What is ‘MERCHI’? Explaining Olga Carmona’s World Cup final celebration

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Spain fullback Olga Carmona scored the lone goal in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final and celebrated by lifting the front part of her jersey to reveal a hard-to-read message written on her undershirt. The problem was that the message wasn’t exactly easy to decipher, leaving room for rampant speculation.

Initially, the most popular theory was that it was a message directed toward Spain coach Jorge Vilda, who had 15 players protest against him in 2022 in a near-mutiny, including three on the World Cup roster, or a message in support of one of the 12 players left off the roster. However, that theory was debunked when high-resolution images showed the shirt had “MERCHI” written on the front in black marker.

The question then was: What is “MERCHI”? After the match, Carmona explained that her celebration was dedicated to the memory of the mother of one of her best friends.

“First of all, I want to say that this victory, this achievement, goes to the mother one of my best friends who has recently passed away,” she said afterward in Spanish. “I celebrated the goal with her shirt and from here, I dedicate this to the whole family with all my love.”

Andres Iniesta, who scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 men’s final, also celebrated his goal with a tribute to his late friend and Spain teammate Daniel Jarque González, who died of a heart attack in 2009 at the age of 16. “Dani Jarque, always with us,” it read.

Before Carmona’s clarification, fans speculated it was a tribute to Colegio Mercedes, a middle school in her hometown of Seville. The school’s official account posted about Carmona after Spain beat Sweden 2-1 to advance to its first-ever Women’s World Cup final.

“Come on Olga!” the post read. “Our former student makes history with the Spanish women’s soccer team and scores the goal that gets us through to the final.All for Olga, all for Spain!

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