Postcard from Argentina: part four

By | Category: Travel destinations

Kaye’s constant quest for adventure has taken her back to Argentina – the land of gauchos, glaciers, football, tango and beef

Continued from last time

In my last note, I wrote that you can’t go to Argentina and not visit Patagonia. It’s a sentiment that still holds true but it’s also fair to say that you shouldn’t leave Argentina without watching a live football (or futbol as they call it out here) match.

To say that the Argentines adore football is arguably the understatement of the century. Football isn’t just a game in this country – it’s a religion (I’d go so far as to say that soccer has replaced the church).

Even if you don’t share the Argentine’s passion for the beautiful game,  chances are you won’t be able to escape it. Futbol is everywhere you turn, down every street, in every house, lurking in every shop. And if you’re visiting Buenos Aires in particular, there’s absolutely no getting away from it (there are around two dozen professional teams in Argentina’s charismatic capital alone).

Case in point? One of the first questions I was asked upon arriving in Argentina was “Who do you support?” – proof, if it was needed, that futbol is a prime topic of conversation.

The country’s favourite team is Buenos Aires based Boca Juniors who owe their mythical status to Argentina’ s most famous son: Diego Maradona (a man who made a helluva lot of noise both on and off the pitch).

la b

As an enthusiastic football fan, Boca Juniors has always been on my radar but I am not so clued up on Buenos Aires’ other clubs so, one evening, I decided to ask Matias and Cande – the lovely local couple with whom I am staying – for the skinny on BA’s remaining sides. My mistake: Matias – a devout River Plate (known as the Millionaires due to the money spent on players in the 1930s) fan – gave me a long look before replying: “There are no other teams…” Such is the fervour of the Argentine football fans. But while Matias might not like to admit it, Racing Club, San Lorenzo (Pope Francis is a fan), Independiente and, of course, Boca are all a big footballing deal – both in Buenos Aires and beyond.

bomba

As is the national team thanks to its World Cup success (the Argentine team has reached the World Cup final no fewer than five occasions, most recently in 2014, and triumphed twice in 1978 and 1986). The national side also took gold at the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008 and has won the feted Copa America an incredible 14 times  (Uruguay – which has 15  championships – is the only side that has been more successful in the tournament).

After five weeks in Argentina, I knew I had to experience the national passion for myself. And despite my  new friend Nicolas – a die hard Racing fan – vowing that our fledgling friendship would be over if I opted to watch a club other than his side Racing play (he was only half joking), I had my heart set on watching Boca Juniors – the people’s club – play at the legendary La Bombonera stadium in working class La Boca.

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Why? Well I wanted, even if only for one day, to be a Bostero – as Boca supporters (who tend to come from the working classes and migrant communities) are often referred to.  Boca fans are also justly known as El jugador no 12 (player number 12) or la dolce (the 12) owing to the difference they can make to a match. Plus Boca was the first club of one Diego Armando Maradona – the street kid with a gift from God who succeeded in escaping the Argentine shanty town of Villa Fiorito, where he shared a room with seven siblings, to become the only footballer to set world-record for contract fees twice. Lastly I love the la azul y oro (Boca’s blue and gold strip) – something you may find endearing and pathetic in roughly equal measures.

And so I had my club.  But bagging tickets to Boca’s opening game of the season against Atletico Tucuman was anything but easy, partly because of the team’s popularity – around 40 per cent of Argentines consider themselves Bosteros (or los puercos [pigs] as arch rivals River Plate refer to Boca fans owing to the fact that La Bombonera is located in a less than salubrious area that’s said to smell!).

stadium
Subsequently Boca doesn’t even put tickets to its matches on sale to the general public but, where there’s a will, there’s a way. My friend Priscilla met a Porteno who knew a friend, who had a friend, who had a friend that could get us in. Result! This involved a trip to La Boca the day before the big game to meet the touts who instructed us to return at 3pm sharp on match day – despite the fact that the game didn’t even kick off until 7.15pm.

To read the second part of Kaye’s postcard from Argentina: part four, don’t forget to log onto Just About Travel tomorrow!

To read part one of Kaye’s Postcard from Argentina series, please click here

To read part two of Kaye’s Postcard from Argentina series, please click here

To read, part three of Kaye’s Postcard from Argentina series, please click here

Words and pictures: Kaye Holland

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