SPORT / MISCELLANY
Argentine Football Association deepening links with China: Ambassador
'The beginning of a great path'
Published: Nov 28, 2022 12:02 AM
Argentine Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja Photo: Courtesy of Narvaja

Argentine Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja Photo: Courtesy of Narvaja


"Our Argentine Football Association is constantly seeking to deepen its links with China. I think we have a great opportunity ahead of us to develop together," ­Argentine Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

Narvaja noted that the exchanges between the two countries in the field of sports have witnessed a rapid development over the years, especially in regards to football.

On Sunday morning Beijing time, Lionel Messi reignited Argentina's World Cup hopes with one goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over Mexico. Argentina had suffered a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening game, in which Messi scored the first goal of the game from the penalty spot.

"More than ever we are rooting for our team. We are very competitive and they have just won the Copa America in 2021 and the Copa Finalissima this year," Narvaja said.

For the 35-year-old Messi, the Qatar tournament could be his last World Cup. Talking about the No.10 and the World Cup, the Argentine diplomat said there is a song that was popular in his country and the players made it their own.

The song says, "I was born in ­Argentina, land of Diego [Maradona] and Lionel ... I can't explain it to you, because you won't understand, the finals we lost, how many years I cried for them … Guys, now we are excited again, I want to win the third, I want to be world champion."

"I think that the figure of Lionel Messi has aroused great affection in Argentina and in the rest of the world, which makes people wish this great player will finally win the World Cup with Argentina," Narvaja said.

The impact of Argentinian football on China goes beyond the World Cup. Not long ago, Argentina was invited as a guest of honor to the 10th China (Mianyang) Science and Technology City International High-Tech Expo in Mianyang, Sichuan Province.

According to Narvaja, during the expo, they had a virtual reality area in the Argentina-dedicated pavilion so that visitors could experience the feeling of being on the football field next to the Argentine national team. They also promoted agreements with Chinese brands for the sponsorship of the Argentine Football Association and the production of audiovisual content.

"The sport-related link between the two countries is growing significantly, especially the cooperation we have had over the years in terms of football," he said. "Our Ministry of Tourism and Sports is making great progress in this field to promote training institutes in Chinese provinces. I think we have great opportunities ahead of us to develop together." 

Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates their win over Mexico at the FIFA World Cup at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on November 26, 2022. Photo: VCG

Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates their win over Mexico at the FIFA World Cup at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on November 26, 2022. Photo: VCG


According to the Argentine diplomat, he felt strongly about Chinese people's "impressive love for Messi."

"The truth is that the love that China has for Messi is impressive, I feel it every time we do an activity with the technical training institutes of the Argentine Football Association."

The Argentine diplomat added that more and more football clubs from Argentina and China are twinned. They are also cooperating with various Chinese provinces to develop children's football training academies and promote exchange of players and coaches. 

"I think that it is the beginning of a great path that we can have in common and without a doubt we will be able to collaborate with the football development plan in China," he stressed.

Asked about whether he would be willing to introduce Messi to play in the Chinese Super League in the future, the ambassador answered, "I think it could be an interesting option."