What It’s Like Living In a Country Obsessed With Football

The FIFA World Cup and Argentina’s strange priorities.

Taru Anniina Liikanen


Photo by Fauzan Saari on Unsplash

It’s that time again. The FIFA World Cup officially kicked off yesterday, and tomorrow is the day Argentina has been waiting for four years to arrive: the national team’s first game this time around.

As a Finn, I used to watch World Cup games growing up even though we absolutely suck at football. I even saw one live in France in 1998.

When I lived in Barcelona between 2006 and 2009, I saw a football-crazy city with the world’s best team, el Barça, take home every possible win.

But I never knew what it was like to watch the World Cup in a country that truly stops when a game is on.

It’s spooky, and kind of disappointing.

Nothing Else Matters

Everyone watches football in Argentina. Even if you normally don’t, you watch the World Cup games.

I’ve never been as scared walking alone in Buenos Aires as when a World Cup game is on. It looks a lot like the first days of the pandemic, when there was nobody anywhere. The streets were empty and there was an eerie vibe in the air.

I do often try to make it to the gym while a game is on, because there’s nobody there.

It does get tiring the last year before the Cup. News channels have long been obsessed with this sporting event, with countdowns of the days remaining to the event and speculations on which players will make it on the team.

They don’t care about the corruption in FIFA, at all. There’s barely been a mention of Qatar’s human rights violations, the discrimination of women or the criminalization of homosexuality. Maybe a bit of indignation about no alcohol being sold at stadiums to fans.

Seriously, good one, FIFA. Great choice of a country to hold the games. This will probably not be a problem at all with your beer sponsor, Budweiser, which paid $75 million to be present in Qatar.

Back to Argentina, though. Here, people spend all their money on plane tickets or new television sets to watch the games. The government even made up new 3-year payment plans for the purchase of TVs



Taru Anniina Liikanen

Stand-up comedian and recovering political ghostwriter. Finnish by birth, porteña at heart. Bad jokes frequent.