THEY DONE IT! The McGreal family and friends In Westport celebrate Argentina’s win in the World Cup final. Pic: Karen Cox
Argentinian natives Natalia McGreal and Pedro Garbisu were not overly confident at the outset of the tournament that Argentina would win the World Cup.
Especially after they lost their opening round game to Saudi Arabia.
But the duo, who both live in Westport, were determined to enjoy the journey anyway. And what a journey it was.
So they had parties for every game with family and friends.
“I never thought they would go so far so we had a party for every game because we thought most of them would be the last game! So we ended up having a ball,” Natalia told The Mayo News.
Natalia, from Buenos Aires, is married to Westport man Micheál McGreal and the couple ran the Wild West play centre in the town for six years. Pedro is married to well-known local photographer Karen Cox and both families linked in for every game, Natalia cooking empanadas and both drinking mata, a traditional Argentinian drink.
Natalia and Micheál’s three sons Seán, Patrick and Carlos enjoyed every second of the journey too.
Except, perhaps, for the first game. Not alone did Argentina lose but a power cut meant they had to watch the game on their phones and the cooking was put on hold.
But Argentina and the parties went from strength to strength with plenty of family and friends heading to the McGreals on the Ballinrobe Road as the unlikely became possible and the possible became probably – and back again.
“The final was so nervewracking,” Pedro said. “After the first game I didn’t think we’d go too far. I’m delighted for Argentina and so happy for Messi.
“I think in previous World Cups there were a lot of players with big egos but this time around all the players stood behind Messi like in 1986 everyone stood behind Maradona,” added Pedro, who is from Coronel Suarez, a city 600km from Buenos Aires.
Both Natalia and Pedro remember Argentina’s World Cup triumph in 1986. Natalia recalls her late parents banging saucepans in the celebrations and both are especially relieved for their country right now, in the midst of uncertain political and economic times.
“I’m delighted for the people of Argentina. The country is going through a difficult time politically and economically but during a World Cup people forget everything for a month,” said Pedro.
Of course there’s a big Mayo connection with Argentina. Foxford native William Brown was the founder of the Argentinian Navy and is a national hero in Argentina.
Natalia was very aware of him growing up but only realised he was Irish after meeting Micheál in Buenos Aires. For the 2006 World Cup she was in Foxford and recalls fond memories of meeting the late JJ O’Hara, one of the leaders of the Admiral Brown Society in Foxford.
Micheál is a nephew of well-known Westport sociologist and campaigner Fr Micheál Mac Greil and they visited him on Monday morning. Fr Micheál joked that he had put in a good word with Pope Francis, an Argentinian and fellow Jesuit.
As far as they can work out, they are among five Argentinians in Mayo. A couple in Lahardane who were in holidays for the final in France of all places while a woman in Knock who gave birth to a baby in recent days.
“Another Mayo-Argentinian child,” said Natalia with glee.