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England vs Argentina - The Argentina Fan

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


World Cup 2nd Round, 30 June 1998. This is the story of that game told by an English and an Argentinean fan.

As is usually the case in this country when there are decisive or transcendental events, the exact time and date of the football match between Argentina and England had generated confusion among football fans.
Nobody wanted to acknowledge the anguish produced by the match. But the day was coming and we had to stand up to it.
As is also usually the case, the press, "commentators" and sports celebrities increased the tension between fans even more. False information had been circulated about the real characters of the match.
Obviously, the Argentine team was said to feel confident, calm, enthusiastic and optimistic of victory. Of course, the other team was filled with fear, distrust and chaos with some injured players.
Neither of these two versions was correct and perhaps both teams were in jitters or very optimistic. However, to add enthusiasm to the event was not enough. A little bit of gossip was necessary. And the combination of the two is good business.
I did not know where I was going to watch the game. The match was going to start half an hour before I left work. I was sure my colleagues would talk our boss into letting them watch the game at work. However, this was not so good for me.
I couldn't stay late at the office because on that day I had a brief meeting scheduled with my students at University. I knew they would call to cancel the meeting and that instead of going to class they would meet at the Students Centre to watch the match. But I couldn't miss the meeting since I am a professor and professors - despite their miserable salaries - are dedicated to their students.
It was at that time that I decided that I could perhaps watch the match in several places. My office is close to the university and it takes me only 15 minutes to go from the university to my place. So, I planned the following strategy: 15 minutes at the office, 15 minutes at university and perhaps 15 at a café. Then, during the interval I would run home to comformably enjoy the second half of the match. With a little bit of luck, I would be able to meet my engagements and watch the goals. However, nothing turned out as planned.
I missed Batistuta's first goal, because of a phone call. By the time I got to the TV set it was already too late. My colleagues jumped with joy while I tried to watch the replay. It was not the same thing. All fans know that a replayed goal does not feel the same. I was not able to see Shearer's goal either. I was on my way to pick up a cup of coffee and a cigarette to calm down (it was the only special moment when smoking was allowed in the office) when the English player scored the goal that I missed. My colleagues scratched their heads in disbelief and I looked on in awe.
When I thought that I could enjoy what was left of the match, it was time to leave. I rushed out of the office and on my way to university, 15 minutes into the first half, Michael Owen scored a wonderful goal. This time I couldn't even see its replay. I did, however see some fans pulling their hair, signalling a catastrophe.
When I arrived at the university Argentina were losing 2-1. Everything had been so fast and, to make matters worse, I had not enjoyed a thing. In the classroom I handed out the material to my students (out of 25 only four students came to class) and then I ran to the bar at the corner to catch something of the match. LateZanetti scored a brilliantly planned free-kick to draw level.
Then I decided that I would not move for the second half. I drank more than eight cups of coffee and I waited and waited, but nothing happened. During the second half there were no goals, scored either by Argentina or England. There was some emotion although with boring moments and plenty of fear and speculation by both teams. I expected the famous "golden goal" during extra time but it never came. Argentina were exerting pressure but did not manage to create spaces to assert the final accolade.
Then came the penalty kicks. I had to act fast. I had to move for something new to happen. I rushed out of the bar, took a taxi home that charged me almost twice as it should. I arrived home and after begging my wife to interrupt her favourite TV programme, almost on my knees, I could enjoy the penalty kicks. The truth is I did not care who was scoring them. I only wanted to see goals and more goals. At that time there were many, all of them in a row for me. However, after enjoying myself like a kid, I thought that it was enough. I didn't want more goals. And my wish came true. At the end of the penalty round Roa held Batty's final kick and Argentina qualified.
Now I was ready to suffer against Holland.


Thanks to Daniel Bartele from Buenos Aires for this recollection, May 2001


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