Let’s set the scene for a minute… Argentine’s take their football (futbol, soccer) seriously. Incredibly seriously.
I woke up March 21, 2010 excited to go to the BOCA JR’s v. RIVER PLATE football match and had had trouble sleeping the night before. It has been hailed as one of the biggest football match-ups in the World and Argentina as a whole has a far reaching reputation as having wild fans — I can attest to that having been there.
The day was gloomy and overcast skies loomed overhead daring the wrong person to take the slightest step from under their awning shelter. As luck wouldn’t have it, apparently that wrong person happened to stand in line with us for this particular football match. Release the hounds! We got pissed on (figuratively, but keep reading). We waited outside the stadium for two hours, inching forward in what seemed to be a never ending line. I worried whether the progress we were making was more because people were getting sick of being rained on and resorting to cuddling under others’ umbrellas, or actual movement; in the end I realized it was more the umbrella’s because as we got closer, the line free’d up — we were jogging by policemen and security to free ourselves from this god-forsaken torrential downpour. They didn’t seem to care, to be honest.
As we neared the entrance the line slowed, we got out our tickets — now nothing but blank cardboard cards due to the ink washing off in the rain — and handed them to the doormen. We were pat down to make sure we weren’t carrying anything lethal, such as a knife, gun, lighter, or belt (I told you they got crazy!)
Inside, the group of foreigners who had purchased their extremely over-priced tickets rung out their socks, shirts, and shoes (I shit you not) and made our way up to our seats. I use the term ‘seats’ quite loosely as we were in the Home team section which is standing only. Our guide took off, leaving us to fend for ourselves in what is known to be one of the rowdiest sections of any football team in existence; no problema.
We slinked our way down through the crowd of fans each of whom gave us increasingly dirty sneers. Leaning on shoulders, stepping on hands, feet, purses, and children, we found ourselves in what I guess would be considered a comfortable area. There was zero room between us and the people beside us. I felt a little bad for impeding their experience by crushing them into each other on either side, but realized soon after we were still only a third as cramped as we would be. An intimate section, one might say.
So here I am, in the stadium, at the World renowned Boca Junior v. River plate game. They let the fans in two hours before the match, not only so that atmosphere can build but also so they can allow the home team fans & away team fans enough time between them to enter the Stadium without encountering each other. A far cry from my Vancouver Canucks teams where most people sit down half way into the first period; I used to think we Canadians were proud fans of our sport; Argentines put us to shame on oh so many levels. The hardcore home team fans are situated at either end of the stadium, the away team are stood directly above us on one end of the pitch, upper deck.
Hours of chanting ensued, our end screaming to the opposing end — and them screaming back at us — riling restless spirits of football fans here to watch their respective teams play their hearts out. Football in Argentina is larger than a sport, truly & literally larger than any one fan’s life. The chanting quickly turned into a shouting match between the home fans situated below our section, and the away fans sat (and I use this term loosely) above us. Some fans took quite seriously to this shouting match, and ended up missing the game because they were so intent on the impossible task of shutting their opposition.
Soon, lighters began flying to and fro. I didn’t see any casualties but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few. Lighters snowballed into any small rocks, half full bottles of water, and then into what I found a weird choice of weapon (but effective nonetheless): the away fans were dropping shopping bags tied full of water onto the heads of the home fans. They would land upon a mesh overhanging, or if lobbed far enough beyond and on peoples heads. They landed with deep thuds that you could feel when you saw impact. These were unlike any water balloon I’d seen, using weight as a weapon, on top of the liquid — wait a second… They’re not full of water, but a yellowy, orange liquid.. what is th… uh oh… Over the course of 2 hours, 20 or 30 bags: thud, thud, thud…. splash, splash, splash. I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say the whole section smelled like urine when the winds changed. I assumed this would be the extent of warfare extremities, but as always in life, years of having nothing obvious at your fingertips provides plenty of time for creativity. Cracks in the concrete allowed for us to be pee’d on, rolls of adding machine paper were used not only as thrown streamers but as weapons as well. Large (and I mean m-80, take yer-fucken-fingers-off large) firecrackers were thrown between the two sections and my favourite, shooting flare guns at each other… Damn, these dudes are RUTHLESS. Note to self: any time you’re shooting flare guns into the stands at grandma’s, children, women, and fellow lovers of sport, you are officially too competitive.
Eventually, the players took to the pitch. I’m going to save you the reading (this post has turned into a monster not only to read, but to write, and to manage/edit), and just show you the video. The sound cuts in and out as I nearly drop my camera, or have it bumped out of my hand. Everyone was hopping up and down and the sound was DEAFENING… The first people to run out are River Plate, the away team. You’ll know when Boca hits the pitch:
The sad part about the whole experience wasn’t the peeing on each other, the long hours of waiting in the rain, losing my second iPhone to water-damage, losing my ticket, or the fact that the game ended only ten minutes into play (rightfully so, the game was dangerous with the ball hitting puddles and people tripping over not only the ball but each other) — but that I never got to experience the cheer of a Boca Junior goal. The day ended in drunken haziness which I’ll spare you (I have parents that read this, you know!)… It’s a small slice of my Buenos Aires experience, but hopefully you survived reading this far and enjoyed what you read. Speak soon!