Fans in convoy flock to tournament in support of beloved White and Sky Blue
The vast majority are ticketless, but devotion is reason enough to pack up and travel
Pit stop: fans pull in for breakfast during the odyssey that is supporting Argentina in the World Cup
Table manners: showing the colours on the road in support of former World Cup winners Argentina
Gang of Four: on the road again in support of Argentina at the World Cup tournament in Brazil
It is the morning after Argentina’s agonisingly late victory over Switzerland and in São Paulo’s samba stadium bleary-eyed Argentine fans are taking their morning yerba mate tea after a long night’s celebrations.
Authorities have thrown open the doors to the venue of the city’s annual carnival parade, turning it into an urban campsite for the “Argentine Invasion” as the Brazilian media is calling the tens of thousands of Argentina fans who are following their team at the World Cup.
After decades when the cost of intercontinental travel meant having to support their heroes from afar, many Argentines are making the most of the first World Cup on South American soil in 36 years to finally get close to the action, piling into cars and vans and driving off to Brazil.
Manuel and Claudia Pedraza have already driven their van 2,800km from their home in Córdoba, first heading to Porto Alegre for the game against Nigeria and then making their way up Brazil’s southern states to São Paulo for the match against the Swiss. And all without any hope of getting a ticket for either match.
“Not a chance!” laughs Manuel sipping on his mate. “They are just too expensive. Fifa and the Argentine FA only care about the rich, not fans like us. But South America is football mad and we had to wait far too long for the World Cup to come back here so we just wanted to be part of it and to be close to our team.”
This desire to experience the World Cup for the first time also inspired Walter Insaurralde and three friends from the city of Resistencia to jump in his car and drive 2,300km to São Paulo just for the Swiss game despite none of them having tickets and touts demanding an impossible $1,100 (€800) for one.
“We love football but other World Cups were too expensive for us to think about going to but this one we could experience,” he says. “This continent is very fútboleiro so Fifa should make sure the tournament comes here every eight or 12 years. This invasion of fans from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and elsewhere shows the hunger here for a World Cup.”
Having driven that distance to watch the match at São Paulo’s Fan Fest Insaurralde’s, the group must drive home. “We’d love to go on to the quarters but we have to get back to work.”
For each of Argentina’s four games at the tournament so far dozens of extra flights have brought thousands of fans, many with tickets, to Brazil. But on a continent where regional integration lags far behind Europe and even travel between neighbouring countries remains expensive the things that has captured the Brazilian imagination has been the convoys of cars, vans and motor homes from neighbouring countries often full of ticketless fans.