Almost immediately after checking into the hostel in Buenos Aires, I was out exploring the streets of the surrounding area, San Telmo looking for an Art Factory (“I thought this was about football?”)
Well, the Art Factory in question was the name of a hostel. And in that hostel were a couple of friends from the Inca Trail (9.4.1) who had sorted tickets for the three of us to see Boca Juniors. It was organised through a sort-of tour agency, and was honestly one of the more bizarre ones I’ve had in my time out here.
The price of the ticket was expensive. What happens is Season Ticket Holders who aren’t attending the game will loan out their pass to the agency (though I suspect the organiser is just their mate) who then charges the tourist plenty of money to use it.
The Police must clearly know what’s going on, yet just to be safe, our organiser stressed the importance to not be overt about it.
On the bus we were warned of the petty crime in the area, and so once off it, we were shepherded into a dingy garage on the street corner, along with the other outsiders. Here, the gringos were kept together and helped themselves to a few hot dogs (or “choripans”: sausage in bread) and a beer.
We were then instructed that it was nearly time to go into the legendary stadium. We therefore left Samwell, Anthony and Nicole in the Gringo Den and stepped out as Cesar, Juan and Federico. With cards to prove it.
A rough brisk later and our group of twenty climbed the many steps up to our seats. Though for next three hours we were almost entirely standing.
The concrete steps went down the whole stand, and so you just sit on the bare concrete. If people want to get nearer the front, they just clamber down past you, though we found ourselves asking where as it seemed at full capacity.
In the moments before kick-off the chants began in earnest. Venomously booing the opponents and cheering the home team when the names were announced. During the first half of the first half, everyone was on their feet: singing songs, waving arms, and getting behind the home team (and against the ref).
Then Unión scored. There was a couple of second lull where no-one reacted. Save the jubilent away fans above us, you could’ve heard a pin drop. And then suddenly the Boca fans erupted.
Songs were louder, arms were more vigorously thrust back and forth, and support for the team lifted the whole stadium into a party atmosphere to get behind the boys in blue. It became clear why the Boca crowd had earnt a reputation as being “The 12th Man”.
Before the end of the half, this sequence of events happened again, meaning when the referee blew his whistle, Unión went in 2-0 up.
We could also tell it was half time because everyone sat down. Immediately. A little behind the curve, the three of us attempted to wedge ourselves in amongst the many feet.
As the players came out, we resumed our former positions, and brought out hands for applause and chanting. The game continued to be entertaining, and the more Boca attacked the more it opened up, resulting in Unión scoring again. It was then a question whether a Bolivarian comeback (see 10.1) was possible.
Boca got one back at our end and we half expected to the crowd to fall silent, such was their apparent jubilation at the other team scoring. But nevertheless, the stand was once again buoyant with fresh hope of a comeback.
The closing stages had a few close chances, but Boca missed the clinical touch. When the final whistle went, there was no booing, no hissing, people just remained where they were and resumed their conversations. We had to let the rest of the stadium out to avoid a potential clash with the away fans.
There was then time for a few snaps and discussion of the game. Anthony(/Juan) speculated what might have happened had Boca Seniors (rather than the ‘Junior’ team) been playing…
We left Cesar, Juan and Federico by the stadium and stepped back onto the bus as our former selves. It was Anthony and Nicole’s last night of their South American trip and a pleasure to meet up and see them at such an impressive and famous Argentinean location.