Argentina’s government defends chaotic World Cup parade

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s government on Wednesday defended the mammoth parade to welcome home the World Cup winners, even as the event was abruptly halted amid organizational chaos.

After days of high-profile activity, team captain Lionel Messi and most of the other members of the national soccer team largely stayed out of sight and spent time with family and friends.

There had been speculation that Rosario, Argentina’s third-largest city, would hold its own celebration for hometown hero Messi. But after Tuesday’s chaos in Buenos Aires, where millions took to the streets eager to catch a glimpse of the winning team, officials insisted the players preferred to rest.

Speaking about the early end of Tuesday’s parade, Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said: “The goal was to protect the players – not because they were going to get hurt, but because anything could help when so many people were trying to get to them.”

The World Cup and the success of the national team brought a brief respite from the political infighting that is common in Argentina, a country that has been plagued by economic distress for years and suffers from one of the world’s highest inflation rates. But the parade controversy has returned

Soccer officials had said early Tuesday that the team would travel by open-top bus from Argentina’s soccer federation headquarters outside the capital to the Obelisk, the iconic landmark in downtown Buenos Aires that is the traditional site of celebrations. Fernández said he warned early on that it was wrong.

“Look at the photos. Put a bus in the middle there and you’ll know they’d be there for six days,” Fernández said.

President Alberto Fernández tried to play down the celebration itself, saying “if you see the happiness that was in the streets, the goal has been achieved.”

The original plan was for the bus carrying the players to travel 74 kilometers (46 miles), but after covering 12 kilometers in just four hours under a hot summer sun, the players boarded helicopters for a capital flyover designated by the government as an aerial parade.

After the flight, the helicopters returned to the headquarters of the football association and from there the players traveled home, including Messi, who flew to Rosario with team-mate Angel Di Maria.

Messi boarded a helicopter at Rosario airport and headed to the gated community outside the city of Funes, where he has a home. Video on social media shows neighbors cheering Messi as he arrived and the soccer star agreeing to take a selfie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *