Buenos Aires, July 14: Argentines reacted with tears, cheers and violence after the dream of a third World Cup title slipped through their fingers Sunday, as clashes between hooligans and police ended a massive street party.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to the Obelisk in Buenos Aires, the iconic monument where the country traditionally celebrates and rallies, waving the flag, setting off fireworks and singing the praises of national hero Lionel Messi and team. Despite the 1-0 loss to Germany in the down-to-the-wire, extra-time match, young Argentines climbed onto traffic lights and bus stops, dancing and singing to the beat of drums.
But after several hours of partying, dozens of hardcore fans known as “barra bravas” started throwing rocks at riot police watching over the crowd, who responded by firing rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon. The clashes sent families with children scurrying for refuge in restaurants or hotel lobbies.
Most of the crowd dispersed as a haze of tear gas settled over the area, leaving just a few dozen fans who broke windows and set trash on fire, determined to provoke the police. TV images showed looters carting off stolen items, including tables and chairs from a restaurant, as newscasters criticized police for just standing by. Fifteen police were injured in the fray and some 40 people were arrested, media reports said.
The clashes contrasted with the mostly celebratory reaction to the bittersweet end of the nation’s World Cup campaign.
“It was still a good World Cup. Reaching the final against Germany isn’t too bad. I’m proud of the team,” said Leandro Paredes, a 27-year-old mason.”We didn’t manage to get revenge (for Argentina’s loss to Germany in its last World Cup final in 1990), but I saw 11 warriors on the pitch during this final.”