STORY: The 2022 World Cup in Qatar this month may be Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi’s last shot at the sport’s ultimate trophy.
And his fans are putting everything on the line to cheer him on -- in person.
“It's four years of savings, saving some money every month for this dream, come what may. You stop doing things like buying a car or buying a house.”
Messi fan Emiliano Matrangolo told Reuters in Buenos Aires that he had been to the World Cups in Russia and Brazil, and he wouldn’t miss Qatar for anything.
“It's a dream, it's an infatuation. Many people say look, he spends the money to go to Qatar instead of having 5% of a house. I say, ‘Look at them, poor people, they have a house but they aren't going to the World Cup.’”
Matrangolo was among the 300 Argentine fans gathered for barbecue before flying overseas. Such is Argentina's passion for soccer, that the World Cup remains a life priority for some, despite a sluggish economy, painful inflation estimated to hit 100% this year, and currency controls that push up the costs of international trips.
Team Argentina, on a run of 35 matches unbeaten, hopes to add to two World Cup victories in 1978 and 1986, the latter driven by the genius of late soccer idol Diego Maradona, who passed away in 2020.
National pride is the reason to go for many Argentinians like self-employed Jonatan Luna, even though he feels the pinch.
“One night I sat down and decided to go to the World Cup because I love the national team. I follow them everywhere in Argentina. It's my first World Cup and it brought tears to my eyes when I made up my mind… I know that when I come back I will have the best memories of my life, but it could be that I am renting all my life but I don't care, we have to go to support the team."
The World Cup kicks off November 20th.