Sunday, August 10, 2008
One of my main goal for Buenos Aires was to attend a Boca Juniors football game because I was told that of crazy sports venues around the world, the Boca Juniors La Bombonera stadium is among the elite.
After my experience at the FC Barcelona versus Chivas match in Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles I learned that nothing State-side can come close to the fan experience of a good football match.
Although I've never attended a Superbowl, I can't imagine sitting next to Gary, who is only at the game because he works for sponsor #7,398, who gave him tickets as a reward for closing the most deals in January, is better than sitting next to some psychopath who has the team name tatted all over his body and acts like his life depends on getting his section as hyped as possible.
The fact that I even went to the Boca opener today was odd, as one minute I was enjoying some midday raviolis and the next minute I was propositioned my housemate Johnathon to attend the game. I felt like complete shit from the night before and from my fifth cold of my time here, but I didn't hesitate to confirm that I would be going.
We hopped on a bus and arrived at La Bombonera unsure we would even be able to get tickets. At first my friends wanted to get tickets in the seated area, but a 170-peso price tag put those out of the question.
We copped some 24-peso general admission tickets and started walking through the line. The line was relatively calm, which was surprising because I thought all the cops surrounding us in complete riot gear (shield, full mask and billy club) would have had more of a reason to be in full defense mode.
We walked into the north end of the stadium and took our "seats" which were really just huge, steep concrete steps because the general area is just that gully. Johnathon, who's from London, said that terrace style seating like in La Bombonera is now illegal in England after one stadium had several terrace-related deaths do to over-selling the section.
We were 90 minutes early and I was pretty bored with how quiet everything was. I started to think that maybe the whole experience was over-hyped and maybe La Bombonera would just be mild sporting event.
I decided to get my fix of choripan, an incredible sausage sandwich that probably takes three years off your life per sandwich. Unlike American sports they don't rip you off at sporting events as I could get my big choripan for 5 pesos.
I paid and the dude behind the counter grabbed my choripan off the grill with his hand that wasn't holding his cigarette and plopped my choripan sans any napkin or plate directly on the dirty counter between us. I ate up because choripan is that good. And yes, at a sporting event I'd rather pay 5 pesos (1.60 USD) for a choripan that breaks multiple US health codes than pay 12 USD for mediocre hotdog wrapped in foil.
I then sat again waiting for shit to get crazy not knowing that I was in the calm before the storm.
Twenty minutes before the game began everyone stood up as a band began to play from the top of our section commencing what would be two hours of madness. Confetti began to rain down as everyone sang various chants. Many balanced themselves on tiny ledges and railings that stood to offer some kind of balancing help in our section. They stood and jumped up and down on the railings balancing themselves with banners for the entire game.
Then the most massive flag I have ever seen in my life came down and covered our entire section, the flag literally covered an entire fourth of the stadium.
My personal favorite fan was the guy pictured to the left in the picture above. Throughout the entire game he was passionately singing along to every chant and staring everyone in the section down, shooting us all the "if you don't sing, I will fucking murder your family" look.
He also had "BOCA" tatted across his knuckles and he had Diego Maradona's Boca jersey tatted on his forearm.
Other danced with umbrellas in the stadium and I don't mean personal umbrellas you would use for a rainstorm, I'm talking about large restaurant patio-size umbrellas.
At one point I manned up and hopped on the ledge right beside me. As soon as I got up the man already on the ledge gave me the "Get. the. fuck. off. my. ledge." look of death. I promptly got off his ledge.
There was one chant which required everyone to bounce around like we were in a mosh pit, except that we were on a 70-degree slope of 10-inch wide cement stairs.
As for the actual game Boca was in control the entire time and after a 0-0 halftime, Boca came out and scored four goals to win, 4-0.
We all stood in our seats for 15 minutes after the game until I asked my friend why we hadn't started to exit yet.
"It's because they have to let the opposing team's fans out first or we'll murder them," he said.
Then I thought about it, although I couldn't tell you where the opposing team Gimnasia was from or name one player on their team, this was my first time watching them play and we won 4-0, strangely enough I wanted to fucking kill all the Gimnasia fans.
And that is the spirit of La Bombonera. Then the real spirit of La Bombonera began to show.
Despite winning the season-opening game 4-0, after being caged up in our section for 20 minutes some fans started to get edgy.
Then people began to push everyone down as fights broke out in the crowd. It was crazy to see gaps in the crowd roll through the crowd as everyone tried to back up from who ever was trying to kill each other.
Eventually we walked through the urine-covered hallways, got out safely and walked toward the buses taking us home.
I'm currently tossing around the idea of trying to make it to every Boca home game and work my way up to the Boca/Rio Plato game, which is supposed to be sheer insanity.
--The following are pics my friend Yakub took as he was brave enough to bring his camera to the game.
This is the huge 12th man flag.
A pic of the east side of the stadium.
Note the riot police in the background as a fan scales the barbwire fence.
Cheerleaders with their asses hanging out.
Untitled from Justin Adler on Vimeo.