hearts.
“This is crazy. Football for us is a religion“, said the fan Mauro Puliafito in a camel costume, “the messian camel”, as he himself baptized it. It was one of his superstitions.
This soccer fever reached its maximum temperature in ‘Barwargento’, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital, Doha, in the municipality of Al Wakra, which the “Argentines took and made their own.”
Therein lay the most passionate heart of one of the largest fans of this World Cup and who has earned the sympathy of many for his unconditional support for his team.
Barwargento, the heart of the Argentine fans
The official name of the neighborhood is Barwa Barahat Al Janoub. It is very small and isolated: dozens of apartment blocks with a few supermarkets, a giant screen in a square, restaurants and food stalls.
Qatar rushed its construction to accommodate some of the hundreds of thousands of fans who came from all over the world. There are several “clusters” like this scattered around the vicinity of Doha.
In Barwa Barahat Al Janoub, a large part of the Argentine fans met.
“We put it ‘Barwargento’ because it is covered by Argentines. Some agreed to come here, but others came by coincidence,” Peralta explained.
In one of the neighborhood squares, the atmosphere felt like home.
They hung albiceleste flags and rags (banners) of Maradona and Messi of the Windows. A horn animated the afternoon with cumbia.
They met for a barbecue. They prepared hamburgers and cooked a whole lamb over a fire that was given to them by the Argentine embassy in Qatar.
“Here we have been very well, among friends. All this comes out spontaneously. Today we are calmer, but many days it gets massive. We go to bed at 5 or 6 in the morning,” Peralta said before the final.
If they were calm, it was because many were organizing banners in the center of Doha asking for more cheap tickets.
Various resale advertisements offered tickets between $4,000 and $5,000something that many could not afford.
Sacrifices and cabals for the albiceleste
Most of those present had been saving for years to be in Qatar.
The rooms at the Barwargento cost around $80 a night for two people, but they packed in air mattresses so four or five people could share the space.
Some left a lot behind to be here.
“I sold my motorcycle and, a few days after coming, my old man tells me that he is having hip surgery. I told him that I was canceling everything, but He asked me to come, fulfill my dream and bring him the cup“, Puliafito explained with his voice almost breaking with emotion.
“It costs a lot to get here from Argentina, but this is the beauty: share a barbecue, drink a mate, eat an alfajor. Being among Argentines, chatting and singing”.
One of his cabals, his personal brand, is to take his “messianic camel” costume and the rag that complements it to the field.
It consists of a long flag with Messi’s face on one end, a camel’s face on the other, and in the middle a sign: “I want to see Messi raise the cup on a camel.”
“Nor can I miss my Maradona shirt at his farewell in 2001, a bathing short without underwear and the same sunglasses. And when I get up, yes or yes, I have to drink some mates alone,” continues Puliafito.
“In my backpack I try to put another flag and two t-shirts: the holder and the substitute. I always shave on game day, wax and cut my nails,” adds Peralta.
In Barwargento all kinds of rites were heard; most had to do with clothing. There were some planned like post the same photo on social media an hour before each match.
They also built others on the fly.
“We have ‘adopted’ a group of Spaniards that we met and that we take to each game in the collective (bus) to the stadium. They bring us luck,” said the fans.
Peralta, for example, missed the first match against Saudi Arabia, the only defeat of Argentina throughout the World Cup. He also considers himself a cabal of sorts.
For the day of the final, the barbecue that was organized before each game in Bawargento could not be missing and was attended by Argentines who were not even staying in this neighborhood.
As the final was played earlier, at 18:00 pm Qatar time, the fans started the barbecue at 9:00 am.
But superstitions vibrated from one side of the planet to the other.
In Argentina there were concentrations and massive celebrations with each progress of the albiceleste.
And also various cabals that have gone viral in social networks.
The most popular was the one of the “grandma lalala”in which a group of young people and a neighbor named Cristina met on a corner of a Buenos Aires neighborhood to celebrate each triumph of the albiceleste.
The youngsters sang “abuela lalala” while the lady danced and waved the flag. The videos circulated through social networks to the point that more and more people came to the corner of Caaguazú and Andalgalá for the luck it brought them.
Facing the final, from Argentina, Valentín Bertoni told BBC Mundo that his group of friends watched the matches with the same television and antenna to all the houses they go to and that, at half-time, purchaseban always five beersNot one more, not one less.
“In my case I see them absolutely alone in my house, with a cushion on my left knee and a pillow on my right. This has been since the game against Mexico. The first (the defeat against Saudi Arabia) I went to a bar and that’s how we was”, explained Genri Bertoni, another fan from the same family as Valentín.
Nothing was left over to help the albiceleste achieve victory in one of the finals with the most pedigree in history.
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