Tears, cheers, screams of joy to the skies – Argentina celebrated in style on Saturday night as the country’s grieving supporters celebrated the end of a 28-year drought.
All eyes were on the television screens as the Albiceleste emerged victorious from the Maracanã, taking a 1-0 victory over rivals Brazil to claim the Copa América title.
As Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich whistled to mark the end of the match – and captain Lionel Messi fell to his knees to celebrate on the grass in Rio de Janeiro, Argentina erupted. In scenes recreated in villages, towns and cities across the country, supporters dressed in light blue and white flocked to the streets, cheering, jumping, singing and celebrating.
This is Argentina’s first major title since 1993 and not just, it’s Messi’s first trophy with the national team. For the first time, fans got to see the world’s best player celebrating with his compatriots – doubling down on the cause of the celebration.
“Finally, finally!” Shouted Argentinian commentator Juan Pablo Varsky as victory was confirmed, the sign for thousands of people to flood the streets and make their way to the city center.
As usual, huge crowds gathered around the iconic Obelisk monument in the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires‘ famous stage for mass celebrations. With Covid-19 fears temporarily all but forgotten, fans had stepped out to celebrate in style. As the mass of supporters grew larger, cars soon began to flood Avenida 9 de Julio, honking their horns with joy.
The last time such a large crowd was seen in Buenos Aires was another football-related event: the sad loss of perhaps the country’s greatest player, Diego Maradona, last November.
Large crowds were also reported at various locations across the country, particularly in Rosario, the hometown of Messi and flying winger Ángel Di María, who scored the winner on Saturday night which helped Argentina to win the title.
Joy – in times of pain
Social media was another place where the euphoria was channeled. A few seconds after the final whistle, #Estoyllorando was a trending topic, as was #Maradona, with thousands of messages posted saying the late star must have been part of it.
“I would like to congratulate and embrace our huge team for bringing the country to the top,” President Alberto Fernández said in a message on Twitter.
“The Argentine people will always remember that in times of pain, they sowed hope and brought us immense joy. VAMOS ARGENTINA! ” he wrote.
Politicians across the aisle quickly posted messages, with the grieta – Argentina’s strong political polarization – briefly forgotten in a moment of national euphoria.
A TV clip that went viral showed a fan shouting that the country was finally united, if only for a moment.
“Today there is no inflation, no parallel exchange rate, today there is only Argentina and we are together!” the unidentified fan shouted into a microphone on the C5N news channel.
Back in the bars, many were still in disbelief.
“I loved it, I saw us pressuring (…) and I loved seeing [Ángel] Di María scored the goal, he deserved it, “said Facundo Martínez, 22, at Patio de los Lecheros, a food market in Caballito which projected the match on a giant screen.
Fans had watched the game there and at various bars and restaurants across the country while following Covid protocols, but Saturday night’s street celebrations fell far short of the rules.
Some were already expressing concerns about the potential impact on infections and deaths the scenes could be responsible for.
Most of the fans, however, were still in seventh heaven on Sunday morning. The long wait is over – and it’s certainly worth celebrating.
– TIME / AFP