The562’s soccer coverage for the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Beach Futbol Club.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
There was a chance that Mauricio Ingrassia’s World Cup attendance streak was going to end at seven. The Long Beach State women’s soccer coach had a season to finish before he could plan a trip to Qatar. Then his native Argentina won the semifinal.
“I started getting calls from my friends and we started egging each other on a little bit,” Ingrassia said. “It was just like, ‘We’re going’ so literally that was on Tuesday after the semifinal. I was on a plane by Thursday.”
One long 15-hour trip across 11 time zones later and Ingrassia was halfway across the world where he watched Argentina win its first World Cup championship in 36 years by beating France in a penalty kick shootout.
“It’s such a short and intense tournament and Argentina is always one of the favorites,” Ingrassia said. “I’ve been to the last eight World Cups so I’ve suffered through a lot of heartache. This one kind of paid off for all of the other ones.”
We caught up with Ingrassia after the holidays to talk about his experience.
Question: You got to see your home country make history, but the World Cup started with Argentina getting upset by Sadia Arabia.
Answer: It was absolutely horrible, but that’s just soccer. It was almost like, ‘Ok good, get that out of the way.’ I think it allowed the coach to make some changes in the lineup that he probably wanted to make, but maybe was a little apprehensive because of the unbeaten streak. In the next game he changed five players. You could just sense that he wanted the younger guys in, but how do you bench some of the historical guys when they’re on a 36-game unbeaten streak? It’s the best thing that happened to the team. The coach got to hit the reset button and made four of five changes to get the team going in the right way.
Q: You didn’t have any trepidation because of news reports about Qatar?
A: No because I had kept in contact with friends who were already over there were really no issues. It was a great experience. The people over there were amazing and felt safe.
Q: How was the atmosphere compared to other World Cups you’ve attended?
A: All of the games are in one city with three or four stadiums when usually they’re spread out over the country. It was one of the best because of the proximity.
Q: How difficult was it to get tickets?
I got very lucky. I was able to connect with Capelli Sport (a sportswear and footwear company) and they saw how passionate I was and they invited me to the games. They’re great people. I even got to go to the third place game.
Q: So you wake up and it’s gamely, what were your emotions like at that point?
A: After a 15-hour trip and 11-hour time zone difference you’re kind of out of it, so it was a little bit of a blur. Waking up on Sunday and getting ready to go to the stadium was the most exciting and nerve wracking part.
Q: So you saw one of the best World Cup finals of all time, were you thinking that while watching the game?
A: We sat midfield and high up so it was a great tactical view. Emotions were so high and they swung so quickly in both directions that it was just a crazy experience. It was fantastic. I’m just happy it finished the way it did. There was no in-between emotion. We were either on the top of the world or in the depths of hell.
Q: Did you think about Messi’s legacy while watching the match?
A: He and Di Maria as well, they’re both from Rosario, my hometown in Argentina. I really did, especially when he scored what seems to be the game-winning goal in overtime, then someone sticks their hand out and it’s a PK… He had to be thinking, ‘What else do I need to do?’ Poor guy.
Q: And then after the final PK, were there tears of joy?
A: Oh yeah. Very emotional.
Q: The reaction in Argentina was incredible, did you see the team have to get airlifted out of the parade because there were too many people?
A: Yeah, it’s crazy. It seems to have unified the country and everybody seems to be out on the streets in need of good news and happy times so it’s been nice to see. It’s a true footballing country. Sports is not entertainment in Argentina, sports is a way of life. They live the game and live through their national team. This team was able to build a connection over the past two or three years with the fanbase. This time was crazy because there weren't just 40,000 or 50,000 Argentines, it seemed like 95 percent of the world wanted them to win. I can’t tell you how many people I saw who weren’t Argentine or could even speak Spanish who were wearing Messi shirts.
Q: It seemed destined to happen, huh?
A: The soccer world is a little bit more just now.