“Football and politics don’t mix,” said the spokeswoman for the Presidency, Gabriela Cerruti, on December 15th, after she was asked by the press if president Alberto Fernández would travel to the Lusail Stadium in Qatar to watch the final between Argentina and France. She didn’t know she would be proven wrong less than a week later.
To give credit where credit is due, during the World Cup Argentines seemed to take a breath from the persistent political divide between Peronists and macristas to focus on following the scaloneta, the way the squad led by coach Lionel Scaloni is affectionately referred to. However, after the win, some things started to go back to normal.
One of the first signs of the pax romana breaking apart happened after the government decided to institute a national holiday, according to the official decree, for “the people to celebrate in peace and union, sharing the joy with our players and the technical team,” which arrived this Tuesday from Buenos Aires. Former president and opposition leader Mauricio Macri called the holiday “unfortunate”. “Why do they keep people that need to work from working? Beyond that, what about people from Jujuy, or Catamarca? Why don’t they respect them and let people choose freely? That’s why most Argentines reject this form of government”, he added. After the interview, he tweeted that the holiday was “incoherent and anti-federal”.
Provinces like Santa Fe, Tucumán, Mendoza, Catamarca, and San Juan didn’t adhere to the national decree. All of them but Mendoza have Peronist governors, that is, from the same political party as the national government.
The political divide also got to the player’s arrival to the country. An open-top bus carrying them and the technical team departed from Ezeiza at 11:30 and people from all over the country waited for them in Buenos Aires, where the caravan was supposed to end, and on the sides of the road. There were a record-breaking 5 million people out there, according to Minister of Defense Aníbal Fernández. However, the route changed by the minute, and uncertainty reigned in the public waiting for their idols.
The national government wanted the players to salute the people from the balcony of the Casa Rosada like the 1986 squad did after they won the World Cup, but the Argentine Football Association (AFA) didn’t want anything to do with it. “Our proposition was that no members of the government would be in the balcony, because the president doesn’t want to give place to any political speculation,” said an official source to PERFIL. The government even decorated the balcony with Argentine flags and the rumors of the squad going to the government’s house persisted in the media and on the streets. However, this wouldn’t come to fruition.
According to journalist Ezequiel Orlando, the reason the AFA gave was that “there is a discoordination between Aníbal [Fernández, Minister of Security of the Nation], [Sergio] Berni [Minister of Security of the Buenos Aires Province] and [Marcelo] D’Alessandro [Minister of Security of the Buenos Aires City]” so the three governments couldn’t guarantee the safety of the team. “D’Alessandro doesn’t tell us how many agents they have,” said Orlando, quoting a source from the AFA.
After an accident involving a fan, the bus, which was supposed to stop at the intersection of 9 de Julio and San Juan streets, got redirected to a park where the players got into a helicopter. The celebration became an evacuation and not few people remembered the last time a helicopter flew over Buenos Aires at the end of December.
AFA directed the blame towards the Federal and the City Police, which respond to the national and the city governments respectively. “The same security organizations that escorted us don’t allow us to advance,” Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia, president of the AFA, tweeted. He did, however, recognize the work of the Province Police.
At press time, millions of people went back home without seeing the players, who were in turn landing in their home provinces.
Journalist Jorge Rial, from C5N, said that Tapia clashed with president Alberto Fernández due to past political disputes and that’s why he criticized the labor of the Federal Police. He then quoted a message from the spokeswoman of the Presidency, Gabriela Cerruti, which said that the national government “accompanied every decision the AFA made with different security operations”, a statement that is far away from the one she delivered five days earlier.