Argentina fan set for first World Cup in Qatar after father's death put dream on hold

Matias Antelo was Brazil bound for the 2014 World Cup until tragedy struck shortly before the tournament

Argentina fan Matias Antelo with a banner paying tribute to his late father, Gustavo. Photo: Matias Antelo
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Argentina fan Matias Antelo is hoping to witness World Cup triumph in Qatar — eight years after missing out on his first finals after the death of his father.

He had match tickets booked for Brazil in 2014 but cancelled the much-anticipated trip to support his mother.

His father, Gustavo Antelo, was 53 when he died, six days before his birthday.

Gustavo was the first Argentine to die in the Falklands Islands since the 10-week war with the UK in 1982.

On March 13, 2014, he was accompanying a group of war veterans who returned to the islands and was caught in a blizzard driving his truck, it crashed and he was killed.

Weeks later at the Brazil World Cup, the South American side went on to reach the final, being edged out by Germany after extra time.

They will be among the favourites again as Mr Antelo, 30, makes his World Cup debut in what is set to be footballing great Lionel Messi's last appearance at the showpiece event.

He has flights booked into Doha to follow the Copa America winners for as long as they remain in contention and expects it to be the experience of a lifetime.

Mr Antelo, who works in education, will fly in from Buenos Aires next month for a tournament he is quietly confident his team can win.

“This will be my first World Cup, I was close to going to Brazil in 2014 but my father died shortly before so I had to cancel all my plans,” he said.

“My soul and energy was very down at the time and it was a really difficult time for me so I was not in the right place to enjoy football.

“I have no siblings, so decided to stay at home with my mum instead to support her so I gave up my ticket.

“Qatar will be my first World Cup experience so I am very excited. Not just going to the World Cup, but also it will be my first trip to the Middle East.”

South American fans usually travel in huge numbers, despite the high costs of getting to the region. The cheapest flights into Doha from Buenos Aires are currently priced around Dh10,000.

The enduring magic of Messi means fans like Mr Antelo can dare to dream, although the trip will cost him around $10,000 after saving for two years.

“We feel a big advantage with Messi in our team, we are capable of anything,” said Mr Antelo, who also works with Club Atletico Excursionistas in the Belgrano neighbourhood of Buenos Aires that plays in Argentina’s fourth tier.

“It is a long time since we won the World Cup, in 1986, so we are anxious but hopeful of this being our time.

“People say we are one of the favourites, but many Argentinians like me are staying calm.

“It would be amazing to win after waiting so long in the World Cup.”

Saudi Arabia lie in wait

One of Argentina’s opponents in the group stage is Qatar’s neighbours, Saudi Arabia.

The two-time World Cup winners will take on The Falcons on November 22 at the Lusail Stadium.

Saudi Arabia fan Mohammed Naif is hoping to attend the Qatar World Cup with his son.

Another fan hoping to attend is Mohamed Naif, a Saudi citizen who has lived in Dubai for three years.

“Despite our group being tough, and we will face Messi and his team, I’m optimistic we can qualify for the knock-out stage,” said Mr Naif, 35, an investor.

“We have a strong team this year and it will receive big support from the nation.”

Although he is yet to secure match tickets, Mr Naif hopes to pick up two so he can travel to Qatar for the game with his son.

“I will wear my Saudi jersey and support the team with my children,” he said.

“My best memory was when Saeed Al Owairan scored one of the best goals of the 1994 World Cup with a mazy run through the Belgian defence to deliver the winning goal.

“That was an unforgettable memory as we qualified for the next stage.”

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Updated: October 26, 2022, 5:27 AM