Argentina’s football will survive the ending of the Messi, Di María, Agüero, Higuaín and Mascherano generation

(Letter published in the 6/28/18 edition of the Financial Times)

Simon Kuper writes the obituary of Argentina’s football in his June 26 FT article: “One of football’s great national traditions may soon need that moment of silence. If anyone believes it can’t happen: Hungarian football used to be great, too.”

Argentina, Messi and company have made it to the elimination round of this World Cup after having reached the final in Brazil in 2014. The way they got there felt indeed like agony, but this is better than achieved by the 1998, 2006 and 2010 Champions in the Cups that followed their triumph – France, Italy and Spain being eliminated at the group stage in 2002, 2010 and 2014 respectively. And no one is writing about their demise, even though Italy did not even qualify for this tournament in Russia. And when was England’s last World Cup final?

Like all football in South America, Argentina suffers from lack of money – no billionaire oligarch owners in their domestic league! However, young talent continues to spruce up, from all corners of the country, again like in neighbors Brazil and Uruguay. The young winger Cristian Pavón (Boca Juniors) is a recent example. The country also has a rich coaching tradition, with no less than five Argentinean coaches present in Russia. Unlike Hungary, which was a dominant force just before and after WW II (two finals, in 1938 and 1954), Argentina has been present at the top of World Cup football since its inception in 1930, reaching the final game no less than five times over a span of 84 years, and winning twice – more than England, France or Spain. Scouts from these countries will continue to travel to beautiful Buenos Aires to enjoy asados, Malbec wine and tangos, while earning their keep bringing young local football talent to Europe. And after the Di Stéfano, Ardiles, Maradona and Messi generations, a new one will emerge too, from this proud and talented nation of 45 million.

Etienne Deffarges
Author, “Untangling the USA…”
San Francisco, California

(“Argentina’s ‘worst team in history’ looks for the real Messi,” by Simon Kuper, the Financial Times, June 26, 2018)

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