Doha, Qatar – Billions of people around the world have witnessed the unbridled passion of supporters of the 32 teams participating in the football World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
Fans of Morocco, Brazil, Cameroon, Mexico and other countries have been the subject of endless media attention over their colourful costumes, songs, dances, chants and stadium choreography aimed at helping their team’s chances at the World Cup.
At the very pinnacle of football fandom, the energy and enthusiasm of Argentinian supporters have lit up their team’s five games played to date in the tournament.
With drums, trumpets and untiring vocal chords, the Albiceleste’s supporters have brought their decades-long dedication to football to the stadiums of Qatar.
The atmosphere is nothing short of exhilarating when Argentina’s army of supporters, dressed in white and blue, boisterously belt out the lyrics of famous football chants, such as Vamos Argentina (Go Argentina), and the re-adapted footballing version of Argentinian band La Mosca’s song Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos a Ilusionar (Boys, We Have Our Hopes Up Again).
Sung during the group stages inside and outside stadiums, the lyrics go: “In Argentina I was born, in the land of Diego [Maradona] and Lionel [Messi].”
Regardless of whether they score, concede, possess the ball or lose it, the deafening sound of the Argentinian fans is a permanent fixture through the 90 minutes of play, and beyond. It is relentless.
“As Argentinians, we are mad about football and creating a good atmosphere,” said Victor Ramos, 47, an Argentina supporter. “A welcoming environment for the players is our way of helping the team. The support from fans is a very important part of any sport, not just football.”
‘Part of our culture’
The expression of Argentinian enthusiasm witnessed at the World Cup can be traced back to the undying attachment to local football clubs in Argentina, Jessica Costa from Buenos Aires said.
“On Sundays, some people go to church, while others go to the stadiums,” said the 28-year-old, who is studying Arabic in Doha.
“We love our local teams from an early age,” she told Al Jazeera, explaining how supporters in Argentina arrive up to three hours before matches kick off.
Such support demonstrates “the love you have for the players. And the same thing goes for the Argentinian team,” she said.
“It’s a big part of our culture and history.”
Argentina’s embassy in Doha reported that between 35,000 and 40,000 Argentinians travelled to Qatar in hopes of seeing their team lift the coveted trophy after 36 years, according to AFP news agency.
While many of the Argentinians who could afford to travel to the World Cup are more well to do, there are multiple stories of people with far less who have made the journey, including putting off buying homes and cars to do so, according to a Reuters news agency report.
There is also no shortage of support for the Albiceleste among fans from other countries, including India.
Indian citizens can be seen in large numbers at World Cup games clad in Argentina and Messi jerseys, and holding posters of the legendary Maradona.
Argentinian football also has problems with supporters, particularly the “barra bravas” – a network of organised football fans who are known for both their fanatical support of their teams and their violence.
Compared with football hooligans in Europe, the barra bravas are said to be present across Latin American football teams and among several top local football clubs in Argentina, and have been linked with illegal street businesses, intimidation and fighting, including some that has been deadly.
Earlier this year, the Buenos Aires city government said it was cooperating with Qatar authorities to prevent some 3,000 barra brava members and thousands of other violent fans from entering stadiums during the World Cup.
Costa, the Argentinian student and Qatar resident, said it would be wise to keep the barra bravas away from stadiums everywhere, including at the World Cup.
“They create really problems,” she said. “At the World Cup, you want to create an atmosphere for families also, where we can cheer and sing together all united. But with these people (barra bravas) there is violence – they start fights, bring knives. It’s not a healthy environment.”
Roberto Oscar, a communications specialist also from Buenos Aires, told Al Jazeera that while he is glad steps had been taken to restrict the barra bravas and to prevent hooliganism at the World Cup, the presence of fanatical fans at games does “increase the enjoyment”.
“Before, the atmosphere is easy and peaceful. But when they come, that’s when the party starts,” Oscar said. “It’s like a crazy spectacle.”
After booking a semifinal spot for Wednesday against Croatia, more Argentinian supporters are expected to arrive in Qatar in hopes of seeing their team advance to the final, and star player Messi finally winning the one major trophy that has eluded him.
“I think we have a good chance (against Croatia),” Costa said. “We have been improving every game. I don’t want to think about losing. But, if it happens, I will still be very proud of the team.”