It all started in 1977. As a boy growing up in Aberdeen I, along with the rest of the city, was excited that the local football club beat Celtic in the League Cup Final and broke the domination of the Old Firm. Our manager Ally MacLeod was a local hero and there was great pride when he was appointed as the manger of Scotland. When Scotland qualified for the World Cup Finals I was absolutely convinced that we would return with the trophy. In the delusional Scotland of the time this was a common belief.
And so the team set off for Argentina in 1978. This became a mythical destination for me, the place where Scotland’s obvious superiority would be made clear, and for a few weeks that summer the centre of the world. Of course the tournament didn’t go entirely to plan from a Scottish point of view but for me it was the start of a love affair with Argentina. At the same time the world of tennis (my other favourite sport at the time) had the Argentine Guillermo Vilas as one of its top players. Argentina truly seemed to me to be a centre of world sport.
Move on to 1982 and a young player called Diego Maradona was making his name at Barcelona and briefly appeared in that year’s World Cup. More generally, the war over the Falklands (Malvinas) meant that Argentina seemed to be constantly in the news. At that time I first read Bruce Chatwin’s classic book “In Patagonia” and I knew that some day I would have to go there. Onwards another few years, and in 1986 Maradona won the World Cup apparently on his own. Now the country actually was the centre of world sport
It took quite a few more years, and more World Cups with me rooting for El Diego, but eventually Helen and I made it to Argentina in 1999, where we spent 10 weeks touring the country and trekking in Patagonia. We were not disappointed. It is a beautiful country, with great walking, friendly people and great food and drink. Its politicians (and armed forces) have not treated it well but I would still thoroughly recommend a visit. We managed to get back there last year for some more walking and very much hope that it will not be the last visit.
Anyway, that is why I support Argentina. Another World Cup begins today in Russia. Lionel Messi and his team-mates came so close last time in Brazil. Maybe 2018 will be their year once again. Esperamos.
¡Vamos, vamos Argentina!