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Argentina fans the real deal: “To be a champion, today we have to win”



Doha on Saturday was an ocean of the blue and white of Argentina.

Argentina fans filled up the train carriages in the Doha Metro on the way to their round of 16 match against Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, noisily proclaiming how they would not only win the match but the World Cup.

“People at home expect this team to win. They expect the cup to come to Argentina,” a fan called Franco, wearing the number 10 replica shirt of Messi, simply said,

He was on the metro green line that would take him to the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, venue for the match, while the journalist was headed for the Qatar National Convention Centre where the tournament’s main media centre is located.

As early as four hours to the game a steady trickle of the Argentina fans was already filling up the stadium. They came in all sorts of costumes and paintings but the Albicelestes’s blue and white was the dominant colour.

“Argentina!” they screamed, to the amusement of locals, decidedly not used to this kind of vocal mob behaviour.

The stadium press centre was unusually full with every desk and seat occupied, forcing late comers to either stand or go to the press tribunal inside the stadium.

Majority of the press covering the game were obviously from Argentina, which has over 300 journalists accredited to the tournament.

Stepping inside the stadiums, what first hit you was  the noise — not troubling or disturbing, but a captivating drone of thousands of voices singing in unison.

“To be a champion, today we have to win,” they chanted on and on, in Spanish.

You would be mistaken to think Argentina were playing at home.

Reports indicate that over 30,000 Argentines have made the trip from South America to the Middle East for the World Cup.

An online story last week on Al Jazeera talked about a recently formed support group called Argentina Fans Qatar (AFQ), that is composed of primarily Indian, Nepalese, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshi, and also includes Africans and Qataris. The group is 5,000-strong.

“Our driving force is the love for Argentina, and our goal is to support and make travelling fans feel at home in Qatar,” Mohammed Suhail Ali, an Indian engineer and a founding member of the group told Al Jazeera.

Indeed the Argentina support had plenty of other nationalities who presumably must have had quick lessons in Spanish to keep pace with the chants of the visiting Argentine fans.

For the entire 90 minutes the force of sound did not relent and when Messi, appearing in his 100th game as Argentina captain, scored the opening goal 35 minutes on, it went a notch higher, with chants of “Messi, Messi!” that could have carried all the way to Buenos Aires, some 13,306 km away.  

Manchester City forward Julian Alvarez added the second in the 57th minute and even when Australia pulled a goal back via an own goal by Enzo Fernandez the Argentina fans did not stop singing.

They stayed in the stadium long after the match.

Argentina were not particularly impressive but with the little magician, Messi, their stay here is guaranteed, at least for the next few days.

Messi leads them against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Friday at Lusail Stadium.

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