‘Devastated’ Argentine fans in Nagaland hope for a ‘miracle’

For many, their World Cup ‘campaign’ is almost over, but there is still a glimmer of hope  

Morung Express News
Dimapur | June 22  

With Croatia in dreamland on Thursday after routing favorite Argentina 3-0, and the latter staring at the nightmarish prospect of exiting the World Cup in the group stage, fans across the world are devastated. With the win, Croatia advanced to the knockout phase of the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.  

For the multitude of Argentine fans across Nagaland, this is improbable, and they are banking on a ‘miracle’ while charting out various probabilities, through which their beloved team might enter the knock out stage.  

In football-crazy Mokokchung, the aftermath has been a ‘suspended animation’ with most fans desolate, yet hoping for divine intervention.  

Fans were all geared up to celebrate the month-long extravaganza, with Argentina as the favorite for most.  

‘Our team is in ICU now’

Argentina and Germany have emerged as the two most popular teams in Mokokchung this time around and traders selling “World Cup flags” affirmed that their national flags were sold out so early into the season that they had to order more consignments, The Morung Express had reported earlier.

 Almost every household had a flag or World Cup memorabilia.  

On Friday, many of the flags were down.  

"Albeit half-heartedly, they are turning to ‘back-up’ team as consolation," a Town resident said. Many apparently suffered a sudden loss of appetite.  

Most of my students did not turn up for class today, informed Assistant Professor in Mokokchung, attributing the same to ‘the last night game.’  

“Friends who sat and watched the match together departed quietly without speaking with each other after the game,” she further said.  

Some have started buying new shirts of different team. Belgium’ Jersey which was not selling much is now out of stock, another resident added.  

“Our team is in ICU now,” Sanen Lkr, a resident of another village in Mokokchung replied when queried about the prevailing mood, adding, “I did not sleep well last night and haven’t come out of my home even once since the defeat.”  

Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli and goalkeeper Willy Caballero, whose error handed Croatian’s Ante Rebic the first goal, were most derided. He was christened the ‘most embarrassing goalkeeper.’  

In Kohima, the mood was equally somber. “You should come and sense the mood at our house. Since last night defeat, we are not even talking with each other properly… It’s worse than failing in exams. Most of the guys including myself are in a suicidal mood,” answered, an Engineer, working in the State PWD department.  

“We are planning to bring down our Argentina flag hoisted above our house in Kohima. Frustration level is at its peak,” he added.  

A lackluster team and a punishment

Commenting on the game, he said that it was a “sub-standard football “with most of the players are below par. “While Messi had a lackluster game, he alone cannot do much without good support from the team. Topping it all, the Coach’s strategy was horrible.”  

In Dimapur, a teacher in a private college Nilo, who traverses daily from 4th mile to the main town, noted that on Friday, the vehicles sporting the Argentine flag were drastically down.  

Many had discarded it while others replaced it with others, he said.  

While hoping for a divine intervention, many fans were also attributing the loss as a ‘wrath from God.’  

The reason? For nixing their final World Cup warm-up match against Israel, which was slated on June 9 in Jerusalem.  

The team was apparently suffering a bad run as they refused to play the friendly with ‘Israel – God’s chosen land.’  

‘Never say die’ attitude and a glimmer of hope

On Friday night, many watched the Iceland-Nigeria Group ‘D’ match just to ascertain whether their ‘home team had a chance.  

Before the match a satirical viral message did round on social media that in view of the upcoming match between Iceland Vs Nigeria, ‘the Argentina Fans Union Nagaland (AFUN)’ informed that there will be “a general prayer fasting programme on Friday, June 22, 2018 from 12:00PM -5:00PM for all the Argentina fans.”  

Among others, the ‘prayer points’ include a plea for the Nigerian to thrash the Icelandic, an emphatic win for Argentina over Nigeria; and Iceland to lose all their remaining matches.  

All hope is not lost though. Before the start of the World Cup, an Argentine fan in a village near Mokokchung, scaled the telecom tower hoisted an Argentine flag at the top. The picture of the flag went viral on social media.  

After the suffering a disastrous defeat at the hands of Croatia, when The Morung Express contacted him, he said, “I am not giving up my team.”   Citing Argentina’s mathematically possible prospect of qualifying for the knockout stages, however slim the chances were, with a never say die attitude he stated, “It’s not over until it’s over, I won’t take it down just yet.”  

With Nigeria’s empathic win over Iceland on June 22, a glimmer of hope was bestowed upon Argentina until June 26.