Things to Love about Argentina (According to the National Team)

So what if they’re finely trained millionaire superstars bathing in the flattering glow of an international spotlight? These guys are Argentine – and they like all the same things you like about Argentina. Steak on the parrilla, the Pope, a relaxing gourd of yerba mate at the end of a hard day’s work: La Selección Argentina, they’re just like us.

It’s a wildly exciting moment for Argentina: after defeating the Netherlands in penalty kicks on Wednesday afternoon, the national team advances to the final of the largest fútbol tournament in the world. In preparation for Sunday, there’s endless analysis of recent performance and tactical strategy in the international media – and the team? According to the local news, they’re keeping it real. Before the Netherlands match, they reportedly took a break from training to enjoy a traditional Argentinian asado (barbecue). It’s a welcome reminder that, despite the fame and high stakes and staggering salaries, these boys have the same tastes as all the other Argentines I know. Here, a few more of their favorite things.

asado-barbecue-argentina

Preparing Argentine asado (barbecue) – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Choripán – y milanesa con fritas

Take a look at a menu at any ordinary café or bar in Buenos Aires – or anywhere else in the country – one dish you’re guaranteed to find is milanesa, a thinly cut, lightly breaded steak typically served with potatoes. Argentine school kids are having milanesa for lunch right now; their grandmothers are frying up more as we speak. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of Leo Messi’s favorite foods.

choripan-chorizo-argentina

Choripan sandwich with chorizo – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

According to local news channel C5N, in a report highlighted on the popular food blog Pick Up the Fork, Messi is partial to his mom’s homemade milanesas (see What’s Messi Eating for Dinner?) The report also names key elements of the team’s diet: ensalada (salad), pasta, helado (ice cream.) Could this be any more Argentine?  I mean, really. (The milanesa, I could take it or leave it, but apparently Messi’s other favorite food is also one of mine: a glorious street food staple, the sausage sandwich known as choripán. He also likes to light up the grill and play asador himself.)

Manu Ginobili and Pope Francis

So you’re a fan of heroic but humble NBA superstars – and an admirer of the groundbreaking Pope Francis? Join the club.

Javier Mascherano, the Argentine defender who yesterday made a match-saving block against Dutchman Arjen Robben, is inspired by another Argentine: Manu Ginobili, star of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Last month, after Ginobili led his team to an NBA championship, Mascherano called Ginobili ‘eterno’ (eternal) – to loosely translate, ‘a perfect example of a sportsman, both inside and out,’ via Twitter. After Mascherano’s talked-about performance in yesterday’s match, Ginobili reciprocated. (‘Qué capo el 14, no? Gigante!’)

nba-manu ginobili-argentina

NBA superstar Manu Ginobili – photo courtesy of Mike

Another Argentine commanding public respect from the national team (and, well, pretty much everyone else?) Pope Francis, of course – better known, up until last year, as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. When Argentina played Italy’s national team last year, la Selección made an appearance at the Vatican – and Ezequiel Lavezzi (‘el Pocho’) boldly took a seat on the papal throne, then tweeted the photo with the caption ‘on Francis’ throne.’ Francis, of course, had a sense of humor about it – like most Argentines, he’s a huge fútbol fan.

pope francis-argentina

Pope Francis – photo courtesy of Tania Rego/ABr

Mate – and mamá

Like everyone else I know in Argentina, these guys like the simple things – and family comes first. They celebrate their fathers’ birthdays at neighorhood bars and enjoy cake and proudly take cell phone pictures of their parents and cousins in the national team’s jersey. They show off their babies. They enjoy passing around a gourd of mate at sunset.

yerba mate-tea-argentina

Yerba mate – photo courtesy of Edgar Claros Franetovic

Charming, right? Keep it in mind when you watch la Selección face off against Germany this Sunday. Here’s hoping these guys will be celebrating with a classic asado – complete with moms, kids, choripán and ice cream – after the match.

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