The two oldest rivals in football, Brazil and Argentina, have come along way; but will the spirit of the game remain intact despite the looming politics?
Pelé, Di Stefano, Maradona, Ronaldo, Neymar, Messi. Some of the greatest and brightest stars in the sport have been a product of either Brazil or Argentina. To this day, these two countries continue to produce top-notch football stars. As a testament to this, some of the elite clubs in Europe have Brazilian and/or Argentinian players in their squad. Both countries’ national teams also have the fiercest rivalry. Combined, they have won seven FIFA World Cups.
The two sides have faced each other more than a hundred times. There have been classic matches such as Argentina’s win over Brazil in the 1990 World Cup or Brazil’s victory in the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup. There have also been matches in the Copa America that have been treated like a World Cup final. Even friendly matches between the two tend to be treated with such gravity.
The two countries aren’t just their biggest football rivals but also each other’s closest ally. The relations between the two countries have been improving over the past two decades. Since 1999, anyone from the two countries can visit each other as tourists using just their national ID. Brazilians constitute the majority of Argentina’s international tourists and vice versa. Brazil is also Argentina’s biggest trade partner, while Argentina is Brazil’s third-most important commercial partner behind China and the United States.
The ties grew even closer between the two nations after Brazil’s former presidents, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rouseff, and Argentina’s Nestor and Cristina Kirchner agreed to create a plan that would create a common currency between the two – the ‘real peso’. However, since those talks, the tides have turned.
Those mentioned earlier – da Silva and company – all faced charges of corruption. This put their goals in jeopardy. Those who took over made it clear that they would not, in any form, want anything to do with each other. This could possibly lead to Brazil leaving Mercosur, the Southern Common Market created by a few South American countries. Despite it being highly unlikely to happen, both parties are taking the threat seriously. Brazil’s Bolsonaro also made a statement saying that if Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez causes any trouble, Brazil will have no choice but to leave Mercosur. This is being dubbed as the ‘Brexit Latino’.
What’s troubling is that there is a possibility that these new leaders will use their respective nation’s football team to impose their authority over the other – which shouldn’t be the case. Football should be nothing but football, where players let their skills do the talking, and where politics has no place.