Despite a benign tweet from England Hockey after Argentina’s 1-0 win on Wednesday, there was clearly no love lost from Las Leonas fans.
The tweet received plenty of abuse and unsavoury remarks as Argentinian fans piled on to send pictures of Messi, Maradona and even one burning the British flag.
The Argentinian fans have been the one bright spark to Estadi Olimpico for this World Cup. Without Las Leonas being pitted in a Pool for the Terrassa games, the stadium would have taken on a ghost town. Spanish fans have only turned up for their country’s matches, while the attendance for the quarter-final defeat against Australia must have ranked at half-full, at best.
The Argentinian fans mainly hail from Catalan towns. Hugo Carrera, who hails from Mendoza but now lives in Castelldefels outside Barcelona, perhaps best sums up the mood. “A friend of mine’s wife is a hockey player,” he says. Las Leonas are, he says, a national emblem “and always have our support.”
He adds: “I play rugby, but I’m also a fan of hockey because it represents us and there we are fans of everything that represents us and the effort of the players.”
The Hockey Paper arrived in Terrassa on Wednesday. So far we have yet to see any promotion of the World Cup in the city, either on arrival by train, in a taxi on the way to the venue or walking the streets. The organisation has worked hard to promote the tournament, however, with wraparounds in the local dailies and sport newspapers, but it has been a different ball game in trying to attract crowds for the matches here.
When we reflect back on this tournament (after the Dutch have surely landed another World Cup title), attention will likely turn to Belgium and the strides they have made.
Speaking to several players after their victory over Chile to set up the match with the Dutch, their positivity was something to behold. Belief was clearly surging through the team, which now has a performance hub to match in Antwerp.
A few days later, head coach Raoul Ehren was left proud at how his team had performed as they run the Oranje very close in the last eight. “We are the youngest team at this World Cup,” he said. “Knowing in advance that we can beat anyone, except – normally – the Netherlands. We were close. The list for the shoot-outs was already ready.”
Expect the Red Panthers to make further inroads by Paris 2024.