Argentina is home to the fifth largest Irish diaspora in the world which explains the interest here in the team of Messi and Mac Allister, writes Maria Lujan Medina, School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures
What does it mean for for Argentina to win the World Cup final against France? As an Argentinian that has adopted Ireland as home for over 10 years, I am fortunate to have eccncountered mutual love and admiration between our countries. It brings a special sense of joy to be surrounded by a community that is proud to wear the Argentine colours and ready to cheer to each 'Vamos Argentina' and ‘Viva Messi’ in every match.
Celebrations at Guiry's Bar in Foxford, Co. Mayo began trending during the quarter-finals when locals gathered to watch Argentina, something of a tradition for the past few world cups. But the town’s love for the country runs much deeper than passion for football and is actually linked to the life of their most famous son, Admiral William Brown.
He was the founding father of the Argentine Navy and adopted Argentine son, who became known as the protector of the Seas. In a Facebook post earlier in the tournament, the Embassy of Argentina in Ireland expressed their happiness in joining ‘our siblings in Foxford’ in supporting the national team before their thrilling 3-0 victory against Croatia.
The history of Irish–Argentinian relations is a topic that continues to be of interest for Irish society, academia and Global Ireland. With the fifth largest Irish diaspora in the world, and the biggest in a non-English-speaking country, Argentina has indeed many reasons to be grateful for the Irish emigrants who moved to the pampas, the grassland region covering Buenos Aires and other nearby provinces. It was in this area where the Irish worked the land and contributed to the agricultural development of the new South American nation in the 19th century.
Who would have thought that Ireland would reconnect today with another wonderful contribution, that of wonderful Irish-Argentine player Alexis Mac Allister? The rise of the Mac Allister has given Irish fans further impetus to support La Albiceleste. The 23-year-old, who will be familiar to Irish fans of the Premier League due to his recent stellar performances for Brighton and Hove Albion, has impressed since coming into the Argentine eleven following that humiliating defeat to Saudi Arabia in the first group game. He scored his first international goal in the 2-0 defeat of Poland in the final match of Group C.
The Mac Allisters hail from the city of Santa Rosa in the province of La Pampa and are a huge footballing family. Before moving into politics, his father Carlos Mac Allister, had a successful career as a full-back in the Argentine Premier Division, spending much of his time at Buenos Aires clubs Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors, one of the giants of Argentine football.
His two older brothers, Francis and Kevin, also play professionally for top-flight Argentine clubs Rosario Central and Argentinos Juniors respectively. His uncle, Patricio Mac Allister, played professionally in both Argentina and Japan in the 1980s and 1990s. The sporting links between Ireland and Argentina, which were previously highlighted during Santiago Phelan's reign as coach of the Argentinian rugby team, are a further indication of the vital role sports plays in renewing the Irish connection with its diaspora around the globe.
In Dublin, Argentine fans gathered to watch the games at the Woolshed on Parnell Street, while another 1,200 fans congregated to watch the matches at Buskers in Temple Bar, hosted by the non-profit Argentinos en Irlanda. For the final on Sunday, further gatherings took place in Blessington, Co. Wicklow, as well as in Wexford, Cork, and Waterford. Others celebrated a World Cup win at the spire in Dublin city centre on Sunday evening, adopting the place as a symbolic reference to the famous Obelisco in Buenos Aires to recreate a long Argentine tradition of collective expression.
For Argentina, winning the World Cup was, without any exaggeration, the best news the country has had in years. The severe restrictions imposed with the extended lockdown during the pandemic were followed by an economic crisis that has accounted for three different finance ministers this year alone. Only last week, the historic and controversial conviction of former president and current vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was found guilty of fraudulent administration to the detriment of the State, was announced.
The win is much more than a welcome distraction, not only for football enthusiasts but for all Argentines at home and abroad. As coach Lionel Scaloni puts it, "this team plays for the people", and all dreams were placed on the captain that has made this journey possible: Lionel Messi. The World Cup has shown just what a magnificent footballer he is, and a team that has demonstrated the best football Argentina has to offer.