Friday 15 December 2017

Argentina players’ Falklands protest sparks anger ahead of World Cup friendly

Argentina's footballers pose for photographers holding a banner reading
Argentina's footballers pose for photographers holding a banner reading "The Malvinas are Argentinian" before a friendly against Slovenia at La Plata stadium in Buenos Aires

Adam Whitnall

Argentina’s national football team have reignited their rivalry with England ahead of the World Cup by posing with a banner declaring that “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” (“The Falklands are Argentinian”).

The message was displayed for the cameras ahead of a World Cup warm-up friendly against Slovenia, with just one week to go before the team’s opening match in Brazil.

It is often unfurled before Argentina play international matches, and apparently indicates the players’ support of the country’s claims to sovereignty over the islands, which have been ruled by Britain since 1833.

But appearing so close to the biggest event in the footballing calendar has brought it far greater attention than usual – and no small amount of anger among social media users.

One questioned why Fifa was “allowing the Argentinian squad to politicise football” in the run-up to Brazil 2014.

In April, Argentina accused Britain of provocative behaviour over plans to carry out military exercises in the Falkland Islands.

But despite repeated diplomatic clashes over the territory since President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took power in Argentina in 2007, a referendum last year saw islanders vote by 1,513 to three in favour of remaining British.

In the match itself last night, Argentina beat Slovenia 2-0 with goals from Ricardo Alvarez and Lionel Messi, who came on as a substitute in the second half.

It puts the team in a strong position ahead of the World Cup, where they enter as one of the favourites to do well.

And the ongoing “Malvinas” banner controversy could make for an interesting semi-final – or even final – if England were to manage to either win their group or progress all the way to the last match from second. Either scenario, however unlikely, could see them face Argentina in what would be an historic showdown.

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