Buenos Aires, Argentina
23.10.2011 - 23.10.2011 25 °C
23rd October 2011
It's a Sunday afternoon, about 3pm, when I'm ushered onto an old rickety bus full of tourists sporting boca juniors shirts. After a tour of the hostels and a short drive, we pull up in a back street behind the stadium. We're ushered along in single file looking every bit the tourist. Once through the turnstiles, we begin our ascent to the very top of the stadium. Our tickets are for the standing section at the south end of the stadium directly behind the goal. It's one of only two standing areas. It's an hour and a half before the game is due to kick off and already a tightly packed crowd is jostling for prime standing space. Us gringos stick out a mile.
The crowd is already pretty active. Various chants with familiar sounding undertones ring through the stadium as the crowd around us warm up their vocal cords. We watch as the rest of the stadium begins to fill up seat-by-seat. The crowd gets noisy as kick off approaches. The teams emerge on to the field from two inflatable tunnels surrounding the dug outs. The volume goes up another notch. As the teams take their positions and the whistle blows, streamers pour from the stadium. A huge flag descends over the crowd and sight of the pitch is lost as we're enveloped in blue and yellow material. As the flag recedes, long swathes of material are tied to the barriers at the front. Fans climb onto the railings and use these to hold themselves up. It's impossible to stand behind them - the view is blocked by tattooed half naked bodies. They sway incredibly unstably as they chant and regularly fall off. A sing-off commences between the two ends of the stadium. The crowd is more fascinating than the football game.
Down on the pitch the lads work hard, and it's not long before they've brought one home for the team. The stadium erupts with streamers, horns and wild screaming. The entire stadium bounces with the raucous applause and a streaker tries his luck on the pitch. Before long it's half time. The crowd hardly dissipates. Police and press photographers line the pitch in front of us. Some cheerleaders emerge to entertain the crowd though nobody really notices them. The attention seems mainly to be on our stand.
After half-time, the boys return triumphant in their half time up-man-ship. The crowds climb back onto the railings and the sing-off escalates. But suddenly it's 2-2, and Boca looks like it needs to fight to bring home a clear victory. It's by no means an easy feat. The fans go crazy as another goal is scored. As the final whistle blows, the scores are in, and Boca Juniors have done it again...
As the crowds recede, we are made to wait behind the high barriers that separate us from the rest of the crowd. It seems that the rich are separated from the poor; the expensive seat tickets from the cheap standing ones where there is a real danger of being crushed; the crowd that behaves from the crowd that does not; and the hooligans from civilised society...