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SPORTS | 19-12-2022 16:45

Rosario celebrates its native sons, Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María

Rosario erupts in celebration as Argentina once again lifts the World Cup trophy after a 36-year wait, with natives Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María starring in the epic victory over France.

If Argentina reached the point of maximum happiness on Sunday with the victory over France that gave them their third World Cup, Rosario had no words to describe the emotion for her two beloved sons: Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María.

"This national team deserves it. This is crazy, most of all [for] Messi who never gave up and made so much effort and never gave up. He's a great man," 23-year-old Martùn Reina told AFP.

As soon as the match ended, he burst into tears in the traditional El Cairo bar in Rosario.

Here people celebrated, suffered, cried, prayed and celebrated Emiliano 'Dibu' Martinez's saves in the penalty shoot-out as if each one was a goal, cheering on Lionel Scaloni's national team, who were playing thousands of kilometres away from Qatar.

And it was both men from Rosario who scored Argentina's goals in the 3-3 draw (two Messi and another from Di María) in normal time, which ended in a penalty shoot-out in favour of La Scaloneta.

"It's crazy, you can't explain this. Messi is from Rosario, Di María is from Rosario, they scored the goals today and they gave us the cup. So to experience it in this place, it's priceless," said Emiliano Gamara, a 31-year-old restaurant worker who lives in Ireland and returned to his hometown just to watch the match with his family.

In this city that divides its love affair with football between two clubs, sworn enemies Newell's Old Boys and Rosario Central, the national team has unified rosarinos.

Messi may have made his first steps at Newell's and Di María at Central, but the Rosario fans cheered them equally.

 

Seven days to celebrate

"This national team unites everyone. You see Central and Newell's fans hugging each other, singing. It's the most beautiful thing there is. Everyone is singing and cheering for the national team. This December, the national team gave us seven days to celebrate, to be united without distinction," said Nahuel Cantero, a 21-year-old comedian, who admitted "the passion that is experienced is difficult to explain."

The young man referred to the seven matches Argentina played in the World Cup on their way to winning the title. The campaign didn't start well, however, with the Albiceleste suffering an unexpected 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening fixture.

Famous for its football tradition and for being a hotbed of 'crack' footballers, Rosario is that place "where the ball is a religion." Such feelings were already in vogue when the "Scaloneta" lifted the Copa América 2021 at the Maracaná, ending a 28-year title drought. World Cup fever is once again uniting the people of Rosario.

As Sunday's final played out, fans cheered out "Fideo, Fideo" in support of Di María. "Messi, Messi," they then chanted, as TV replays showing the skipper's skills played out.

Wearing his Albiceleste shirt and with painted cheeks, Ariel Chinazzo chose to follow the final in the same bar made famous by writer Roberto Fontanarrosa and Spanish singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat, as he did for every match of the World Cup in Qatar.

"I'm extremely happy. It's unbelievable. A suffering until the end but this is unbelievable," he declared between sobs.

A fan of Rosario Central and especially of Giovani Lo Celso, another native of this footballing city, Chinazzo said he cried when the Villarreal midfielder, Messi's perfect partner in the national team, was sidelined from the World Cup through injury.

Argentina's dream of once again lifting the World Cup was fulfilled after 36 years of hurt. A caravan of cars immediately took to the streets towards the Monumento a la Bandera, in front of the Paraná River, a flashpoint for sporting celebrations in Rosario. Many hours after the match was over, tens of thousands of residents were still celebrating in the downtown area, echoing scenes playing out across the country. 

by Liliana Samuel, AFP

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