The Old World community in Washington knew where to be at 2 p.m. yesterday: glued to the tube. Soccer's World Cup final, which happens only once every four years, was about to feature a titanic clash between Argentina and West Germany. Fans watched from various nonaligned national pockets all over the city.
But there was no mistaking the sentiments of the Adams-Morgan crowds filling restaurants such as El Bodegon, El Tazumal and Torremolinos. It was Argentina all the way. And a gifted player called Diego Maradona in particular.
"I believe this guy is out of this world," said Jose' Lopez, coowner of El Bodegon, who was wearing an Argentine soccer shirt. "The way he touches the ball is unique and I'm not just saying that because I come from Argentina."
There was no doubt about the group gathered on the back lawn of Norbert Pauli's Falls Church house, either. The group of nine men and two women (most of them members of the West German military stationed here) sat in lawn chairs in front of a giant West German flag tied between two trees and watched a big television rigged up outside under two umbrellas. Siegfried Brandt pulled out a beer from a cooler.
And they were not as enamored of Maradona. "We gotta break his leg," said Uwe Entchelmeier.
When the game started, and Argentina took control, there were few comments, only groans and moans (mostly from West Germany fans) and cheers and squeals (from Argentina fans). And when Argentina scored its first goal, the cheers from the 50 people gathered in El Bodegon could be heard across the street.
"I hope Argentina wins," said wood-print artist Naul Ojeda, a Uruguayan who shifted allegiances when his country was eliminated from the championship. "This Maradona -- I think he's the best . . . He's really an artist."
*At the West German camp, the Argentine goal was received with a silence that made one aware of the wind rustling the leaves of the trees above the television. "The Argentines, they are just the size of a dog," said Entchelmeier. "It's very difficult to see them because they are so small. And see, they're out of breath already."
After the half, Argentina scored again and Adams-Morgan collectively whooped. In El Tazumal, the mostly Latin audience kept up a sustained cheer and applauded vociferously. Back at El Bodegon, Nini Papazian led the viewers in a group squeal.
"Who do I think is going to win?" she echoed. "Who do I think -- "
Flailing her arms, she knocked a plate from a waiter's hands into pieces on the floor.
"Argentina, of course," she said quietly.
Back in Falls Church, silence was painful. When the instant replay came on the screen, Brandt said, "Ja, ja, ja." The rest were silent. "How lucky, some commercials now," said Entchelmeier.
But the game wasn't a sure thing yet. The West German team rallied to score two quick goals. El Tazumal was drenched in silence and, in Virginia, the rustle of Falls Church leaves was finally drowned out by cheerful human voices. Pauli and Entchelmeier jumped out of their chairs and gave each other a high five. The rest hooted and cheered in German. Brandt gave a sharp, loud whistle. A brief rapture, it turned out. Argentina pounded its third and decisive goal.
"Unbelievable," said Entchelmeier. Brandt stuck his tongue out at the TV and began biting his fingernails. At the end of the game, one couple immediately got up and left, not waiting for the trophy presentation. Uwe Schimpf got out of his chair and began taking down the West German flag. Said Entchelmeier, "Now we have to sneak behind our flag for weeks, until Boris Becker wins Wimbledon again."
Just then, the announcer said Maradona had tears in his eyes.
"Hopefully he has tears in his eyes from pain," said Entchelmeier.
*At the Argentine Embassy, it was fiesta time. Fans had peeled out of their homes and bars and gathered in a raucous group in front of the ambassador's residence, flying blue flags, pounding on saucepans and waving blue and white ribbons at passers-by.
"It was a very good match," said Argentine Ambassador Enrique Candioti above the din. The West German goals "made the game more exciting, but in the end we won."
Suddenly the crowd started jumping up and down and chanting in Spanish. Asked what they were saying, one Argentine leaned forward and said: "They say, anyone who doesn't jump is a German."