Millions of Argentinians thronged the streets of Buenos Aires to celebrate an unforgettable moment with Lionel Messi and his World Cup-winning teammates instead of attending a huge party outside its signature bus parade .
Friends, family, even rival fans traveled from across the country to the capital to enjoy the glory of their first world title in 36 years.
However, most missed the main show after the chaotic bus ride was canceled nearly five hours after it started, with police deciding it could not continue for security reasons.
Despite the disappointment, the festivities continued for many, with the day becoming an exhibition of the Argentinian passion for football.
With most people wearing the team’s signature blue and white jerseys on a scorching hot day, the unified presence masked deep social rifts and economic inequalities. economy of a country struggling with years of financial turmoil.
It was an unprecedented party with an estimated five to six million people taking to the streets of Buenos Aires.
Paola Zattera, 43, who works in administration, told AFP: “I cannot explain this (feeling) with words but with emotions.
She was just six years old the last time there was a World Cup victory parade in Buenos Aires, when the late Diego Maradona was the people’s champion.
She said she “didn’t understand much” of what was going on before but this time was determined to make the most of it.
“I don’t care if I just see them from afar. Here I am and this is history!”
‘We can’t organize anything’
From early in the morning, a steady stream of people poured down every street leading to the iconic Obelisk monument in the heart of Buenos Aires, where World Cup winners were nearing the end of their 30-kilometer (18-mile) victory parade. ).
The fans have come from far away.
“We made the decision yesterday at 5pm. We booked a hotel in Obelisk and boarded the plane at 4am,” 42-year-old nightclub owner Cristina Vazquez, from the southern tourist center of Bariloche, told AFP.
“We come from Rosario, the city of Messi,” said businessman Luciano Peralta, 41, of the star’s hometown about 300 kilometers northwest of the capital.
“There is hope at every World Cup but this team is very close to the Argentine people, who sympathize with them very much.”
People from all walks of life mingled with the bustling crowd, even including families with young children and infants.
It was a party no one was willing to miss, even after celebrating all night Sunday after Argentina won the World Cup by beating France on penalties.
And yet, as is often the case in Argentina, there is a sting in the tail.
Safety concerns were raised after some fans tried to jump on a bus from a bridge and the rest of the trip was cancelled.
The hastily arranged helicopter tour that takes Messi, Scaloni and midfielder Rodrigo De Paul through the parade sites is little consolation for those who had hoped to see them in the flesh.
Jorge Ortalli, 52, arrived in Buenos Aires with his son from the nearby city of Campana, lamenting: “I’m a bit disappointed because once again we Argentinians have shown that we cannot organize anything. what.
‘A day to remember, forever’
Drums and horns sounded and were still ringing hours after the parade was cancelled.
Earlier in the day, fans climbed to the roofs of bus shelters and lampposts as the blue and white wave of fans stretched farther and farther away from Obelisk.
Being present and mingling with fellow Argentines is important to many people.
“In 10 or 20 years we will remember that we were here, it was unique,” said Agustin Delriche.
“Regardless of skin color, regardless of social class… winning the World Cup unites a country and those who have been through it will never forget it.”
He expects it to be an “eternal, memorable day.”
But again in economically unstable and politically polarized Argentina, there is a sense that some other opportunity has been missed.
“I wanted it to end differently. We underestimated what could happen,” said Roman Garcia, 38.
Towards the end of the day, small clashes broke out between fans – some of whom were clearly drunk – and police, who moved to evict a small group that had entered the area around Obelisk.
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