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3:33 Sports Short #20 // Twenty Years of Tango by Tariq al Haydar

Today's pair of 3:33 Sports Shorts are both about the most popular sport in the world: fùtbol, or, as we more commonly call it, soccer. Below is a post by Tariq al Haydar about how a Saudi winds up being a fan of Aregentina's soccer team. Click here for Rob Jacklosky on playing pick up soccer in New York City.

I’m a Saudi who loves soccer but hates the Saudi national team. I started rooting for Argentina in the early nineties, when the great Diego Maradona’s career was tiptoeing toward its twilight. Sometimes, I tell people that Maradona seduced me into loving Argentina, but that’s a lie. I fell in love with Argentina because of a video game. Pixelated players with fictional names: Fuerte, Domingo, Repala, Capitale. My cousin gave his fictional Germans nicknames like “Son of Satan” and “Hell’s Messenger.” To this day, I can’t stand Germany.

My bond with fake Argentina carried over into real life. Before the second round match against England at the 1998 World Cup, my stomach clenched. When Gabriel Batistuta wept on the bench in 2002, I threw the remote at the wall. For more than twenty years, Argentina won nothing. Argentina has given me nothing but pain. Insane coaches. Players with unfulfilled genius. Exiting World Cups via the lottery of penalty shootouts.

For more than twenty years, Argentina never got past the quarterfinals of a World Cup. Then, in 2014, they reached the Final. I had converted my brother into a fake Argentine. Friends who couldn’t care less about the whole of South America came to our house and painted their faces white and sky blue, just for the hell of it. The game was scoreless for 113 minutes. When the winning goal finally came, it was a German who scored it. Fucking Germans.

Tariq al Haydar's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Normal School, Down & Out, Crab Orchard Review, The Los Angeles Review and others. He is an assistant professor of English at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.