A necessary distraction from what has been a difficult year: that was how Argentines saw their national team’s victory at the recently concluded World Cup in Qatar.
This is the first time in over three and a half decades that Argentina has won the ultimate football championship. Still, it was a rather bittersweet one as it could be the final World Cup for international football icon Lionel Messi.
The image of the 35-year-old Messi holding up the Ballon d’Or towards the night sky essentially cemented his image as the world’s greatest footballer – and possibly the greatest of all time. Messi scored the game’s opening goal against France from the penalty spot, scored again as the game went into extra time, and delivered his coup de grace during the shootout.
But more than a point of national pride, Messi’s win for Argentina was seen as a temporary respite for a nation burdened by 100% inflation.
A Rougher Than Usual Year
Messi and his teammates may have faced a grueling regime to get into top form for the World Cup, but their struggle was nothing compared to what ordinary Argentines have faced this year.
Argentina began 2022 with inflation at 50%; now, it is poised to end the year at nearly 100%.
Though numerous businesses have reopened and the unemployment rate is dropping steadily, wage growth in the country – especially for the newly employed – remains well below the inflation rate. As a result, ordinary Argentines have lost much of their buying power throughout the year. The incidence of extreme poverty, especially in underdeveloped rural or densely populated urban areas, is on the rise.
Historically, Argentina has not fared well economically during politically volatile periods and 2023 may follow a similar vein. The country’s presidential election is scheduled for next year, and experts believe it could make the country’s fragile economy even more volatile than it already is.
Currently, the country is suffering from a severe drought that has affected agricultural crops and is also expected to adversely affect key commodity exports.
But the nation’s economic woes are currently at the back of its people’s minds. For now, the streets of Buenos Aires are full of people chanting the name of Lionel Messi, as well as those of his teammates; portenos – the people of the city – are dancing, singing, and rejoicing. Worrying about harder times to come could wait another day.