Argentine Soccer – Watching El Superclasico with La Barra Brava

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April 15th was one of the days that everything stops in Argentina. Yes, it was a Sunday, maybe that had something to do with it, but I doubt it. That particular Sunday was the Boca – River soccer game, el “Superclasico.” I was fortunate enough to get into the stadium through a series of extraordinary and somewhat unexpected events.

I know a member of the barra brava, which is the term for soccer hooligans in these parts. This means I can regularly attend soccer games and sit in their section, make a bunch of noise and dance around, all the while trying to watch the game. I just have to keep my eyes open for the large hooligans who can at any moment come from behind and nearly knock you to the pitch on the way to wherever they are going.

I am 23 years old, recently graduated from college, and yes, perhaps it may sound a bit daunting to be hanging around soccer hooligans in this country, but it has made for some of the best memories during my time here. Maybe though, all of the details won’t find their way back to my mother.

In any case, because this was el Superclasico, tickets were a bit harder to find, and we sadly would not be sitting in the most raucous part of the stadium this time. Myself, and some friends of mine were told to come to Boca four hours before the game so we could get our tickets. One friend of mine asked why it was that we had to be so early.

Over the course of two hours her questions were answered. First, we couldn’t find the person who had our tickets. In the end, we wouldn’t find him. We walked around the streets being led by certain members of the barra brava, looking for a way in. Finally we stopped walking, close to a fence, near the side of the stadium. By this time, my friends, delirious with the ridiculousness of the last two hours, began to joke about having to go through the hole in the fence and start running through the marshy field that was on the other side in order to get in.

Twenty minutes later, after running through that very field, entering through a gate ticketless, at the consent of bribed ushers, and again having to explain that we had no tickets to the usher in our section, I was in my seat, on the top level, looking out at the rest of the Bombonera.

La barra (cheering section) of Boca JuniorsI have seen some big sporting events. Big college football games in the United States, baseball games up and down the coast of California, and even once got the opportunity while in Spain to see Barcelona play AC Milan, a huge clash between football giants. And I have never seen so much passion anywhere as I saw that day in the Bombonera. People don’t stop yelling and singing. You hear a month’s worth of expletives and you are always on the edge of your seat, if you’re not already standing or jumping up and down. You can feel the intensity in which the people around you are rooting for their team. You can hear it in their voice and see it in their faces. I have never seen a group of fans want something so bad.

The game itself turned out to be a disappointment for the home crowd. Needing a win to stay even with first place San Lorenzo, Boca had to settle for a tie. They scored on a beautiful play in the first minute of the game. They attacked for the rest of the half, clearly the better team, but were frustrated with each attempt.

At half time, shadows began to engulf the stadium, and a particularly cold day, got a bit colder. Boca responded accordingly. Juan Riquelme, normally able to roam freely and spark a plethora of offensive chances was held in check. The whole team seemed to be a step slower, as if affected by the cold. River took advantage and scored the equalizer. Both teams played a relatively sloppy second half. Then a spurt at the end by each team made for an exciting finish. Riquelme had a free kick at the top of the box that deflected off a defender and was saved only by the big toe of the River goalkeeper.

La Bombonera, when it's empty.El Superclasico was not the best soccer I have ever seen, but it was one the greatest sporting experiences I have ever had. If you get a chance to go to the Bombonera, jump on it. Be cautious in La Boca, don’t take a whole lot with you, and I assure you that you will take a whole lot more back with you.

Thanks to Elemaki and Finizio for the pictures.

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[…] So you found the market, Caminito, the art work, some grub, and so now what? The Boca Juniors Futbol Stadium! If you have arrived on a game day, you will know. The futbol spirit is contagious and watching a game in Argentina is unlike any experience you will ever have. As the die hard fans wave their flags and yell out their Boca Juniors chants you will be amazed by the enthusiasm of the locals. […]

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