By Javier Castro Bugarin
Buenos Aires, Jan 18 (EFE).- Argentines were treated to a little slice of heaven on Dec. 18.
That day, while the national team players were taking turns hoisting the World Cup trophy in far-away Qatar, millions of people poured into the streets in cities nationwide in a collective ecstasy.
And for many in that country where soccer is practically a religion, those feelings of bliss are still with them one month later.
Argentina’s “La Albiceleste” jersey remains a common sight on the streets well into the new year, and the memories of the wild post-final celebrations persist in every corner of Buenos Aires, a city that is more awash in soccer than ever thanks to the abundant creativity of numerous artists.
One example among many found at private residences, large thoroughfares and places of historical significance is a mosaic of Lionel Messi raising the FIFA World Cup Trophy – a work that was inaugurated on Wednesday at Los Galgos, one of the Argentine capital’s most emblematic bars.
“When we saw we had a way to transform our wall into a picture for the city, we didn’t hesitate because we thought it was something that should endure forever in our memories,” Julian Diaz, the owner of that establishment, said in an interview with Efe.
Consisting of hundreds of tiny stones (“venecitas”), the new mosaic of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and two-time World Cup Golden Ball recipient has been an immediate success.
Its depiction of the national team captain is an instant attention-grabber for passers-by, Efe observed, many of whom stopped in their tracks, took out their cellphones and posed for a photo with that image of the country’s greatest living sports hero.
Some even then spun around a gave “Messi” a kiss of gratitude for his title-winning performance.
That ritual was repeated multiple times during the interview with Diaz, who said the soccer superstar’s exploits can be attributed to his “great love for his people and for his jersey.”
The bar owner remarked on the significance of that victory for millions of Argentines, whose celebration continued for two days after the tournament was over and brought the capital to a standstill.
The patterned picture is the work of artists from Mosaico Nacional, a collective that has immortalized other notable figures in Argentine history including investigative journalist Rodolfo Walsh, legendary first lady Eva Peron and soccer icon Diego Maradona.
“This is a small tribute that we wanted to do for this third World Cup (title) that gave us so much joy,” Gonzalo Lopez, a member of Mosaico Nacional, told Efe.
But other manifestations of Argentina’s soccer pride and fervor are also visible in both private and public spaces throughout Buenos Aires, where the national team colors are prominently displayed on balconies of buildings and stairways.
One notable art work and instant tourist attraction is a mural titled “Exabrupto de Color Campeones del Mundo” (World Champions: Outburst of Color) that Alfredo Segatori painted on a public staircase located in Buenos Aires’ Central Business District and which features the light blue, white and yellow of the Argentine flag.
Diaz said the massive celebrations in Argentina were a sort of catharsis for a country that is deeply divided politically and economically.
“We’ve had many years of frustrations, political divisions, where popular festivities were marred by rivalries,” he said of the socio-political polarization.
“I think depicting (the World Cup triumph) on walls throughout the city is something that fills us with joy. It’s a small sign too that in Argentina there’s always that need to keep moving forward, that despite the economic crises and all the suffering you have to celebrate and keep your head held high,” Diaz added. EFE