“Do you know how Germany is doing?” asked the driver as soon as I got into the car.
“Yes, they just scored a goal, not playing very well really” I said.
The car driver pulled out a piece of paper and took note of the result. The remis driver (informal taxi) would sure check the results when at home and see who would most probably be our next soccer adversary in the 2010 World Cup tournament.
Soccer is a big thing in Argentina. Its always been that way. Specially during the world cup, kids don’t even go to school that day if the match takes place during school hours, and even at jobs only the most tyrannical employers will forbid workers from watching the game or at least keep track of it on internet or radio.
You see very few cars on the streets, few people walking around. Even if you’re the strangest Argentine person in the planet, you’d be wise to stay at home during the matches when Argentina plays: There’s so few people and so little police presence (or none) that more professional criminals that resist their passion for soccer will take advantage of the opportunity and commit robberies and other crimes.
I can’t help thinking why it is this way, why is soccer (or futbol as we call it here, slang for football) so important for people.
I guess it has something to do with poverty and the social situation here. Its always been a big thing, even during the good times, but when a person is poor, his life quality went to hell, its easy to see why soccer is so important. For some people, their team winning a tournament is the only happy event in a very long time. This is something that repeats itself in most Latin American countries.
Because of this, soccer is a matter of state. In a country where the population’s discomfort is so great, its politically important that the team goes well.
If Argentina wins matches, people are happy and less likely to protest or notice (or care) that much about inflation or crime, concentrating on celebrating the team’s victories instead. Its common for the senate and president to approve very unpopular measures or laws precisely during the time when Argentina is playing an important match. People are concentrated on something else and before people and the media take notice its already a done deal. “Bread and Circus” as the Romans used to say. In some cases, circus alone is enough. Circus and cheap drugs.
The drugs are already cheap and abundant (and of awful quality of course, junk like Paco that kills people quicker than any other drug) About the circus part, the Kirchner government took measures as well: In a country of such poverty as Argentina, they’ve used 250 million dollars were spent to ensure the previously pay per view matches to be free for everyone. The program was called “Football para Todos” (Football for everyone) 250 million dollars, the tax payers money, many of them very poor, that money is spent on making pay per view free. So maybe you have a hard time putting food on the table, maybe you are one of the millions of unemployed, but you can rest assured your tax money is being spent in important things, such as ensuring free soccer TV for the fans out there. Maybe you sort of prefer lower taxes, specially when it comes to making food cheaper. Heck, maybe you don’t give a damn about soccer. Thank God you have the Argentine government to spend your money wisely for you instead of throwing it away on silly stuff like milk or medicine for your kids.