The Hand Of Fate
The Hand Of Fate.
I spent the first 60 minutes of the final riding around Buenos Aires on my motorcycle and absorbing the atmosphere. The streets were completely deserted, like a scene from The Walking Dead, so I turned off the engine at traffic lights to listen for roars and cheers.
Then at Nuñez, I saw a man run from a petrol station pumping his fists and car horns honked which is when I knew Argentina had scored their first goal.
I was determined not to look at my phone in the hope of receiving news through the ether in the streets – the jungle drums, if you will.
Never had silence been so ominous, but a few minutes later, at a set of lights in Acassuso, the buildings around me erupted in a roar and a motorcyclist pulled up alongside me and indicated the good news – two goals for Argentina.
At half-time I stopped at a bar in Acassuso and watched as men, women and children, all wearing Messi shirts paced up and down, their heads either bowed or pointing to the heavens. No one spoke and all I could hear was the muffled sound of the TV commentary, the cheers of the fans in Qatar, yet I could feel a heavy tension in the air around me.
Stopping at other bars in Martinez and La Lucila, the scenes were the same – fans willing the team on with hands on heads at missed chances and near misses by both France and Argentina.
But it was time to head back and face the music.
On arriving back home, where my wife, her son and his girlfriend were strung out and agonising over the remaining minutes at 2-0, France got that penalty and I was told to bugger off.
They’re a superstitious lot, you know.
Then, just minutes later, Mbappe scored THAT goal at 81 minutes and I was cursed forever.
“Why did you have to come back, ffs???” they all asked, so I hung my head in shame.
With the tension being too much to bear, I wandered around outside, silently willing the team on, occasionally peering at the TV through the window, my knees having turned to jelly as the match went into extra time.
At 107 minutes and sitting on the grass opposite the house, I heard a mighty roar and it was 3-2. Messi had scored and I rushed back inside to celebrate, only to be pushed outside again. Clearly, that’s where I belonged, so sat down on the grass again, feeling like a naughty schoolboy.
Ten minutes later I heard an awful groan, saw hands on heads behind the curtains in the living room and knew that something disastrous had happened, so peered around the front door. Our Nemesis, Mbappe had scored another penalty, meaning the nightmare scenario was looming – a penalty shoot-out was inevitable and my mind immediately flew back to 2014 and 2018.
Wisely, I then retired to the kitchen again with Maria, simply because that’s where I had been for the Croatia shoot-out, so I was converted from curse to talisman, the remaining two protagonists slamming the door and ordering us not to leave on pain of death. I believed them.
Groans, followed by cheers, more cheers, then a roar, then an eruption and I knew we had done it. The door was opened and the spell was broken.
Tears were shed, many hugs were given and the street exploded outside our house. Cars packed with supporters rolled past, honking their horns, waving flags and we danced in the street!
I felt honoured to have been in Argentina on such a momentous and happy occasion. One thing Argentines know how to do better than most, is celebrate and boy, did we celebrate!
What a day!