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Doha, Qatar – Yerba Mate can’t be fair to everyone.

A strong and often bitter herbal infusion brewed hot or cold from the leaves of a plant native to South America, popular in Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. Some of the world’s best footballers hail from and swear by the area, and they’ve spread it around the world through their club teams. The World Cup in Qatar raised some logistical and logistical challenges.

So they came prepared. Brazil’s national team, which includes some alcoholic beverages, brought 26 pounds of it to Qatar, a team official said. The Uruguayan team weighed in at about 530 pounds. But Argentina, who face Croatia in Tuesday’s semi-final, fully expected to extend their stay until Sunday’s final, topped them all. Argentina’s team hauled 1,100 pounds of yerba mate to Qatar to ensure the roughly 75 members of its traveling group — players, coaches, trainers and others — have a steady supply of a drink they consider essential.

“It has caffeine,” Argentina midfielder Alexis MacAllister said in Spanish, explaining why he had consumed so much of the drink, which some compared to strong green tea. “But I drink more than anything else to bring us together.”

Nicolás Novello, spokesman for Argentina’s national team, said the team came up with different varieties to suit everyone’s tastes: stemmed (mild flavor), stemless (stronger, more bitter flavor) and herbal (for other tastes) yerba mate. Observers reported that nearly everyone drank it, including the team’s star player, Lionel Messi; The team’s devotion to the drink was clear, and every time it unloaded its team bus, after matches, a few players would carry the traditional accompaniments: a cup made from a hollowed-out gourd, an accompanying straw and a thermos of hot water.

Drinking is more common among the Argentina and Uruguay teams, especially since the latter invented the thermos. Podija In Spanish, Its official symbol. A big blue iconic outfit headed to Qatar, where it struggled to fit the turnstiles of the metro system in Doha.

Uruguay’s Botija symbol had trouble making it through a turnstile in the metro subway system in Doha.debt…Erin Schaaf/The New York Times

“When I played in Argentina, a nutritionist said hydrate you,” says Sebastian Triessi, a midfielder for Austin FC in Major League Soccer. Triassi represented Argentina internationally at youth level and spent three years with popular Argentine club River Plate. “I don’t know, but it’s like water to us. Before a game, in the locker room, everybody drinks it all the time. There is no schedule or bad time to get a partner. We in Argentina say that vice makes friendship.

There is an art to perfecting the brew, says Juan José Cikowski, head of the National Institute of Yerba Mate in Argentina, and each drinker prefers slightly different variations, from sweet to bitter, hot to cold.

“Once you start drinking, you don’t stop,” Shikowski said in a telephone interview. “It’s more than just a routine. When someone comes in, we tell them, ‘You should have a partner.’ It’s sharing and social and good for your health.

The supplement, which was first consumed by the region’s indigenous people before it was spread by Jesuit missionaries, contains polyphenols with antioxidant properties, Shikowski said. Some studies show the drink can have a positive effect on health, he added.

The influence and example of South American sub-drinkers such as Messi, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Brazil’s Neymar, who were club teammates at Barcelona, ​​led other players to follow the practice.

Antoine Griezmann, who is part of France’s squad for Wednesday’s semi-final, picked up the habit after befriending Uruguayans Christian Rodriguez and Jose Maria Gimenez when they were teammates at Atletico Madrid. Griezmann has told He now drinks it daily. Another French star, Paul Pogba, said in 2018 that he joined the partnership after one of his Manchester United team-mates at the time – Argentine Marcos Rojo – gave him his own infusion.

“It’s perfect,” Pogba told an Argentine television channel. “I loved it.”

Szychowski cited soccer players as the best yerba mate ambassadors around the world. Pope FrancisAn Argentine is also known to enjoy a trophy.

However, not every player is a fan of flavors that are too bitter, too herbal, too earthy. (Experts advise beginners to start with a lighter partner.) Walker Zimmerman, the U.S. defender who was eliminated from the World Cup in the round of 16, was introduced to the partner by two of his Argentine teammates at FC Dallas years ago — Maximiliano Urrutti and Mauro Díaz — but he admits, “I’m in it myself.” I don’t think I’ll be involved.”

Lisandro Lopez, a former Argentina defender, said when he played in Portugal, he was not used to everyone feeding his partner through a straw. “A lot of the time — I lived in Lisbon for four years — I’d go to a plaza to have a drink and people would look at me weird, like you’re doing drugs or something,” Lopez said.

Luis Hernandez, the former Mexican striker, said his palate was unaccustomed to the flavor when he spent a season at Boca Juniors in Argentina. He said he was alone while everyone else in the team was drinking.

“I’d rather have a good cup of coffee than a cup of sub,” Hernandez said, then added with a laugh, “They say it helps them? But sub doesn’t help you score goals.

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