Tag Archives: futbol

My First Experience with the Boca Juniors

18 Apr

Inside La Bombanera

I’ve been trying to get down to see the Boca Juniors for over a year and a half, but it’s always been one excuse after another to keep me from going. At first, I lived six blocks or so from the stadium and kept telling myself that I’d get there eventually. No rush. Then it became difficult to actually find available tickets, or the price was too high, or finding someone to go with was impossible, and on and on. I came to the conclusion just a few weeks ago that I would never actually make it to a game—that was until Friday, when I saw that Félix from MixUp had tickets for $150 pesos. While it’s still more expensive than most games, for a Boca Juniors game, $150 is about as cheap as you’ll ever find it from a legitimate source.

I thought I’d go alone but then I remembered that Nima, a newcomer to Buenos Aires who contacted me through my blog, was interested in going to a game as well. Nima said that he and a few friends would definitely want to go, so we arranged for six tickets. We all jumped down to La Boca on the 152 and got off right in front of the stadium, and in just a moment’s time we helped ourselves to some choripan (which you’ll remember is a spicy sausage sandwich.) I was told long ago that the choriby the Boca stadium is the best in the city, and it was definitely a higher quality sausage. If it was the best I’ve had, I’m not sure, but I’d eat there again. There are tons of food stands around which pretty much only sell choripan or hamburgers, or maybe a bondiola (pork) sandwich if you’re lucky.

An hincha, or fan

As we headed towards the long line going into the blue and yellow stadium (the colors come from the Swedish flag), we had to wait as the freight train of soccer hooligans came through. Everyone backed away as they passed proudly, and clearly the hooligans were in control of the area. The last thing anyone would ever want to do is step on one of their shoelaces. Once in the line we went through periods of stopping and starting. Moving ahead a few yards and then stopping and waiting again. It was at the first bottleneck where we ran into some problems. One of the kids in the group held up his ticket to show a guard, and the guard pulled him out of the line. We later found out that he was told his ticket was fake and was sent home. The line pushed us all ahead so that we couldn’t go back, and what I assume happened is he broke protocol by showing his ticket, marking him as a foreigner, and he was simply pulled out. Maybe the guard went on to sell his ticket to someone else. Who knows?

It’s a shame that he couldn’t get in, but he didn’t seem to mind too much according to texts during the game. We continued as people shoved past, reaching two police checkpoints where they patted us down, and finally we reached the gate after about 40 minutes. Suddenly at the turnstile my ticket didn’t work, and I was told to leave the gate and find some guy in a blue shirt, who would give me a new one. It sounded incredibly sketchy, but the guy by chance came up to the gate and said to wait for him. He came back and we went over to someone else, who called in the ticket number and gave me another out of a large stack. Nothing smelled right about it, but I got in, though I was now separated from the others who had already gone in.

I was pretty aggravated because part of the experience for me would be sharing it with other people, and it ruined the mood of the start of the game. Alone, I kept looking around trying to sight the other guys, and to check on my own safety, rather than entirely focus on the match. I snapped a few photos even though I had been warned to have nothing of value on me, and eventually I eased into accepting that I could try to meet up at halftime. Our tickets were in the Popular, or General section, meaning we were right in there with the hinchas, or hooligans and die hard fans. As the game started you could feel the stadium shake, and the hinchas jumped and yelled profanities at the top of their lungs. Far away from an office or worksite, these loyal fans let it all out on game day. I tried to blend in as best as I could, with my Argentina national team hat on (mostly to cover up my blond hair), a simple black jacket and old Boca jersey underneath. Every once in a while I would wave my hand in a gesture that all the fans do periodically, though I can’t really figure out what it represents.

Neverending chanting

And though I’d been warned by everyone about my safety, I never really felt unsafe. It’s true—if a Boca Juniors game in the Popular section was your first experience with Latin American soccer, you might freak out. But I’d been to a few games before, and even in a laid back game in Cuenca, Ecuador, they lit off road flares inside as the game started. The fact that Tigre is a traditionally bad team and not much of a rival might have tamed the crowd, or maybe being fluent in Spanish made it less scary, but I personally felt okay. Still, I kept my eyes about just to be safe.

Things went badly quickly for Boca, as Tigre scored two quick goals. Yet every time the other team scores, the fans simply get louder and cheer harder, either to block out the other team’s cries of joy or to show their support for their team. It’s a beautiful concept that you won’t find in American sports. The moment your team starts to play badly you boo and chant to change it up. Fans walk out once a loss is in sight. But the soccer fans here stick it out, even after two lousy years of play. (I might be bad luck, because as soon as I got here Boca started to play badly).

The mood was lifted just when the game seemed lost because Boca scored two quick goals right before the first half ended. Standing right in the hincha section, the crowd went nuts as people jumped on each other, hugging and kissing or grabbing each other by the shoulder and neck and saying, “I can’t believe it!” or something else similar. With the first half over, I spotted the head of Nima down in the crowd and somehow managed to body surf over people who had sat down to get to the guys. I considered that stepping on people would probably get my ass kicked, but I always excused myself, which seemed to clear up that it wasn’t on purpose, and I was given permission to pass.

Now deep in the hincha section, we were right in front of the real crazy guys who stand on narrow metal posts, hanging by banners and yelling the entire game. They don’t even watch the action because their job is to incite the crowd. Throughout the second half only three songs were sung, with the last one going for a good 30 minutes. I don’t know how they didn’t get sick of it, and even I was eventually mumbling along to what I thought the lyrics were, though it was mostly incomprehensible.

After the game, waiting to leave

Another goal by Tigre was followed up by one more from Boca, and at the end it was a tie, 3-3. Better than a loss, right? Because we were in the Popular section, we had to sit down after the game ended and wait for everyone else to clear out of the stadium. After maybe 40 minutes we were given the OK and we cleared out with everyone else. To end the experience in Boca the guys got another choripan as I opted for a burger, and the in the street a firecracker went off just a few feet from my head as the hooligans went by in their beat up old buses. I’m glad that I finally went down to the stadium and saw a game and lived to tell about it. There aren’t too many things left in the city that I haven’t gotten around to doing now.

Third Tier Soccer Fun in Buenos Aires

24 Oct

Comunicaciones

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.

Flopping is key

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.

Maradona is Out as Argentine Coach

27 Jul

The debate and doubt as to whether Diego Maradona will remain the head coach of the Argentine National Team seems to be over tonight, as word has come down that the Argentine Football Association (AFA) has decided to give him the boot. For now, people are still finding out slowly as the news came towards the end of the news day. Apparently, supporters for Maradona have been protesting outside of the AFA headquarters, and I’m curious to see how the coworkers will respond in the morning. Maradona is a love to hate sort of character, and if anything can be said about him and his performance in the World Cup, he certainly made it more entertaining.

I noticed that before the World Cup began, there wasn’t much faith and if anything, downright disdain for the fallen hero. But once the team advanced well people started to get behind him, seemingly saying, “maybe he knows what he’s doing after all.” But immediately after the team was eliminated the talk was back to him being an imbecile. I’ll keep you tuned as to how the locals react over time.

Dreams of World Cup Glory Crushed

3 Jul

On little sleep I hurried across Recoleta to get on the C line, connect with the B line and rush through the streets of Almagro that I don’t know at all to a bar called El Banderín to watch the game this morning with some friends. Argentina vs. Germany, elimination stage of the World Cup. The city was already buzzing and things felt alive. Everyone else was already there getting their coffee and croissants when I walked into the packed cafe, so it took me a while to get my own. A raucous group of women next to us wouldn’t stop screaming and was actually shooshed several times throughout the game.

Immediately as the game started, Germany came out attacking hard and making Argentina look like second string amateurs. Their early goal deflated the mood throughout the city, but with so much time left on the clock it was hard to feel totally crestfallen. But Argentina continued to play sloppily for the next 10-15 minutes, causing everyone in the bar to scream and bang the tables in frustration. Bad passes, missed opportunities, and lackluster moves were soon forgotten as Argentina began to dominate the game for the next half and a half. It really seemed like Argentina was doing as they wished, and if it weren’t for the score they would have seemed like World Champions, yet scores are the only things that matter in sports.

Argentina wasn’t getting many good looks towards the net and it seemed like anytime they got near it, a giant German came in to stomp the ball away. Take away the fact that a goal was taken away for an obvious offside, and the game was still not in their hands totally. As that overturned goal first went in the bar went into pandemonium, with screams so loud that the blasting TV was droned out. But once we realized what happened, the energy flattened out quickly. And with the second German goal, things looked dim. From then on it appeared as though Argentina just gave up, and those last two goals to finish it off at 4-0 were more of a slap in the face and acceptance of defeat. They couldn’t even score one goal.

The game drew more questions, like why Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, didn’t score one goal throughout the World Cup, or why the team played so sloppily at the beginning of the match. We lazily ambled out of the cafe in defeat and had to deal with the remaining beautiful and hot day, despite the fact that it is winter. A few of us headed to Puerto Madero for some lunch and then to Plaza San Martin to watch the Paraguay vs. Spain game, surrounded by Paraguayans and two or three Spaniards who had bottles thrown at them when they finally scored and knocked out Paraguay. Another crowd of sad fans. So now we need to find a new thing to look forward to, which can only be the spring. It’s going to be a boring and upsetting winter here in Buenos Aires.

Here is a short video showing the tension of World Cup soccer in South America.

Argentina Beats Greece, Advances to Next Round

22 Jun

TITAN. Palermo sella el 2-0 y desata la locura en Polokwane.  (AFP)This afternoon Argentina played Greece in the World Cup, and the entire country had permission to leave the office or stop working at 3:30 pm. With my coworkers I went to Plaza San Martin near our office, following the excited crowds to where a Fan Zone and giant screen were set up. Unfortunately we left too late and by the time we got there, the crowds were out of control and we couldn’t get a spot anywhere. Through the mess we lost two from out group and had to continue without them. For some reason I was put in charge of the mate, a big responsibility on my shoulders. But as Vero said when we walked over, “You’re one of us now.” That was just the kind of compliment I needed.

Those who were left scrambled to find a place to watch, and we eventually settled on Pancho’s, a little hot dog bar inside a strip mall off of Florida Street. It wasn’t the ideal place, but at least they had HDTV and it wasn’t too packed. We crammed into the back and leaned against the bar side by side. Tension was high because winning would seal the deal and allow Argentina to advance to the elimination round, though a tie didn’t necessarily guarantee anything.

After halftime with no score, we busted out the mate, though only myself and two others were drinking it. All that work for nothing, but at least it made me feel a bit more Argentinian. Right towards the end of the game Argentina scored two goals to seal the victory. The excitement was kind of thrown off because another store was getting their feed a few seconds before us, meaning that when the goals were scored, we could hear the cheers just before we saw what happened. Still, excitement was high, and after the game ended we slowly walked back to the office for another hour of work.

It was amazing going back into the street and seeing how dead everything was. The entire country literally shuts down during these soccer games. Little leaflets coated the street and the far off sounds of honking horns and cheering crowds moving closer towards the center would alert even the most clueless of visitors that something big was going down. Argentina’s victory means that they will now advance to play Mexico on Sunday at 6:30 pm, Buenos Aires time. I kind of wish the game was during the week because it’s been really exciting to see everyone around and cheerful for the games, not to mention getting out of work for a couple of hours. With elimination being the name of the game now, I can’t wait to see just how much more intense this city can get.

Photo courtesy of Clarin

World Cup Weekend

13 Jun

Even though yesterday was a raw, rainy and gray day, there was excitement and fun on the horizon. The reason, of course, was the World Cup. The two big games of the day were Argentina vs. Nigeria at 11 am (Buenos Aires time) and the U.S.A. vs. England at 3:30 pm. It seems like most of the city took it easy on Friday night to wake up nice and fresh for the game in the morning. I was told that every channel would be playing the game so I made some breakfast and casually turned to channel 2. The news anchors were talking about the excitement of the game and showing fans watching in Plaza San Martin on the giant screens, so I just assumed they would cut to the game any moment.

But 10 minutes after 11 I grew worried and changed the channel, just in time to see that 5 minutes has already passed and Juan Veron was just lining up to take the shot that would be the first goal of the game. Suddenly the city exploded and noise was all around. The TV was blaring horns for the entirety of the match and during half time someone down the hall came outside to blow their horn for a few minutes. Normally that would be very inappropriate and cause complaint, but since it was World Cup time, it made total sense and no one cared.

Eventually Argentina won the game 1-0 and I prepared to head down to San Telmo. I was going to meet up with some British guys at a new bar owned by Americans called The Northside. The $25 peso cover charge came with $25 worth of drinks, so it wasn’t too bad of a deal, especially since pints cost $10. Though I was surrounded by British fans in the corner, it seemed like there were more Americans in the bar, and when the Star Spangled Banner was sung, we stood up proudly. In the meantime, the Brits and I joking trash talked back and forth, though I admittedly don’t know enough about the sport to say anything meaningful.

With the quick goal for England I took some abuse, but we all followed along on the giant screens happily. Even though most Americans don’t care about soccer, you can’t help but get excited for World Cup action and the representatives of your country. There was a really great vibe in the fully packed bar and the whole experience was fun. When the U.S. finally scored their lucky goal, the Britons moaned in anger, but things stayed tied up and the game ended 1-1. After early day drinking we all eventually filed out of the bar slowly and called it a night.

The soccer action continues today, though with much less excitement for me. Still, Germany plays today and since they always have a good team, it will be fun to watch for sure. And then of course comes the nonstop banter on the games tomorrow at work. And the next day. And the next.

Translating and World Cup Deportations

8 Jun

Some progress was made with the translator issue today. I was able to contact someone listed as a public translator and they quickly replied to me. Though the price listed was high ($184 pesos), I’m not in much of a position to negotiate, so I spent my lunch break walking down near the Registro Civil to drop off my birth certificate and Apostille. As soon as I checked my email again, however, I saw that a second translator I contacted responded with an even lower price ($114 pesos). But oh well, there’s hardly anything I can do about it now. The translation will be ready on Monday.

The big deal this morning was the news that part of the Argentinian soccer hooligans sent to South Africa to root on the team have been deported. Apparently about 80 were sent and maybe 15 were immediately deported upon arriving in South Africa. Though they weren’t even supposed to be allowed out of the country because they are criminals and have cases pending, they somehow got through customs. Once airborne, they were supposedly causing trouble on the plane, which caused the pilot to alert airport security once they landed.

Not only that, but some of these hooligans didn’t even have tickets to the games and were merely there as “support.” It’s an embarrassing situation for Argentina, and when talking with some people today they seemed genuinely disappointed in their fellow countrymen. It’s a stain on the World Cup which hasn’t even begun yet. The festivities, which kick off on Thursday, are drawing excitement here even though most people don’t have much faith.

In the office there has been talk about how we could watch games while working, and kicking around random things on the ground has increased steadily. Sometimes people ask me who I will cheer for, the U.S. or Argentina. I always say I’ll root for both, and if they somehow wind up playing each other I’ll take it from there.