Now that the training sessions for the National Team against Panama and Curaçao are coming, it is a good moment to observe at least two interesting things that have been happening since the World Cup. I am saying them in disorder, the one mentioned first is not, however, the most important. Well: I’ve been watching soccer since the mid-70s. Throughout those decades, I only saw, in Argentina, three goalkeepers who generated imitation among the kids. I mean: the boys, when they play picadito, always want to be number 10, number 9, or another midfielder or striker of the team they are fans of. But only three times have I seen boys in the squares wanting to be their idol goalkeeper: Gatti in the 70s, Chilavert in the 90s, and Dibu Martínez now. Fillol was a great goalkeeper, for many (not for me) the best of all, world champion in 78 and multi-champion with River, but he will never end that type of idolatry.
The difference between the three idol goalkeepers is that Gatti and Chilavert were idols of their teams, while Martínez is an idol of the National Team. In Chilavert’s time there was a massive sale of player’s shirts (original or the wonderful and cheap trout ones), something that did not happen in Gatti’s time, and then it was common to see boys in the squares with the black jumpsuit with the bulldog of the great goalkeeper of Vélez. But never like what you see now with the 23 of Martínez. Now the boys want to be archers! Is it an evolution or a revolution for Argentine soccer? I don’t know. I know, on the other hand, that they go with the 23 even to go to school (in passing, some bosses from Mustard wanted to hire him as an image before the World Cup. At that time, Dibu was a cheap investment compared to Messi, or even Di María or Lautaro Martínez. Flower of business made in the investment-profit relationship).
The other issue arises from having watched all the World Cup matches again. I have a bitter taste, or bittersweet, I was left with a grimace of discomfort. Argentina ended up being the champion of emotion, the one of heart attacks from penalties, the one of endless relief. And it’s good that it is so. First Argentina was champion and second… France. But due to the level of play, the National Team could have been one of the greatest in history. But at some point in the games (except against Croatia) the team, which had been winning with dancing, went crazy and ate a series of goals at once that brought everything down. It happened with Saudi Arabia, it almost happened with Australia, it happened with the Netherlands and with France. It just didn’t happen with Croatia, which was the biggest ride I’ve ever seen in a semifinal. Even Scaloni made all the substitutes come in to stretch their legs for a little while, as if it were a friendly match and not the semifinal of a World Cup! And when France went 1-2, the Argentine fans were just shouting “ole”. If the National Team, as it deserved, had won the quarterfinals and the final with a clean sheet (added to the 3-0 against Croatia) we would not be talking about the team of emotion, the boys would not use the 23, but we would have been in the presence of one of the greatest – if not the greatest – champion in history. But it doesn’t matter: they were
a few minutes of tremendous disorder in each game, and finally five million people in the streets celebrating madly and in perfect order.
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