Maybe years ago, like a couple decades, Andrés Cantor was something of a cartoon to non-soccer fans with his outsized “GOOOOOOOOOOOOL!” calls making the rounds on various highlight shows as evidence of how silly soccer was to the agnostics and why it should never be bothered with.
As the sport’s popularity has skyrocketed, Cantor has become something of a beacon for fans. You will find a great number of soccer fans who prefer to watch international matches or Champions League matches on the Spanish broadcasts to get less of the silliness that American broadcasts can sometimes delve into. Cantor has even occasionally jumped over to the English commentary side for the Olympics or other competitions, only making him more of a staple to the American soccer experience.
Cantor’s famous goal calls, to those in the know, have always capped off the singular moment that a goal in soccer is, and one of the very biggest reasons we watch. This unmatched release of emotion, of importance. But of course, Cantor is so much more than what has essentially become a catchphrase.
Yesterday, Cantor achieved what must’ve been the pinnacle of his broadcast career, getting to call his native Argentina (he moved to the States when he was 13 from Buenos Aires) winning the World Cup:
While getting to call a World Cup final is the profession’s highest calling, and getting to call yesterday’s must have seemed like being given a gift from the lord himself, it clearly was something even more to Cantor, however possible that is. That he was able to convey the gravitas through his own tears, while letting us know simultaneously what it meant to him and all Argentinians around the world through his sheer emotion without overtaking the moment, I can’t imagine a more complete way to convey a moment that is probably too momentous for anyone to get their arms around.
And I suppose, or maybe just hope, that I’m not the only one who watched this video with just a tinge of jealousy. Because what would make me feel like this? I’m not one who struggles to emote. I cry out of sadness or happiness with a stiff breeze. Show me reaction videos to the Cubs winning the World Series or even that Landon Donovan goal and I’m a certified mess. I fucking cried during “Eddie The Eagle.” It’s not just the happiness of others, but that those things bring me back to what I felt at those exact moments, and all that went into it.
But is it the same as what Cantor and Argentina felt the moment Montiel’s penalty hit the net? Watching Cantor I’m not so sure. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what supporting either the USMNT or USWNT really means. Sometimes I think it’s just a different form of a club team, not really all that different from my affinity for Liverpool. Certainly, it’s not an endorsement of everything my country is. Just a different piece of laundry I root for.
But it’s not just that, is it? Otherwise, international soccer wouldn’t feel any different than watching club soccer, yet it does. A fandom of the women’s team has a feel of revolution about it, of being part of a movement, of a fight that still has so long to go. The men’s team kind of used to have that back in the day, though it was just more of a punk rock support of something that wasn’t popular among the masses more than an actual political thing. It was like saying you listened to Nirvana when they released “Bleach.” And fandom of either or both is still something of an endorsement of our nation, and there are things about it worth endorsing, even if there’s a ton that’s not.
But whatever identity I have as an American through the national team(s), it’s hardly what Argentines draw through their national team. It’s not just some small part of being from Argentina. It’s a huge part of it. It’s in the blood. Even if I live long enough to see the U.S. win the men’s World Cup, would I feel this? Would you? Could any of us?
I’ve now seen a gaggle of U.S. women’s World Cup wins, and there’s satisfaction and joy. But it’s also kind of business as usual.
As stated, I saw the Cubs win the World Series, something I wanted more than anything for pretty much my whole life. I saw the Hawks win the Stanley Cup, no matter how it’s viewed now doesn’t change what I felt then. Maybe it’s the same, just on a local level. Part of my identity is being a Chicagoan, and those were huge parts of that identity. Maybe it’s the same.
But obviously, there is something bigger about it being nationwide. It would have to be amplified. You would feel that current growing no matter where you were.
It’s also different when there’s an assault on the summit every season. Sure, the heartbreak of the repeated failures builds in a different way, but there’s something worse about having to sit on a World Cup exit for four years. It doesn’t go anywhere, it isn’t erased a few months later with a new season and new aspirations. Especially when you’re Argentina and only winning will do. Thirty-six years between triumphs makes it feel epic, when in fact it’s equivalent to just nine years in a club season. But Cantor lived those 36 years, as we can all clearly see.
It’s hard to think of anything that would pull this country together in such a manner, though I’m sure there are great divisions in Argentina, too. Soccer still isn’t quite popular enough here, though maybe that will change soon. We are too used to being the best in basketball. Nothing else we care about has an international scene. We also don’t like to emote in the way Argentinians do, as sometimes it feels all of them could start a fight and a party simultaneously in an empty room.
But maybe, one day, you and I will know this feeling. That’s probably why we keep watching. Isn’t hope the very foundation of fandom? However, you’d describe what Cantor is going through here is what we hope our hope will connect to one day.