Yesterday I went with my friend Pablo (I know many Pablo’s, and all are different) to a soccer game in Villa del Parque on the western end of the city to see his favorite team, Comunicaciones. I had been talking for a while and joking around about going to see this team, and he finally asked me if I wanted to go to the game on Saturday at 3:30 pm. Comunicaciones is in the “First B” league, which is essentially the third tier of Argentine soccer, so getting a ticket was no problem and you would only find devoted locals at the game. These kinds of teams are important on a neighborhood level, but only to those from the barrio, and they generally have another favorite team on the national stage as well. It’s not exactly like the minors, but like an independent league, if you could relate it.
It was going to be an hour’s trip on the bus to get to the soccer field, and I left the house late, so eventually I had to get off the bus and jump in a taxi, even though we showed up a few minutes later. Pablo wanted to kill me, and I said I was the only foreigner within a 10 mile radius and other people probably wanted to anyway, but he said that no one would mess with me since I was with him. We stood up in the back and listened to the fans, or spirit corps, whatever you would call it, go nuts throughout the entire first half. It was only warm for a few minutes until the sun went away and then a cold wind pushed us around for the remainder.
As we entered the stadium (smaller than some high school football stadiums) we had to show our IDs to the cops and get frisked. Pablo explained that the team was bankrupt and a city judge had suggested selling the team to settle the debt. As a result, about 80 members of the barra brava (soccer hooligans who essentially run mafia-like control on teams in Argentina) threatened to kill the judge if he did so. In fact, one song they sang repeated, “If you don’t want any violence, don’t sell.” Even though these hooligans were banned from the games (hence the ID check), Pablo pointed out across the field to a fence with a hole with it where a mass of men were jumping around. Those were the banned hooligans who would watch the game illegally, and though the police knew about it, they did nothing. The hooligans’ control is unquestionable, and to face them head-on is like facing a gang member willing to die over territory.
A number of chants and slurs were thrown out by everyone which I shouldn’t repeat in good company, but I found it odd as an old grandpa would shout horrific things towards the field while his little granddaughter in pink sat on his lap. This is Argentina and this is soccer–it’s a different beast altogether. The most amazing thing was that there couldn’t have been more than 200 fans in the stands, yet they chanted consistently throughout the game and louder than any televised game played by the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field I’ve ever seen, for example. Other sports apply to this as well. So many of these fans don’t even watch the game, and their job is just to jump around, start new songs, and play instruments like drums or trumpets. They are essentially cheerleaders.
With halftime we got a hamburger and Coke and Pablo talked with a friend, and I swear I’ve never heard so many “boludo‘s” dropped in a consecutive sentence. (Boludo is lunfardo, or slang for something along the lines of “asshole”, “buddy”, “guy”, etc. Used in context it can be a filler word or an insult, but either way it always makes me laugh). The second half started and we were both freezing, but the score remained the same. Eventually Pablo noticed that they were playing safely and asked someone what the score was. Apparently in the first five minutes that we missed, Comunicaciones scored a goal, and thus Pablo wanted to kill me again. The game was almost ending and suddenly Comunicaciones scored another goal, and the fans went nuts, which you can see in the video below. So hey, even though we missed a goal, we saw another.
Now all I have to do is see a complete top tier game, and even though I am still desperately trying to get an affordable ticket for a Boca Juniors game, I’ve so far had no luck. Maybe next time.