World Cup: Superstition doesn't quite pay off for Argentina fans in Fresno

The Fresno BeeJuly 13, 2014 

For the full 120-plus minutes of the World Cup final, Martin Suarez squeezed his old, rolled-up Argentina jersey tightly in his hands.

Suarez pressed it against his chin, held it over his head and would bite on it, but he never let it go -- not once.

"I always have it," Suarez said. "I'm either wearing it or holding it for every game."

The jersey is not a good luck charm, but rather a part of superstition. On Sunday, it didn't pay off as Germany won the dramatic final 1-0, but it's been a part of many key victories.

When Angel Di Maria scored in the 118th minute against Switzerland to send Argentina through to the quarterfinals, Suarez had the jersey clenched in his fists.

He hadn't let it go since.

"Whatever we're doing or wherever we are when Argentina does well or scores, we'll keep doing that or stay in that same spot," he said. "We believe in it so if it works we don't change it."

From seating arrangements to drinks being consumed, the Suarez family, originally of Buenos Aires, are like many Argentinians -- devoutly superstitious -- hoping that the slightest of actions at home will be a positive trigger for their beloved national team.

For Suarez, 37, who now resides in Fresno, the superstitions date back to the 1990 World Cup.

Suarez was showering at his Modesto home when Argentina scored its first goal of the tournament. So for every Argentine goal after that, leading all the way up to the final, he hopped in the shower.

Suarez showered multiple times a game, once taking a maximum of five in Argentina's penalty shootout win against Italy in the semifinals. (Argentina went on to lose 1-0 to West Germany in the final).

He hoped this tournament would end differently. Maybe, the Argentines could fight off the Germans behind Lionel Messi and prove the family's superstitions worked.

That hope was clear Sunday morning in Suarez's northwest Fresno home, where he was joined by three dozen family and friends -- all cheering on Argentina -- for the final.

Martin's younger brother Gonzalo Suarez, 33, sported a sky blue and white striped jersey. Their mother, 76-year-old Mercedes, donned an apron of the Argentine flag.

Both of them are firm with their superstitions.

Mercedes started watching the first half in the living room, but soon after got up and watched the rest from the kitchen -- the same place she witnessed Argentina score an early goal against Belgium in the quarterfinals.

Gonzalo followed in the first half of extra time.

"This spot isn't working," he huffed in frustration, his heart racing against the clock as he moved to the kitchen.

But no matter what happened, the Germans seemed destined to continue their historic World Cup campaign as substitute Mario Goetze scored the game-winner in the 113th minute. Germany became the first European team to win the World Cup in South America and Argentina fell just short once again.

"It's a really tough loss," Martin said. "This hurts."

But it wasn't all bad.

For the Suarezes, the World Cup is more than just a tournament.

It's a sporting event with no equal.

"The Super Bowl is a one-day party," Gonzalo said. "But the World Cup is an entire month."

From watch parties at home on weekends, to playing hooky from work to catch matches midweek, to constant contact with relatives in Spain and Argentina leading up to and during the final, the Cup brought the Suarez family closer than it was before.

"It's almost like a month-long family reunion," Gonzalo said. "Now we just have to wait four years until the next one."

Maybe then, their superstitions will finally cash in.

The reporter can be reached at amoreno@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6401 or @anhelllll on Twitter.

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