An advanced guard of Argentina fans on Monday chanted their certainty that Lionel Messi’s last World Cup would end in success ahead of the Latin American side becoming the first to set up their base camp in Qatar.
Scores of fans gathered at the World Cup countdown clock on Doha’s seafront chanting Messi’s name and waving flags, 13 days before the tournament starts, as bemused police watched the mounting soccer fever in the Gulf state.
Many went to the clock to welcome Matias Villarroel, Silvio Gatti, Leandro Blanco and Lucas Ledezma who cycled 10,500km across Africa to reach Doha on Monday, but Messi was on the minds of the riders and the other fans.
“The dream behind cycling this whole route is that Argentina will win the World Cup and that Leo will lift the trophy on Dec. 18,” Blanco said.
While Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, Messi, one of the greatest players ever, has only been a losing finalist, in 2014.
“The emotion we feel here is immense,” he said. “We spent six months cycling through Africa and the Middle East, to be here in Doha today and for this party.”
“We have a lot of faith and a lot of hope, that’s why we have done all this craziness, so we are starting to live this beautiful World Cup here in Qatar,” he said.
Around them fans in Argentina’s blue and white shirts chanted a traditional refrain taunting traditional rivals England.
“If you don’t jump up and down you are English,” they shouted.
A first group of Argentine technical staff and football federation officials was due to arrive in Doha early yesterday to set up the team base at a university.
Some of their fans came to work in Qatar months ago hoping to raise money to be able to see Messi and the national team.
On Monday, the Buenos Aires City Government announced a list of 6,000 Argentines who would not be allowed to enter World Cup stadiums, including violent fans involved in illegal associations and even those in debt for food dues.
“The violent ones are here and in Qatar. We want to bring peace back to football and that the violent ones are outside the stadiums,” Buenos Aires Minister of Justice and Security Marcelo D’Alessandro said in an interview on a local radio station.
“They were included for belonging to the barras [violent fans], for participating in violent acts, for illicit associations such as trapitos [banned street businesses] and for owing maintenance payments [from divorced parents],” he added.
To carry out the controls in Qatar, he said that “as always in the World Cups, delegations of different police bodies [of the country] will be sent to work together with the Qatari security authorities.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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