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Day 56 – Boca Jrs. Are for Fanatics

December 5, 2010

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Date: Sunday, December 5, 2010

I am now in the full traveler swing. After sitting on my ass for the last week or so, today was a flurry of activity. A preview: the San Telmo Sunday market, Puerto Madero, and a Boca Jrs. night game with a bunch of soccer hooligans.

The highlight was the game. I’ve been to a South American football/soccer game before, but this one was different. Before we get to that, let’s take a quick peek at the day’s activities.

First up, the San Telmo outdoor Sunday market, which is basically a street in the San Telmo neighborhood stretching from horizon to horizon packed with vendors selling every trinket found in everyone’s grandmother’s basement. The infinity is punctuated by street musicians and tango and capoeira demonstrations.

Afterwards, my traveling companions for the day—a Canadian named Andrew and an Australian named Danny—and I walked down to Puerto Madero for a leisurely lunch. The iconic Puente de la Mujer (Woman’s Bridge) provided a dramatic back drop to our meal. So did an old ship which, I gather, was significant to someone other than me.

By the time we hiked back through San Telmo to our hostel, it was nearly time for the game.

We met up with Jamil and all boarded a bus to the La Boca neighborhood and the Boca Juniors’ home stadium, the Bombonera. Now, you can buy tickets on your own and go to the stadium by yourself, or you can overpay for a bus and guide and travel with a herd of foreigners. Since the stadium is in a dodgy part of town and Boca games have a reputation for fan antics, we’d all opted for the “tour.”

The bus dropped us off at a barbeque so we could eat and imbibe before the game (no liquor allowed in the stadium for reasons that will become apparent). On the way there, a bus of opposing fans tore past us with people hanging out the windows, blowing horns, and jeering, which didn’t seem prudent considering they were entering the heart of Boca fanaticism.

The barbeque turned out to be a foreigner holding pen. Four other busloads of tourists were also waiting for the game to begin. By the time we made our way back to the buses, it was getting dark. We sat in traffic as our guide explained that opposing fans had gone hooligan outside the stadium and were delaying our progress. A few minutes later, he informed us that police would be escorting a couple of foreigner filled buses to the stadium.

“It’s all good,” he said.

A motorcycle ripped past with lights flashing and two armored cops, one with a shotgun propped up on his hip, confirmed our guide’s claim. Just another Boca game.

The fans here were just as rowdy as at the La U game except there were a few thousand more of them. Here, too, the drums and the singing went nonstop. Since I wasn’t in the luxury seats like at La U, I was packed with the crowd. We weren’t with the fanatical fans, the ones with drums, horns, and banners (they were across the way), but we were with the people.

The opposing team’s fans were stationed in a special security area in the tier directly above our seats. We couldn’t see them, but we could hear them. Occasionally, a fire cracker or flare would arc down onto us from the unseen mass of humanity above. Against saner human judgment, a group of us decided to move down the bleachers for a better view.

“Watch out,” said our guide. “Sometimes the opposing team’s fans throw things from above. Some of those things are not water.”

This, apparently, is common knowledge, because the rows in our section that were right underneath the edge of the overhead tier were only sparsely populated. When Boca scored the game’s only goal, we edged back a bit, but the rain of urine never came—Boca won and so did we (if winning is defined as not being soaked with pee).

After the game ended, a phalanx of police prevented us from exiting for 30 minutes–the opposing team’s fans needed to leave the stadium before we did. It was the police’s attempt to quell any postgame encounters in the cramped stadium staircases. That didn’t stop Boca fans in our section from walking to the bottom of our tier and screaming at the opposition’s fans upstairs.

By the time we left, La Boca neighborhood was deserted other than some after game street vendors, a few giddy Boca supporters, and the occasional fire station.

A memorable evening, or course, but. . . Perhaps it was the cops with shotguns on motorcycles. Or the explosives and incendiaries thrown by the opposing team’s fans. Or the 30 minute postgame wait imposed by men with shields and guns. But something tells me that it might have been more memorable if Boca Jrs. had lost.

Random Pic That’s Cool But Didn’t Fit the Narrative

Another Random Pic That’s Cool But Didn’t Fit the Narrative

GALLERY: More pics of the game, the market, and a fire station in the La Boca neighborhood.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Doug permalink
    December 29, 2010 11:50 am

    I almost made it to River/Boca game(superclassico). They cancelled all games because of hooligans the week before. I did get to attend Argentina vs Bolivia though.

    • January 6, 2011 7:24 am

      Inter country games seem like they’d be crazy. You combine fandom with nationalism and it’s a wonder that people don’t riot every time countries play.

  2. Stephan permalink
    December 29, 2010 12:53 pm

    I like the word “hooligans”. It reminds me of myself. I shall get that as a tattoo now.

    • January 6, 2011 7:28 am

      You should put it on your forehead and give people fair warning. That or get it like a tramp stamp, sort of an invitational doormat of sorts.

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