Apart from Lionel Messi, arguably no one has played a bigger role in Argentina’s run to the World Cup final than a 62-year-old musician and a 30-year-old teacher, who are neither the neither near Qatar. Between them, however, they created the song that became the soundtrack to Argentina’s games and an earworm contracted by anyone who has been to Doha in the past month or watched any of the tournaments at the television.
The song, Muchachos, Ahora Nos Volvimos A Ilusionar, has been embraced as the unofficial anthem not just by Argentina’s vast army of traveling fans – around 40,000 are expected to attend the final in Lusail today – but by the players themselves. same: Instagram videos of their locker room celebrations after each win have always featured a cheery rendition of the song.
His popularity, no doubt, has something to do with his two verses hitting all the major notes of the Argentine campaign: it’s a tribute not just to Messi but to Diego Maradona; it pays tribute to the Argentine soldiers who died during the Falklands War of 1982; he taps into the country’s various disappointments in international tournaments in recent years; and he enters his key change with a taunt directed at Argentine football’s main rival, Brazil.
But it’s also a familiar tune to most Argentinian fans. Various Argentinian club teams have their own bespoke versions of Muchachos, Esta Noche Me Emborracho, a 2003 hit by rock band La Mosca Tsé tsé, fronted by 62-year-old singer Guillermo Novellis. A (relatively) superficial attempt to trace its genealogy would suggest that Boca Juniors fans were the first to adapt the tune for their own purposes, in this case mocking its fierce rival, River Plate. Within a few years, Racing Club, a team from Avellaneda, had an interpretation, quickly followed by its rival, Independiente. In the endless round of call-and-response that marks Argentine fan culture, the two have devoted themselves to bashing the other. The most famous iteration, however, probably belonged to River Plate.
That it has become something close to a national anthem is due, in large part, to a 30-year-old teacher named Fernando Romero. Along with a friend, he changed the lyrics once again in the days after Maradona’s death last year, turning them into a tribute to the player widely regarded as Argentina’s first or second greatest. When the two friends were filmed singing it outside the Monumental de River stadium, during a game against Bolivia, the footage quickly went viral. Messi realized this: he named it, shortly after, his favorite football song. Novellis too, who got in touch with Romero and volunteered to record and release a version with his lyrics in preparation for the World Cup.
Even Novellis, however, is a bit taken aback by its success. La Mosca have a curiously appropriate relationship with football. Maradona was such a fan that he invited the band to play his 40th birthday in 2000. And seven years later, another devotee asked if they would do a tour on his 20th birthday. Messi and Novellis have been in casual contact ever since.
Now the song has not only resonated around Lusail over and over again on Argentina’s way to the final, it is currently number one on Spotify in Argentina. It was streamed 4.4 million times in just a few weeks. (The original is currently at nearly 14 million.) Novellis has been interviewed by media around the world; a campaign was launched to fly Romero to Qatar, although he turned it down, suggesting the country had “more important things to take care of”. The story, as Novellis told La Nacion, is “easy to explain, but difficult to understand.”
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