One month every four years

Argentina World Cup fever

ES UN MES, CADA CUATRO AÑOS!’ flaps the man in the latest video which went viral in Argentina this week. Captured from a dashcam, he is at first calmly driving along, with his wife in the passenger seat. She mentions in passing that her cousin is getting married soon, and so – like every good husband should – he makes a token acknowledgment that they’ll be going, smiles and says he’s looking forward to it.

Then he asks when it is.

‘23 de Junio.

Visibly, his face is drained of colour and fills with panic. ‘I’m not going, I can’t go, it’s the World Cup! Everyone knows that in June and July you can’t get married when it’s the World Cup. People won’t go! I hope it’s raining!

She asks if Argentina are playing, to which he replies immediately, ‘No, but it’s the second matchday of Group F. I’d miss South Korea – Mexico. I’m not missing South Korea – Mexico!

Yes, silly season really is upon us here. Just to provide a flavour of how seriously some people take this ‘one month, every four years,’ a native was caught on camera jumping in front of a slow-moving car last week – hoping to be signed off work, injured for the World Cup. Meanwhile, a few days ago I spotted a man whose job it has been to check that all the TVs on each floor of our office are working, in advance of Russia – Saudi Arabia kicking off next Thursday.

Now back to the car again where, laughing in disbelief, the wife calls his bluff. She asks if he therefore doesn’t go to work during this month, if everyone knows how sacred the World Cup is. ‘Yes I work, but less,’ he launches back at her, before she has even finished, clearly prepared for this line of amateur questioning.

This is no caricature either, so say my Spanish teacher and girlfriend – two reliable, otherwise disinterested bystanders. During the two hours or so whenever Argentina play, all office phones are taken off the hook. There isn’t even the pretence of being contactable, whilst obviously no work is done. The streets become eerily empty and quiet, before either quickly filling to the point of eruption to celebrate a win for La Selección, or simply remaining abandoned until tomorrow upon the back of defeat.

Not something I’ve had to deal with before, but I recently realised that I had too many tournament wallcharts. There was no point offering my spares to other people though, as they all had the same problem too. In the end, I settled on trimming down to just my Messi-fronted pocket pamphlet. Having submitted my group stage pronósticos (predictions) earlier today, and after an arduous week, tonight I went home to just put my feet up and relax. Well, sort of. The World Cup predictions league wasn’t going to make itself, right?

Correct. Back in the house no more than ten minutes, I felt compelled to fill-in a virtual wallchart with my predictions for every game up to and including the final on July 15th, and then send email invites to people to join my league. They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jokes aside, this kind of obsession about football to the point of insanity makes me feel at home. I’m glad to be in the asylum. Deep down, the Argentinians know they’re almost definitely not going to win it, yet you won’t hear any man/woman/dog here say that – and it definitely won’t quell the inevitable backlash when they get knocked out by Peru (according to my predictions league, anyway). This is England, but on steroids.

Like everyone else in Buenos Aires, I already know where I’m going to be for every Argentina group game and can prepare accordingly. This is of course the case for England’s matches too, having attended their last two somewhat ignominious tournament outings. Some people, albeit few porteños, are calling me crazy to plan my entire life around the World Cup for the next few weeks. Although they certainly have a point, to them I simply say this:

ES UN MES, CADA CUATRO AÑOS!’

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