December 9, 2022 | SPORTS | By Isabella Ingersoll | Illustration by Iris Guo
For one month every four years, my mother cannot function normally.
She changes her work schedule and her sleep schedule. She goes on frantic walks to “the nuns” — the monastery in my neighborhood where she goes to pray. You might find her, at any given point, shaking on the floor, my poor dog pawing at her thigh, desperate for her attention.
To anyone outside of my family, this might be a cause for concern, but not for us. We are used to it. This concerningly-bizarre behavior is not a symptom of mental illness or internal crisis, it’s a symptom of the World Cup.
My mother is Argentine. She left the country in 1978, the same year that Argentina won the tournament for the first time and eight years before Diego Maradona infamously gifted the country with another trophy. She was living in Venezuela at the time of this second victory and while she missed her country tremendously, the win gave her a piece of home while she lived in a new place. Argentina hasn’t won since.
Flash forward to 2022: it’s been 44 years since my mother left her beloved country and 36 since Argentina’s last global victory.
To my mom and Argentines everywhere, an Argentine World Cup victory is more appealing than winning the lottery. Fútbol is the country’s unifier; it’s a religion. You could travel to Buenos Aires any day of the year during an Argentine match – or any major Argentine club team match, really – and find the streets empty, with everyone inside crowded around a TV.
But the World Cup is greater than all of that for my mom. My mom has now been a United States citizen for 26 years, and her children, my brother and I, are American. Yet she still carries a hole with her every day, a hole that she hasn’t been able to fill, even when she visits Argentina or spends time with her family – the hole of having to leave her country suddenly, without ever living there again. She’s explained to me that this traumatic loss is linked to the unexpected joy of Argentina winning the World Cup, which would fill this hole.
My mom has not instilled in me a love of soccer — yes, that is there — but a dependance. As her daughter, I understand that there is no happiness without an Argentine victory. And now I’m here, at Colorado College, during the World Cup, surrounded by couldn’t-care-less crunchy peers who would rather go thrifting or climbing than sit through a sports game.
When I heard the World Cup was going to occur during the wintertime, deviating from its summer norm, I was worried. I knew I couldn’t watch this tournament without my family, without sitting in my backyard during a match because it’s simply too painful to watch, one of my hands in my mother’s and the other wrapped around my grandmother’s, hers clutching a rosary.
But I’d have to.
I’m happy to report that within CC’s barefoot-in-the-library, house-plant-propagating dominating demographic there exists a love of soccer, or at least a willingness to get lit and watch me scream at my computer/phone/a TV during matches.
Luckily, Argentina’s first two matches of the 2022 World Cup occurred during Fall Break, allowing me to watch with my family, and expose our insanity to some poor, unsuspecting friends. Their third match versus Poland, however, was on the first Wednesday of Block 4, so I was left to watch the match alone. Terrified at this thought, I organized a watch party. I texted a few random people who’d previously expressed at least a little interest in watching some of the matches with me. I also reached out to some of my closest friends, telling them “I need you, if you don’t watch this game with me, I’ll be so mad.”
We set up a projector in the South lobby; I brought snacks, jerseys, and a flag. Argentina needed the victory to win their group. The stakes were high, and everyone pulled through.
Around 30 people showed up. Some were the people I’d texted, but most were random people I’d never met before, who saw the game projected in the lobby and joined the party. Nobody protested when I said I wanted to watch the game in Spanish, nobody told me to chill when I screamed every time Lionel Messi touched the ball.
My best friend Lorelei Smillie ’25 held my hand throughout the game. I’d aggressively hit her on the shoulder, demand “hand”, and she’d supply it without hesitation, subjecting herself to painful squeezes. Everybody cheered with me, and I talked to many interesting people who I never would have met without this match. Those who weren’t familiar with the sport patiently asked clarifying questions. It was a beautiful experience. People left asking me when the next watch party was. Y ¡ganamos!
I was ecstatic to see this interest in the World Cup at CC continue as the tournament progressed. My roommate Brendan McCune ’25 and I got into the habit of streaming the 8 a.m. matches during breakfast. My group mates for a class project expressed their predictions and interest while I annoyingly streamed the Belgium vs. Croatia game on full volume during the only sliver of time that we were all free to work in person. People complimented my jersey in the dining hall, and I even heard rumors of several individuals taking the entirety of Block Four off to watch the tournament.
I’m especially proud to share that some of my fellow co-editors at The Catalyst and I enjoyed parts of the simultaneous nail-biters that were the Japan vs. Spain and Costa Rica vs. Germany – matches which occurred during our weekly Pub Day meeting. All of this is to say, CC gets it.
Last Saturday, Dec. 3, was Argentina’s next match, a critical showcase against Australia and their first match in the knock-out stage of The Cup. As much as I adored watching Americans discover the joy that is watching an Argentina match with an Argentine, I decided to watch the match with some international students. I went to a watch party hosted by Rahmoon Shamdeed ’25, an international student from Bangladesh. There were several other international students there, and there was something that felt correct about watching this match with international students just hours after Team USA was eliminated from the tournament.
While Argentina is now one of the final eight remaining teams, there is still a long and difficult road ahead until the World Cup Final on Sunday, Dec. 18. Their next match is today, Dec. 9, at noon, when they play The Netherlands in the Cup’s quarter finals.
I know that while an Argentine World Cup victory would mean the world for my mom, my family, myself, and so many others, this World Cup has already provided us the gift of connection – the ability to share the love, pain, and pride of this beautiful sport with so many others – and that is something I’ll always remember about Block Four of my sophomore year at CC.