Upon my return to Buenos Aires from Patagonia, I checked into a hostel in the trendy Palermo Soho neighborhood.
An upcoming Boca Juniors game was being advertised at the reception desk, and I knew I had to go.
Argentinians are incredibly passionate about football (soccer as we Americans know it), and Boca Juniors is the most popular team in the country.
At a cost of 600 pesos ($135 USD), it was going to be by far the most I’d ever paid for a sporting event. To be fair, the price is for an organized tour, which includes the cost of the ticket, and some beer.
In Medellin, I attended three football games with friends (including one World Cup Qualifier). It was my introduction to South American football, and the first game in particular, was off the hook (crazy).
I’d heard rumors over the years about the fans at Boca games. They’d shake the stadium, and occasionally throw urine or feces on the opponents’ fans.
For a variety of reasons, including the fact that it’s hard to get tickets if you’re not a card-carrying Boca fan (literally, they have ID cards), I decided to pay a premium for the group tour.
The afternoon began when we were picked up in a van at the hostel in Palermo.
We then made our way to La Boca, a rough-and-tumble, working class neighborhood after which the team was named.
It’s one of the neighborhoods that’s notorious for pickpockets, which is another reason it makes sense to go with a group.
The price of the ticket included a beer and choripan (a sausage). Of course I pictured we’d be getting these drinks in an English-style pub with wood trim, but in reality it was more like a garage.
Upon arrival, there were already others drinking and chatting. As we began consuming as much watery beer as possible, additional groups of tourists arrived.
Alberto J. Armando Stadium, better know as La Bombonera, was 100 meters down the street from the garage. Soon after darkness fell, we walked over.
Each of us had been presented with an ID card belonging to one of the club’s fans.
It didn’t matter that Stephanie had no resemblance to Senor Fernandez, we simply need to present the cards as we passed the gate.
Our seating was behind one of the goals, with the die-hard Boca fan clubs seated at the opposite end of the stadium, behind the other goal.
We had a great view of them the whole game, but if I had my choice, I would’ve wanted to sit closer to the center line, as I did at the FC Barcelona match.
To get good seats in our concrete bleacher section, we had to arrive about an hour early. This allowed us all to sit together. We killed time by eating ice cream, and taking pictures with Mike’s camera.
My camera broke for no apparent reason on the flight back from Ushuaia, and I didn’t want to risk bringing my iPhone.
Ultimately, we were never in any danger. There were so many other foreigners seated around us, we were totally insulated.
The opposing team’s fans were seated in the upper deck above us, so even if they wanted to throw something gross on us, they couldn’t.
And because we had private transportation, there was little chance I was going to get my pocket picked after the match, as happened to me in Barcelona.
But back to the Boca Juniors game.
As the stadium filled up, and game time drew near, a beautiful cheerleader squad emerged onto the field. From half way across the field, it was abundantly obvious just how short and tight their uniforms were.
They proceeded to do a dance number that’d make any Colombian turn red. These were dance moves you’d never see in the USA.
The match was against Lunas. The Boca Juniors jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first half. With each new goal scored, the crowd erupted.
The super fans on the opposite end of the stadium sang their songs the whole match. Now I know where DC United’s Barra Brava got their name, songs, and spirit.
In the second half, the Lunas fought back, scoring two goals to draw even with the home team.
The super fans seemed stunned, and the rest of the game was a little quieter as a result.
I’m glad I went to the game. It was on my bucket list for Argentina, and South America as a whole, however once was enough.
Unless I’m paying for a match in Brazil or England, or a World Cup-related game anywhere, I won’t be paying $100+ again.
You can read Mike’s thoughts on Art of Backpacking.
Photo Credit: All photos courtesy of Michael Tieso.