Excitement high in Santiago ahead of Argentina-Chile Copa America final
SANTIAGO – Excitement was high among soccer fans in Santiago on Saturday as Chile and Argentina prepared to face off for the Copa America final.
Fans waving flags and dressed in their team’s colours streamed into the National Stadium hours before the match started.
The two South American neighbors will battle it out to be crowned champions of the quadrennial Copa America, a tournament followed with a fervor on the continent that comes second only to the World Cup. And perhaps none want to win it quite so badly as Chile and Argentina.
For Chile – playing as hosts – it would be the first time they lift the trophy. Argentina have a more impressive record but despite reaching last year’s World Cup final have not won major silverware in 22 years.
“We could be champions for the first time, it could be historic. Come on Chile!” said one Chilean fan.
But Argentine fans had a different idea.
“Five. Five-zero. Two from Messi, two from Aguero and one from Lavezzi,” said an Argentina supporter.
The Copa has been largely good-natured, with little of the fan violence that often mars regional matches. Fans have respected a campaign discouraging jeering during others’ anthems.
But now Chile are meeting Argentina in the final, and there are signs the detente is beginning to crack.
Animosity dates back to the 1970s, when both countries were led by military juntas, and nearly came to blows over a border dispute. Then in 1982 when Argentina fought a war with Britain over the Falklands/Malvinas islands, Chile backed the European power.
Argentina has not forgot, nor forgiven.
Ex-Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona said in a TV interview just last month that the Chileans “sold us out in the Malvinas”.
Argentine fans taunt the hosts as ‘traitors’ in their chants, including the harshly worded song: “although the years pass we will never forget because you’re a traitor…hopefully the sea will cover you, let the English help you swim.”
In Concepcion, which in 2010 was hit by a devastating tsunami, those words did not go down well, and at Tuesday night’s semi-final in the city Argentina’s anthem faced boos and whistles by Chilean fans in the stands.
Wary of a violent reaction after Saturday’s results – Chilean fans often go on a rampage after a big soccer win or loss, while Argentine ‘barra brava’ hooligans are among the continent’s most notorious – the police have increased their planned presence at the final. –Reuters