World Cup: call a doctor

So. After almost a week in Ushuaia, the world’s most southern city, for the Jazz al fin fest, where a bitter wind rips through fleeces and overcoats to freeze your heart over before pulling it put, barely beating, schlup-plop, and chucking it into the Beagle Channel for a laugh, the hardy locals are wandering the steep, icy streets in their minimalist outer wear of white-and-light-blue Argentine camisetas.

My festival colleague, Leandro from Veintitrés magazine, told me that the jazz fest had come at the perfect time for him: “It will take my mind off the pending World Cup. By the time I get back, there’ll only be three more days until it begins,” he said.

This is true. It’s Tuesday today, and it all starts on Friday. Four years ago, I ‘d just quit my job in publishing in London, had packed up and shipped seven tea crates to Argentina and was bumming around in Spain for several weeks while the WC was on. And what with all the jazz going on at the bottom of the world these past six days, I’d pretty much forgotten about South Africa. I know England is in it (I dug out my navy-blue, short-sleeved nylon T-shirt some weeks ago) and I know Argentina is in it thanks to the excessive amount of Maradona posters pasted into windows, shops and kiosks (he’s not actually playing in it, you know…).

But the World Cup hadn’t reached my radar, to be honest, even though 10 Argentine hooligans were deported back from Southgate, South Africa today. A few weeks ago, I’d invited football guru Hand of Dan in for a chat on BA live , but apart from that and sending my footie shirt to the launderette, that has been the full extent of my awareness and support, until this evening.

Clambering off a plane at Aeroparque to take the 45 bus in San Telmo, having had the pleasure of sitting next to a wee-stinking gentleman for the best part of 30 minutes, I rumbled my butterfly-imprinted suitcase down the broken streets up to my bottle-green front door and was about to stagger up two flights of stairs when I was welcomed with an a capella version of the TV theme music from a teenager neighbour in the ‘family hotel’ (read as high-class squat) three doors down. How did I know it was thus track? Because the TV is always on at work for breaking news, and if I didn’t at the very least recognise that, then a very poor (not in financial terms) journalist I would be.

And it was that little melody that reminded me of where I was exactly: in one of football’s most passionate countries, where the fans live, breathe, sweat and sleeptalk World Cup, from the granny selling my smokes in the corner kiosco to the kids kicking a battered ball about in the street to the die-hard gentlemen who will neglect their families and duties for the next few weeks. A country where everyone has an opinion. What a place to be to catch World Cup fever. Lucky little me.

On BA live, Hand of Dan reckoned he’s the only man in Argentina who believes Argentina will win (and I’ll upload his opinions from that show any moment now). Well, I reckon, and I have no inside information oddly enough, that I’m the only English woman in Argentina who reckons England will win. Sadly, I am actually too financially poor to have a flutter, but what I have decided to do is watch those Argentine hearts, frozen or otherwise, flutter madly over the next month or, with a handkerchief in hand to mop up my feverish brow.

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