Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Y la vuelta vamo' a dar

Sensible Argentines and guidebooks alike tell you that you should never, nevereverever, watch an Argentine soccer game from the tribuna popular – the section of the stadium where the barras bravas (fan clubs) chant, dance, curse and jump for the duration of a game. On the Sunday night news, the recap of games frequently shows images of fans fighting the police, fighting one another, lighting flares and climbing the fences and screens that cage them like animals.

But after watching and hearing La Doce, the famed and feared hinchada of Boca Juniors from a seat in the platea (the seats) a few weeks ago, I knew I had to experience it up close.

Naturally, it was something I wouldn’t do alone, but luckily two visitors – two petite, blond American girls were willing to ignore the sensible advice they too had heard.

On Sunday Boca was playing Independiente in the stadium of el Rojo. It was to be decisive, because Boca could clinch the league championship with one game remaining in the season.

We arrived in Avellaneda – the town just south of the capital where both Independiente and their archrival, the beleaguered Racing Club play in adjacent stadiums. The walk from the train station was lined with police in riot gear who, at one intersection, held us up as they let fans of el Rojo head towards their separate entrance.

After being patted down on three separate occasions, we entered the stadium and climbed the bleachers. It was an hour to kick off, and the tribuna was already filled to standing-room capacity.

We pushed our way to a spot in the aisle, and there we stood for the next three hours, pressed against and jostled by strangers who, in the end, reacted to our presence with bemusement and graciousness.

Thirty minutes before kick off, the chants began, interspersed with taunts and insults to the hinchada of Independiente – a swarm of red who returned the songs and puteadas with equal passion.

Ten minutes to kick off, a guy standing next to us turned and shouted to us: “The songs are easy to learn.” He was already hoarse.

And as the teams took the field, I could feel the concrete bleachers vibrate from ten thousand pairs of feet, and the voices of those who surrounded me overwhelmed my ears with a song that hasn’t yet left my head: Boca, mi buen amigo / esta campaña volveremos a estar contigo... (Boca, my good friend, / this campaign we will again be with you).

When Boca scored its two goals, we were caught in an avalanche of bodies rushing towards the field. As I was picked up and pushed forward, I saw the drink vendor go head over heels, his upended tray showering us with Coke.

After their victory (2-0), the Boca players gathered at the goal in front of the tribuna and joined the fans in celebrating their second consecutive league championship. Pato Abbondanzieri, the goalkeeper, scaled the thirty-foot fence and sat on top of it, bookended by fans, and sang, shouted, and pumped his fists (see picture).

There is simply no equivalent in the States to this outpouring of passion and semi-controlled chaos. It is a spectacle that is horrifying and beautiful all at once, and to be in the middle of it – fully aware of the many things that could go wrong – produced both a sense of individual insignificance and a delirious illusion of belonging completely to something epic.

9 Comments:

Blogger Written Goro said...

dammit - couldn't get tickets to this match! My father, brother and a bunch of cousins are Independiente fans. Some other cousins are Racing, my mother is San Lorenzo. I'm not related to any Boca fans that I know of. I'm undecided but leaning toward San Lorenzo. We'll see.

Have you picked?

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Obelix said...

Brendan,

Gran crónica, muchacho !

By the way, es puteadas, no putadas.

Saludos.

Martín, el hermano de Marina.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Almirante Margarito said...

I'm glad you could feel the epic essence of being "bostero".

No puedo creer que hayas ido justo para vernos campeones. Me saco el sombrero.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Brandán Buenosayres said...

¡Qué putada, tío! (dicho con un acento ibérico un poco forzado)... "Puteada" fue lo que quise decir.
Gracias, Martín.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Diego said...

Brendan,

If you're going to pick a team please try to stay away from the River/Boca oligopoly. It's just too easy being a River/Boca fan.

A true hincha knows what it is to suffer, be relegated to the second division, and occasionally fight for the championship.

I didn't have much choice in the matter as I was baptised a Cuervo at birth. Over the past year and a half I've been in Buenos Aires, I've gone to almost every San Lorenzo home game, and endured three mediocre seasons.

Learning the chants, as well as the puteadas, is half the excitement. Here's one of my favourites:

"Dicen que estamos todos de la cabeza. Pero eso a San Lorenzo no le interesa. Tomamos todo el vino de Damajuana. Y nos fumamos toda la Marihuanaaa!!!"

1:43 AM  
Blogger Brandán Buenosayres said...

Diego,

Thankfully I haven't the burden of being born into an hinchada of one team or another. That being said, Marcelo Tinelli alone is enough to keep me away from San Lorenzo. Though the damajuana / marijuana rhyme is so good that i just might forget about Sr. Show Match...

When asked, I tell people I am an hincha of El Globo - Huracán - a team of faded glory, struggling in la B Nacional. Now that's suffering and tragedy.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'll choose All Boys like my hero Etchenike...

12:28 PM  
Blogger chematuco said...

i salute your bravery brandán. however, if you're thinking of supporting a real footyball team, then may i humbly suggest a lifetime of suffering at the hands of Yeovil Town FC.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Rodolfo said...

Hey Brendan! Happened to stumble across your blog and really enjoyed your retelling of your trip to watch boca play indeSINGENTE (oops, I mean independiente)...anyways, being argentine myself and being a rabid RACING fan, I just wanted you to note that the term "barrabravas" is only truly applicable to our local version of hooligans...not fans in general...I really hope this wasn´t your first time at a football stadium in Argentina, if so, you should come check out Racing play one of these days (especially if you sympathize with long suffering teams)...btw. I also like Huracan (their stadium is by far one of the nicest one in Buenos Aires, even if its pretty run down)...bueno loco, un fuerte abrazo y cuando quieras venir a ver a la ACADEMIA estas mas q invitado!

4:42 PM  
Blogger Brandán Buenosayres said...

Gracias por tu comentario Rodolfo. Y aunque es una lástima que no se quedara el Cholo Simeone en la Academia, me encantaría ver otro partido en Avellaneda – y ¡esta vez en la cancha de Racing!
Un abrazo,
Brandán

6:10 PM  

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