Friday, June 16, 2006

Del L.A. Times

Festival Erupts With Argentine Cup Victory

BUENOS AIRES — Argentines could only hope the national squad was not as tense as this normally buoyant capital city found itself on a chilly but clear South American morning.

Traffic was light, and Argentines gripped their coffee cups, mumbled nervously and nibbled at croissants while eyes were focused on television sets. Teachers readied TVs for those students who showed up so they would not miss the unfolding national drama.

As play began across the Atlantic, business mostly halted at cafes, shops and offices. All eyes turned toward the ubiquitous screens. The rattled voices of hyperventilating play- by-play men echoed along the strangely deserted streets.

With every Argentine goal, the collective anxiety eased, until today's 6-0 thrashing of Serbia-Montenegro finally unleashed an impromptu street festival — and a sigh of relief.

"This is a great day for our fútbol," said Ruben Russo, 38, a casino worker who was one of several thousand revelers at the Obelisk, the trademark monument downtown. "This day will be remembered forever."

Four years after the national team was humiliated in a first-round ouster in Asia, Argentines seemed confident after their cherished squad convincingly qualified for the round of 16.

In a single match, doubts about the team's abilities, coach and chemistry were seemingly dispelled. And they triumphed with the kind of style and panache that is much appreciated in this soccer-fixated nation, which has watched neighboring Brazil garner cups as its teams failed to advance.

The game also featured the debut in Germany of Lionel Messi, whose presence fans have been clamoring for. Messi promptly set up one goal and scored another.

The nation's honor, buffeted by economic and political upheaval and 20 years without a World Cup championship, was restored — for now.

"When the players first gathered on the field, I was a bit scared," acknowledged Gaston Zeta, 27, a mechanic. "But our side played together as a team more than any Argentine squad I've ever seen."

So focused were Argentines on the Mundial that the 20th anniversary of the death of Jorge Luis Borges — arguably the nation's greatest writer, one who wrote disapprovingly of his countrymen's passion for fútbol — was largely overlooked this week.

Instead of examining Borges' legacy, Argentines analyzed the myriad moves of José Pekerman, the national team coach, and contemplated the injured thigh of the young idol Messi. By today's delirious and wondrous finish, nothing else in the world seemed quite so important.

Andrés D'Alessandro of the Times' Buenos Aires bureau contributed to this report.


Blogger Louis Cyphre said...

Me parece un tanto prematuro esto de los festejos. Yo recomendaría mucha calma y humildad. Uno y despacio. Espero sinceramente que no se apague todo dramáticamente después del partido con Holanda.

5:54 AM  

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