Argentina’s World Cup race has an anthem: ‘Muchachos’

The death of soccer legend Diego Maradona at the end of 2020 was like a kick in the head for Fernando Romero, a 30-year-old teacher from a suburb of Buenos Aires.

But when Argentina won the Copa America the next year, Romero felt Maradona’s spirit was with his beloved team. In the tradition of the country’s avid soccer fans, he began thinking of a song that he and his friends could sing at games.

Borrowing the melody from “Muchachos, Esta Noche Me Emborracho,” a 2003 hit by Argentine band La Mosca, Romero created new lyrics that deeply impacted the Argentine psyche.

He evoked Maradona and football phenomenon Lionel Messi, as well as the 1980s war in the Falklands – or the Falkland Islands – where hundreds of young conscripts lost their lives.

I was born in Argentina
Land of Diego and Lionel
From the children of the Falklands
That I will never forget

The song began to gain attention after a sports television channel caught Romero singing it outside a football stadium. The footage began to spread across the Internet.

Then, last month, days before the start of the World Cup, La Mosca performed it in a video clip.

“Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos A Ilusionar” quickly became an anthem – sung by the Argentine players in their dressing room, the Argentine fans in Qatar and the crowd that gathered at the iconic obelisk. In Buenos Aires this week, as Argentina earned a place in Sunday’s final against France.

“We want to win the World Cup and this song makes us dream,” said Agustín Martín, a 23-year-old carpentry student who was walking around the Obelisk, where pedestrian crossings have been painted in the national white and blue and the digital billboards flash endlessly. Advertisement of the cup. “Sometimes we even cry when we sing it.”

Argentina, one of the most soccer-obsessed countries in the world, has a long history of fans rewriting the lyrics of popular songs to cheer on their home teams.

The practice dates back to at least the 1950s, when working-class fans of Buenos Aires’ Boca Juniors sports club stole an anthem from the country’s populist Peronist movement, said Luis Achondo, a postdoctoral fellow at the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago . who is writing a book about songs at soccer matches in Latin America.

“From here the culture has grown and is growing, and in Argentine stadiums you sing non-stop”, said Achondo.

Supporters of different teams compete to outdo each other. Many of the songs include profanity. But because fans were traditionally more attached to home teams, the Argentine national team historically struggled to find a repertoire of songs.

This began to change in recent years. The song “Brasil, Decime Que Se Siente” (Brazil, Tell Me How It Feels), written to the tune of “Bad Moon Rising” by American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, became a hit during the Cup of the World Cup in Brazil 2014. He boasted that “Maradona is bigger than Pelé”.

“Muchachos,” which before Romero’s version had already been reworked by fans of the Racing soccer club in Buenos Aires province, avoids attacks on rival soccer nations and focuses on Argentine nationalism.

Now we will dream again
I want to win the third one
I want to be world champion

The words can be particularly poignant at a time of economic and political crisis in Argentina. Inflation is expected to approach 100% by the end of the year. The polarizing vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was convicted this month of fraud that occurred while she was president.

Football, to a certain extent, can make up for the precariousness of life,” Achondo said.

For Eduardo Herrera, an ethnomusicologist at Indiana University who has studied Argentine soccer chants, the unity they create feels a bit like a religious experience.

“I don’t think it’s much different than when we go to a church or a synagogue and recognize that others move the same way we do,” he said. “We kneel, shake our heads or say the same words.”

In Qatar, where two Argentinian matches drew the biggest crowds of the tournament – nearly 90,000 people each – “Muchachos” could be heard everywhere.

Matías Boela, a journalist who traveled to Qatar for the Argentine newspaper La Nación, said the song “has become one of the main tourist attractions of the World Cup.”

Fans from other countries take out their phones to film groups of Argentines in subway stations and markets singing the song calling for Argentina to win its third World Cup.

Messi has the Albiceleste, as the team is called, one victory away from achieving it.

Heading into Sunday’s final, no player in the tournament has more goals or assists than Messi. At 35, playing in what he says is his last World Cup, the only thing that has eluded him in his glittering career is a world championship.

But it is the late Maradona, formerly Messi’s coach during the 2010 World Cup, who is most revered in Argentina. Even his parents, known as Don Diego and Doña Tota, were soccer royalty.

Maradona led the country to its last World Cup title in 1986, 51 weeks before Messi was born. Messi has played in his shadow his entire career.

Speaking about his anthem in an interview on Argentine television, Romero explained that his lyrics avoid “that constant competition that existed for so long between Messi and Maradona”.

“They are both ours,” he said.

Romero has said that he has been overwhelmed by how the country has embraced the song. When he learned that Messi was a fan, “my knees went weak,” he told Argentine media.

In Buenos Aires, it is impossible to miss the World Cup signs.

Argentine flags hang from balconies, cars and shop windows. People go to work wearing Messi’s shirt. The city has placed giant screens in several neighborhoods where thousands of people can watch the game.

And the soundtrack to it all is “Muchachos”.

“I associate it with being Argentine, with joy and sadness, with the hope and passion we have for soccer,” said Candela Guadano, a 20-year-old dance student near the Obelisk.

Juan Roberto Mascardi, a 48-year-old journalist from Rosario, the city where Messi was born, attributes the song’s success to how it “unites generations through our idols, which are Maradona and Messi.”

“When Maradona retired, those who are now close to 50 thought in that moment of collective pain that there would not be another idol born with similar characteristics, and it happened,” he said.

And Diego
We can see it from heaven
With Don Diego and Tota
Cheering Lionel, and be champion again, and be champion again

Times writer Miller reported from Mexico City. Special correspondent D’Alessandro reported from Buenos Aires. Times writer Kevin Baxter in Al Rayyan, Qatar contributed to this report.

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