These days, streets in Argentina are a mobile party. It’s hard to spot kids wearing regular shirts instead of Messi’s, or even engage in conversations that aren’t about coach Lionel Scaloni’s decisions or the latest Rodrigo De Paul videos.
Jumping into the excitement is a great way to appreciate local football culture, so the Buenos Aires Herald team has put together a list of dos and don’ts for those who want to enjoy the last match as a true hincha (fan).
If you’ve watched the last few games, there might be things you remember doing: what you wore, which side of the sofa you sat on, what you ate, the volume of TV at the time of a goal. All of these details – and even smaller ones – can become cábalas: lucky charms, traditions and habits that are thought to be linked with the outcome of the match, and some people take them very seriously. Being cabalero is part of Argentine culture, even when it’s just for fun. You can look for your own and practice it till the end of the match.
Literally, the shirt but in fact more profound than that. In the local football league each team’s uniform is defended like a flag of medieval clans going into combat. This rivalry is resolved into harmony when it comes to the national team. Although this is in great part universal in the football world, as evidenced by players kissing their shirt’s emblem after scoring a goal, each country assigns particular significance to different aspects of the design and components of the jersey. In Argentina, above all, it is the number 10 on the back. Technically this number designates the position of the central midfielder on the pitch, but since Maradona the number has become mythical, not to say sanctified. This brings us to another phrase: la camiseta pesa – in other words, the shirt weighs heavy on players’ shoulders. Among other things this was one of the struggles and criticisms of Messi and the fan’s expectations that he follow in the footsteps of El Diego.
Mufa, piedra, yeta, or even mufasa. A lot of words, but they all mean the same thing: the opposite of a cábala, that is, something that can bring the team bad luck. The established consensus is that being overly optimistic before or during the game is mufa. As a rule of thumb, never ever shout “¡gol!” before said goal is confirmed, or you’ll jinx it. Also, if you watched a game in a certain place and your team lost, you should never watch any other match there, no questions asked. However, there is a partial solution if you say or do something mufa: you can say “¡anulo mufa!” afterwards, and hope the Gods of Luck hear it.
There are also people considered to be mufasa: Leila Guerreiro, a famous Argentine writer, chronicled how her sisters think her father is one and won’t let him watch any games. Being considered a yeta is one of the greatest dishonors that can befall you, and the concept has bled into the political landscape: former president Mauricio Macri said people that branded him mufa in social media to be “mentally ill”. Even media outlets and politicians that support Macri dedicated posts, editorials, and op-eds rejecting the idea. Maybe the whole thing is a dumb superstition, but if your friends consider you to be mufa, don’t you dare watch any matches! We’re not even joking.
Flow, broadcast or streaming?
There are many ways to watch the games. Most of them are streamed, but where it’s streamed makes the difference. For example, Flow, a private streaming service, is so delayed that you might hear your neighbours screaming about goals two or three minutes before you see them. If you’re watching TV Pública, the national TV channel, you might miss some bits because of the volume of traffic on the site. The safest bet? A good old TV antenna, which you can buy (or build yourself) very cheaply – less than AR$3,000 in most places. If you don’t have one, just make sure your windows are closed during the match, and have a separate device ready in case your TV or laptop streaming fails.
Just picture this: you’re in the middle of the match, or celebrating after it, and you’re surrounded by dozens of hinchas jumping, hugging each other, kissing and dancing to football songs. You don’t know the words, but you can feel they’re meaningful. These are canciones de cancha: traditional rhythms (often taken from national rock songs!), lyrics tailored to support the team, or to honor Maradona and Messi, or to claim that we’re the ones destined to win the cup. Our advice: listen carefully and try to remember the first two or three lines, as it’s likely that they’ll be repeated in a loop. Around the second or third go, be brave and jump in: it doesn’t really matter if you miss some words, but don’t forget to pour all your heart into them. That’s the secret.
Fua, el Diego!
Diego Maradona is a god, and that’s not a moot point. There is even a Church of Maradona with its own 10 commandments. And D10S, as we call him, is no doubt helping the Argentine squad from beyond. How could he not? Diego’s appearances in clouds, pieces of toast, and even the way Messi plays or behaves unquestionably confirm this idea. After each of these miracles, you should say “Fua, el Diego!” (roughly “Wow, Diego!”), a sound of admiration for the greatest player’s supernatural capabilities. And, of course, an indication of how much we wish he was watching the World Cup down here with us.
Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, and we can’t stop looking for things that are the same now as they were back then, a signal that we’re going to be champions in 2022. Examples abound. One Twitter user wrote: “In 1978, my grandpa was cheated on, in 1986 my father was cheated on, and in 2022 I was cheated on. I choose to believe.” Jokes aside, another coincidence users found is that inflation this year, like in 1978 and 1986, is sky-high. We may be suffering from it, but perhaps it’s a good omen. Ultimately, even the most popular beer brand in the country released an ad focusing on coincidences: they noticed there were no bald players in the previous winning teams and there are none in 2022, either. Here at the Herald, we all choose to believe.