Argentina fans with a Diego Maradona banner celebrate after winning the World Cup. Photo: Reuters
Dino was only six years old in 1986 when Diego Maradona pulled off the greatest one-man show in the history of any team sport to script Argentina’s World Cup triumph in Mexico.
But Dino had no clue what led to the crazy public celebrations in the streets of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, on June 29, 1986.
“I remember my father was in tears. He was so happy, and he was telling me that Argentina had just become world champions. And he asked me to sing ‘Maaraado…’, ‘Maaraado…’ with him in the streets,” Dino recalled.
I met this Argentinian fan a couple of hours after Argentina’s victory over France in a gripping World Cup final on Sunday night.
When I saw him, he was locked in a long, emotional embrace with a friend as his son, Ulises, looked on with a face that was brimming with joy and happiness.
I tapped on his shoulder to share a high-five. When he turned, I saw tears rolling down his face, two long hours after the end of that incredible final.
After my request for a chat, he paused for a moment to collect himself before revealing that ‘Maaraado…, ‘Maaraado’ was the anthem for the Argentina fans in 1986.
This year in Qatar, they had Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos a Ilusionar (Boy, we have our hopes up again).
It’s a song that became the rallying cry as Argentina produced a stirring fightback following their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia to complete a fairytale victory.
Dino says not just in Qatar, the whole of Argentina was singing this song for the whole month.
“They have been singing this now in schools, in the buses, in the church, you know, people go to the church and they sing this song. It’s crazy,” he said.
“Argentina now must be in a complete party. People are going really crazy, jumping from the street lights, very crazy stuff.”
Remarkably, a line in that song speaks about how Maradona, who died two years ago, is cheering for Argentina and Messi from the sky.
“We had to lose him to be a champion again. He had to help us from another place. That’s what the song also says, that Maradona from the sky is cheering for Lionel. One line of that song says that. It has come true tonight,” he said.
“I think it’s the greatest story of the Word Cup history. Messi is raising the Cup at 35 years of age, and Maradona was pushing us from the sky.
“(Kylian) Mbappe was magnificent, he tried everything to stop us tonight, but in the end, he was powerless because we had Maradona helping us from the sky!”
Watching Argentina’s World Cup campaign in Qatar was indeed a surreal experience.
For some reason, it always felt like it was written in the stars.
Of course, Argentina played very well, showed great resilience and fought very hard for it.
And Messi was brilliant too.
But everything was falling in place for them. And it seemed their players always had more energy than their rivals because those 40,000 singing fans at the stadium were fueling their resolve.
One such man who had an extra motivation to become a champion was Emiliano Martinez who made no great progress in his career as a goalkeeper until a few years ago and even attended the 2018 World Cup in Russia as a fan.
But if not for his incredible last-minute save in the extra time and his heroics in the penalty shootout, Argentina and Messi would have remained empty-handed on the biggest stage.
“Martinez will now be in Argentina’s history because in that 10 metres between the two posts, we needed him to be a champion. And he was the champion in that moment,” Dino said.
“Messi needed that from him because he could not do it alone. To be a champion team you need a great player like Messi and a good goalkeeper and some good defenders and now we have them. I think Martinez completed what we needed to be a champion.”
Sara Cilia, an Argentinian fan who travelled from Milan for the World Cup final, says footballers like Martinez embody Argentina’s fighting spirit.
“We are fighters. We never give up. This team has won for the country because at the moment the country is facing a very difficult moment economically,” she said.
“Now people in our country are going to have fantastic, beautiful moments of happiness. These players know how much this means to the country. That’s why they fought so hard. It’s not just a football victory. It means more than that for us.”
Joseph, another Argentinian fan, was ‘crying’ several times during the nerve-racking final.
“I cried before the match started, I cried when we scored the first two goals, and I cried when France scored two goals,” he admitted.
“When Messi scored again in extra time, I was in tears. But Mbappe scored again. I was like cursing the whole world for that.
“Then in the penalties, when Messi scored and Martinez made the first save, I was finally little calm. I felt that now we would win.”
Joseph, 28, said after Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final, he thought his country would never win again.
“We waited for this for a long, long time. The first World Cup I remember was 2002. I was eight year old. Since then it has always been a story of heartbreak for us,” he said.
“So this victory means a lot. It’s a very emotional moment for people in our country because we are facing a very big financial problem.
“Today football gave us happiness. Of course, football is not life, it’s not everything. But it has given us hope.”
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