Earlier this week Argentina received its wounded football team back home after losing Sunday’s World Cup final against Germany. The game appeared as if it would be decided by penalty kicks, however Germany’s Mario Götz scored in the 113th minute, officially putting an end to the 2014 World Cup. To add insult to injury, Argentina’s national team was welcomed home by a president who does not care about the sport.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has served two terms in Argentina. The nation is currently experiencing some difficult times financially, and it is possible that the country may default on its debt. A World Cup victory was just the thing the Argentine people wanted to see, and the very thing that players like Lionel Messi and Marcos Rojo wanted to deliver to the nation.
The Monday arrival of Argentina’s football squad showed just how deflated the players were when the cheery President’s light-hearted quips were received by players’ fleeting smiles. With a smile and a laugh, president Fernández tried to coax Ángel di María to take the microphone, saying “Di María, come here, the girls are asking for you.” However, the prospect of being a famous heartthrob was not enough to tempt di María to speak.
Other players did not have the luxury of deflecting the President’s advances. Lionel Messi voiced the overall sentiment of his team by explaining how downcast it felt to not be able to bring the Cup home to the people of Argentina. “We gave everything we had but we just didn’t manage it,” Messi said to the reception.
President Fernández teased Gonzalo Higuaín about his second-half collision with German goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, by suggesting that the Argentine striker get an MRI scan. Someone on the President’s staff must have informed her of the looming issue FIFA is experiencing regarding head trauma and concussions during the World Cup. In fact, all of the President’s knowledge of the tournament must have come from her staff because she did not even see a single game.
President Fernández declined an invitation from Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, to watch the final, citing a sore throat. As the president of the soccer-crazed nation stood next to Messi at the reception, she admitted to not having seen any of the World Cup games, including the final match between Argentina and Germany. Before she handed Messi the microphone, President Fernández looked at the Golden Boot winner and said, “As you know I’m no soccer fan.”
Though there have been reports of riots in the nation’s capital and other large cities, the majority of the Argentinian morale has been positive as a result of the team’s success in the World Cup. It has given the country a much-needed diversion from recent political scandals and the current debt crisis. More than ever, the country seemed to feed into the footballing culture that has defined its people since the days of Diego Maradona.
Following the reception, President Fernández received criticism for her tongue-and-cheek attitude toward the World Cup and soccer in general. For some people, the situation encapsulates the President’s disconnect from the people of Argentina. One political analyst reflected on the President’s behavior, stating, “This has been a very positive month for the country…and she’s just not part of it.”
Argentina’s players and fans can move on by looking forward to their upcoming league’s seasons. Messi reportedly has a new role on Barcelona after the club recently signed Neymar and a chomping Luis Suarez. Ezequiel Lavezzi is looking to make a move to Serie A and di María is rumored to be leaving Real Madrid. Club distractions will help players and fans alike forget about the World Cup and the painful reception of its national team by a President who is no fan of football.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson