Futbol, Fans, Fanatics… and Boca Juniors
I’d been told by many people that seeing an Argentinian football (soccer) match live shouldn’t be missed, and up until my penultimate day in Buenos Aires I thought I’d missed my chance as the season had ended back in November when I first arrived. But on my final afternoon in the city I found out through a couple of friends at my apartment that there was a Boca Juniors game that evening, and we all desperately wanted to see it. Together with some friends from the language school we were able to score some tickets through our local mate Daniel.
Argentinian football is meant to be some of the most fanatical in all of South America, and Boca Juniors is the most fanatical of the Argentinian club teams, so we knew we were in for a real treat. La Boca is a poor barrio down near the ports, and its residents are crazy about the team. Its most famous player was/is none other than Diego Maradona, who is revered as a god throughout Argentina.
Boca’s competition for the evening was Banfield, another poor barrio just over the river from la Boca, making this something of a local derby. We caught a taxi down near the ground but had to walk 10 minutes to the stadium. It was a hairy walk too with mant dodgy looking characters along the road: we were told to keep everything in our pockets and not speak English (even though the two blonde Swedish girls with us kind of gave the game away that we weren’t locals!). Just half an hour earlier our mate Daniel, a hard-arsed looking bastard who used to be national kick-boxing champion, was robbed as he tried to buy us a few more tickets – yikes!
There were hundreds of police around keeping an eye on things, and both groups of supporters were kep well and truly separate (seperate approach roads to the stadium, and separate seating at either end of the stadium). While we believed that we had seats in the “neutral” mid-section of the stadium, when we filed into the stands we quickly realised that our “seats” were in the midst of the standing-room-only Boca Juniors fan section! It was a rough and ready and fairly unwelcoming crowd and we shuffled across to the edge of the (barbed-wire encased) enclosure to be nearer the cops positioned there. By the time the game began the section was rammed with extremely vocal supporters dressed in the team’s blue and yellow.
What happened in the next two hours was a fantastic – and unique – experience! Every minute of the game was filled with the team chants which everyone sang. It was quite a sight! The energy and passion of the supporters was electric and addictive, and we couldn’t help but get into it ourselves. As an added bonus the football wasn’t bad either; Boca scored three first-half goals at our end (the crowd went nuts and surged towards the front of the stand) and finished the game 4-0. But for me the excitement of being in the Boca section was the highlight.
After the game, and unable to find an empty taxi or bus, we piled into a local restaurant for a late dinner. As none of us dared to get our cameras out at the game to take a photo I haven’t got any photos of the spectacle to put up here, but here are a few pics from the restaurant: