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San Franciscans describe what it was like to see Argentina’s World Cup victory first hand

Fans celebrate Argentina's World Cup victory in Plaza Seeber in Buenos Aires, December 18, 2022. | Karina Iñíguez

If you watched the “best World Cup final ever” on TV, it's pretty easy to imagine what it was like to see it in person.

“Electrifying. There’s no other word,” said M.R. Rangaswami of San Francisco, one of 88,000 people in Lusail Stadium to see the match. “Every seat was taken. And the Argentinian fans outnumbered the French by at least four to one.”

Lusail Stadium in Qatar before the final match. | M.R. Rangaswami

A diehard sports fan, Rangaswami left a business trip in India and flew to Qatar where he got a chance to see both final matches this weekend. (SF businessman Elon Musk was also spotted in Doha today.)

“There’s no other sporting event like the World Cup,” Rangaswami said. “We were sitting with Croatians and Morrocans yesterday and French and Argentinians today[...] Soccer is truly a global sport.”

San Franciscan M.R. Rangaswami (right) at the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar. | M.R. Rangaswami

Rangaswami has been fortunate to see several sports finals, including the Warriors in the NBA finals and the Giants in the World Series, as well as the Super Bowl, Australian Football Grand Final and the Cricket World Cup. One thing made the Qatar games very different? The singing.

“The fans like to sing,” Rangaswami. said. "They almost never stop singing.” 

A View from Buenos Aires

The singing still hasn’t stopped in Buenos Aires.

Karina Iñíguez woke at 5 a.m. and arrived at Plaza Seeber by 6:30 a.m. to get a good spot in front of the giant screen. By kickoff, about 90,000 people had joined her and her daughters in Buenos Aires’ main viewing areas.

Karina Iniguez and her daughters in Plaza Seeber. | Courtesy Karina Iniguez

“I had been practicing the songs for the past few days because you have to know the songs,” said Iñíguez, an Argentinian American and longtime San Franciscan who arrived in Buenos Aires a week ago to spend Christmas with her family.

“The only time the singing stopped was when [French star Kylian] Mbappé scored… Imagine thousands of people instantly silent. Not one word.”

A quiet moment for the thousands of fans at Buenos Aires' Seeber Plaza. | Karina Iñíguez

After a rollercoaster of an end to the second half, two periods of extra time and a penalty-kick finish, Argentina clutched its first cup since 1986. It was superstar Lionel Messi’s fifth and last chance for a win. 

“It’s different in Argentina because the whole country is passionate about soccer—everyone from babies to grandmas is screaming ‘Goal!’ all together,” said Iñíguez, who added even the dogs have Messi jerseys (she got one for her dog back home.) “You don’t see that in the U.S. where you have football and basketball and baseball and never have everyone rooting for the same team at the same time.”

Her daughters Sabina and Milena loved the whole thing. 

“[Being in the plaza] was the exact same feeling as being in the stadium—you really have to be there to feel it,” she said.

Fans head to Buenos Aires' Obelisk to continue the celebration. | Sabina Patterson

After the game ended, Iñíguez and her family headed for the Obelisk with thousands of other partying Argentinians. It is the most popular spot for fans in the country to celebrate. Back inside her home in the Recoleta neighborhood 12 blocks away, cheering, honking, wailing—and, yes—singing could be heard in the dark outside her windows.

“This will go on all night,” Iñíguez said.

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