Gabi Lardies
11 January – 4 February 2023

In December, while visiting family in Buenos Aires, I found the city in a football world cup frenzy. Shops shut during matches, and people would gather around screens, either in homes, bars, shop windows or in the public fan zones where supersized screens were set up in plazas and parks. It seemed most of the population was Messi, adorned in blue and white stripes and a bold 10 on their backs.

The recent history of Argentina is marred with chronic economic crisis, ever rising inflation and constant political corruption. In general, people don’t feel proud of their nation – they feel it could have been great, it was once great, but in the last 100 or so years its potential has been squandered. Football is the exception. The national team garners fervour across political and class divides. Here is a break from everything that sucks – instead there is joy, social unity, morale, and Messi, to whom they bow.

To the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, the dogmatic nationalism stirred by this mass mania was problematic. “Nationalism,” he wrote, “only allows for affirmations, and every doctrine that discards doubt, negation, is a form of fanaticism and stupidity.” He followed with “football is aesthetically ugly… it is popular because stupidity is popular.”

After the world cup final, millions crowded the streets. “Somos campeones” (We are champions) echoed through the media and into the celebrations.

Photography by Ardit Hoxha