Fútbol is a way of life in Argentina. Other sports don’t hold the allure or fervor that fútbol evokes here. Two teams dominate the media–the rivalry between River Plate and Boca Juniors. River Plate recently had the distinction of winning their league, the Clausura, title on June 8 against Los Estudiantes team.
Football stars are treated like superheroes. Lionel Messi is the national fútbol hero at the moment, a deft player. Diego Maradona, the fallen fútbol phenom of the eighties, is still revered. It’s impossible to go a day without seeing his name in the news and celebrity tabloids.
E. and I watched a game against Boca Juniors and team Racing in May. It was exhilarating. The game was held in the Bombonera stadium in La Boca. Bombonera means “Bon bon box” in español, which seems to be a nod to the revelry and indulgences held inside. Boca Juniors colors are Argentine blue and yellow jacket yellow.
The stadium can be a little dangerous for girls and women.
It seemed that for every 200 men we saw, we saw one girl. We stayed clear of the main fan section and the hooligans and had no trouble.
On our way in, we had to wait for the “Racing” team fans to go through a street before the police let us go towards the stadium. The rivalries run deep, and even small taunts can provoke fights or scuffles. We were checked at three checkpoints for lighters, guns, and fireworks.
At the beginning of the game, the fans on the other side of the stadium pulled down a banner in support of the Boca Juniors. I’ve never seen such coordination from a stadium before.
The banner reads, “As we are not the only [team], we decide to be the best.”
At the beginning of the match, the Racing goalkeeper came out and made taunting gestures to our side of Boca fans, which caused uproarious taunts and hand motions to the goalie throughout the game. I loved watching the gesticulations from the fans and hands spearing the air to punctuate certain words in songs.
Boca won the game by two points in the last 30 minutes. The crowd was on its toes, chanting songs against Racing. It was amazing to be tucked away in the stands amid the paper shreds, streamers, and texting fans, sending play by play back to the barrios.