Argentinian World Cup Fans Plant Their Flag In Brazil
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And now some World Cup news that is not about the U.S. team. Argentina played Switzerland today. The South American country won, scoring a goal in overtime. Argentina's fans were out in force in Sao Paulo, where the two teams faced off. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro says supporters of Brazil's greatest rival are getting a lot of attention in the host country.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: They planted their blue and white flag on Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana beach, claiming it as their territory. They've had fist fights with police. They've swarmed every match their team has played in. One headline here said 1,000 of them tried to bamboozle FIFA officials with fake passes. They've hung up political banners about the Falkland Islands at matches. And they've been singing this song at this World Cup being played in Brazil.
FANS: (Singing in foreign language).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's basically a string of insults to Brazil's soccer legacy, ending with this heresy - Maradona is bigger than Pele. Love them or loathe them, meet Argentina's passionate fan. There are tens of thousands of them here. And the Brazilian press has been documenting every move they make. There was even a press helicopter hovering over one of their campsites yesterday.
RICARDO PAREDES: (Foreign language spoken).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is a great and historic rivalry between Argentina and Brazil in regards to football, Ricardo Paredes tells me. He says, the point of all this bluster isn't to upset the Brazilians - very much.
PAREDES: (Foreign language spoken).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is all about the folklore of Brazil, he says. It's a football tradition to create this kind of rivalry and to feed it. Football has that mystique, but it's not with the intention to offend, he says. We meet in Sao Pauloâs Sambadrome where the carnival parades normally happen. Today, it's become a little Argentinian village. The city has opened it up to Argentina fans because so many of them drove to Brazil and are sleeping in their cars or in their camper vans, like the one Paredes has. His is from 1984. And it looks like it's on its last legs. He's sleeping in it with six other friends. They've tossed a flag over the hood with images of the four sacred M's, he jokes - Maradona, Messi, Mendoza - the state where he's from - and the Malvinas, what Argentinians call the disputed Falkland Islands.
EDUARDO PEMAN: (Foreign language spoken).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nearby in another camper van, a group of three fathers and three sons are having lunch. The pot isn't big but our heart is, Eduardo Peman says charmingly as he invites us to join him. Naturally, they are accompanying their pasta lunch with a good bottle of Malbec brought from home. He has nothing but nice things to say about Brazil and Brazilians.
PEMAN: Bien, Bien. Bien.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: They have been so hospitable, he says. We found food, lodging and water. It's been good, good, good. I think we've been received here in a way I'm not sure Argentina would've received Brazilians, he says. But across town, all that love and fraternity was put on hold. Brazilian fans were supporting Switzerland in the hard-won game today.
MESTRE DE CASA: (Foreign language spoken).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brazilian Mario Mestre de Casa says, basically because of the rivalry, I support any team Argentina is playing against. All of us here do, he says. But the Argentinians had the last word today.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: They cheered when they scored and immediately launched into their taunting song.
FANS: (Singing in foreign language).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brazil, how does it feel to be bossed around in your own country, they sang. You'll be seeing Messi. He's going to bring us home the cup. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo.
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