The death of soccer legend Diego Maradona in late 2020 felt like a kick in the head for Fernando Romero, a 30-year-old teacher from suburban Buenos Aires.
But when Argentina won the Copa America tournament the next year, Romero sensed that the spirit of Maradona was with his beloved national team. In the tradition of the country’s avid soccer fans, he began dreaming up a song that he and his friends could belt out at games.
Borrowing the tune from “Muchachos, Esta Noche Me Emborracho” (Guys, I’m Getting Drunk Tonight), a 2003 hit by Argentine band La Mosca, Romero created new lyrics that deeply penetrated the Argentine psyche.
He recalled Maradona and football phenomenon Lionel Messi, as well as the 1980s war in the Malvinas – or the Falkland Islands – where hundreds of young conscripts lost their lives.
I was born in Argentina
Land of Diego and Lionel
Of the children of the Malvinas
I will never forget that
The song garnered attention after a sports television network caught Romero singing it in front of a football stadium. The footage went viral on the internet.
Then last month, days before the start of the World Cup, La Mosca performed it in a music video.
“Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos A Ilusionar” (Guys, We’re Gonna Dream Again) quickly became an anthem – sung by the Argentinian players in their dressing rooms, the Argentinian fans in Qatar and the crowds gathered at the famous obelisk this week in Buenos Aires as Argentina beat France in Sunday’s final.
“We want to win the World Cup and this song makes us dream,” said Agustin Martin, a 23-year-old carpentry student, walking past the obelisk, where crosswalks have been painted the national blue and white and digital billboards flash endless World Cup advertisements. “Sometimes we even cry when we sing it.”
One of the world’s most football-mad countries, Argentina has a long history of fans rewriting the lyrics of popular songs to cheer on their local teams.
The practice can be traced back at least to the 1950s, when working-class fans of the Boca Juniors sports club in Buenos Aires stole a hymn from the country’s populist Peronist movement, said Luis Achondo, a postdoctoral fellow at the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago, who contributed a book on songs football games in Latin America writes.
“From there, the culture has grown and grown, and in Argentina’s stadiums you sing non-stop,” Achondo said.
Followers of different teams fight to outdo each other. Many of the songs contain slurs. However, with fans traditionally more attached to local teams, the Argentina national team has historically struggled to find a repertoire of songs.
That has started to change in recent years. The song “Brasil, Decime Que Se Siente” (Brazil, Tell Me How It Feels), written by American rock bank Creedence Clearwater Revival to the melody of “Bad Moon Rising”, became a hit during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil . It boasted that “Maradona is greater than Pelé”.
Adapted before Romero’s version by fans of the Buenos Aires province’s soccer club Racing, “Muchachos” avoids attacks on rival soccer nations and focuses on Argentine nationalism.
We’re going to dream again now
I want to win the third
I want to be world champion
The words may be particularly poignant at a time of economic and political crisis in Argentina. Inflation is expected to hit 100% by the end of the year. Divisive Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was convicted this month of a fraud scheme perpetrated during her presidency.
To a certain extent, football can compensate for the uncertainty of life,” said Achondo.
For Eduardo Herrera, an Indiana University ethnomusicologist who has studied Argentine soccer chants, the unity they create feels a little like a religious experience.
“I don’t think it’s much different than when we go into a church or synagogue and realize that others are moving the same way we are,” he said. “We kneel, we move our head, or we say the same words.”
In Qatar, where two Argentinian games attracted the biggest crowds of the tournament – nearly 90,000 people each – “Muchachos” was heard everywhere.
Matías Boela, a journalist who traveled to Qatar for the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, said the song “has become one of the main tourist attractions of the World Cup”.
Fans from other countries whip out their cellphones to film groups of Argentines at subway stations and markets singing the song proclaiming Argentina’s third world title.
Messi has one win away from La Albiceleste, as the national team is known.
Ahead of Sunday’s final, no player in the tournament has scored more goals or assists than Messi. At 35 he says he is playing his last World Cup, the only thing he has missed in his brilliant career is a World Cup.
But it is the late Maradona, once Messi’s coach during the 2010 World Cup, who is most revered in Argentina. Even his parents – known as Don Diego and Doña Tota – were football kings.
Maradona led the country to their last World Cup title in 1986, 51 weeks before Messi was born. Messi has played in his shadow all his career.
In an interview on Argentine television about his anthem, Romero explained that his lyrics “avoid that constant competition that has existed between Messi and Maradona for so long”.
“Both are ours,” he said.
Romero has said he was blown away by the country’s reception of the song. When he heard that Messi was a fan, “my knees went weak,” he told Argentine media.
In Buenos Aires, the signs of the World Cup are unmistakable.
Argentinian flags hang from balconies, cars and shop windows. People go to work in Messi’s shirt. The city has set up giant screens in several neighborhoods where thousands of people can watch the game.
And the soundtrack to it is “Muchachos”.
“I associate it with being Argentine, with joy and sadness, with the hope and passion that we have for football,” said Candela Guadano, a 20-year-old dance student near the obelisk.
Juan Roberto Mascardi, a 48-year-old journalist from Rosario, the city where Messi was born, credits the song’s success with “uniting generations through our idols who are Maradona and Messi.”
“When Maradona retired, in that moment of collective pain, the almost 50-year-olds thought that no other idol with similar characteristics would be born, and it happened,” he said.
We can see him from the sky
With Don Diego and the Tota
Cheer on Lionel and be champions again and be champions again
Miller, a Times contributor, reported from Mexico City. Special correspondent D’Alessandro reported from Buenos Aires. Kevin Baxter, a Times contributor in Al Rayyan, Qatar, contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-12-17/la-fg-argentina-world-cup-muchachos Argentina’s World Cup run has an anthem: ‘Muchachos’