Wednesday, October 18, 2006

River vs. Boca SuperClassico

Here is a sad fact. Among the billions of people who live on this planet I am among the minority when I say that I am not a futbol fan. I don’t mean football (I am a fan of football even if both the Dolphins and the Sun Devils are taking losing to new heights), I mean futbol – the sport played with your feet by a bunch of guys less than 6 feet tall. So, it somewhat ironic that I got tickets to the River/Boca game – surely this is an experience that should go to someone who at least knows the rules. But life is not fair. I got a ticket and I went.

River vs. Boca is not just any game. It is the sporting event that Sports Illustrated says is among the 10 best sporting events in the world. The Guardian Observer (UK) says River vs. Boca is THE sporting event you need to go to before you die. I don’t plan on dieing soon, but that didn’t keep from going.

Being a bunch of gringos we hired a professional guide to take us to the game. Our guide started off with a simple rule. We were to cheer for River (since our seats were in the River section). If Boca scored we were to boo. If we didn’t he couldn’t guarantee our safety. I think what he was trying to say was if we cheered for Boca he was going to stand by and watch us get beat up – but he wanted to say it in a nice way.

So there we are in a big white bus on our way to the stadium, When we were about a mile from the stadium we noticed that the police were forcing the fans for the two teams to use separate side of the street. I thick what caught our attention was the tank (as in big gun on tracks) they were using to divide the fans. They seemed pretty serious about keeping the fans separated

River Stadium seats about 75,000. Of those seats about 5,000 are reserved for Boca fans. You can tell where the Boca fans are by looking for the 12-foot fence with razor wire. An hour before the game River fans has had already started singing. I think the first song was the ever popular, “I hate Boca fans”. Luckily the 5,000 Boca fans had their own “I hate River fans” song. So, here we are locked in a stadium where the fans are so passionate that the police don’t let them walk down the street together and 70,000 people are taunting 5,000 who are being kept in a section surrounded by razor wire – and people say American football is violent.

About 30 minutes before the game started the teams were introduced. The introduction of River was followed by the hard-core River fans entering the upper deck of the stadium. About 1,000 fans stream out of entryway carrying umbrellas and playing drums and singing the River song – as they come in someone released red and white smoke, which just about filled the stadium. Here is a link to some video of the event – not ours, but I found it on the internet.

Then the announcer introduced Boca and all kinds of mayhem broke out in the Boca section. Same kind of thing with flags, singing and dancing – only this time the River fans were singing even louder (they really don’t like the thought of singing a Boca song in River Stadium). At one point in this process I looked around and noticed that about 7,000 were giving the Boca fans the “bird” – not sure why, but it was as good a time as any to get your frustrations out.

Once the game started you could see that the passions applied to the players as well. Within 4 minutes of the start of the game two players had been removed on stretchers – this was going to be an intense game. I hope they brought extra players.

Boca scored first. We thought about cheering because it was an amazingly athletic move, but then we looked around and decided that being the only people cheering who were not separated from the crowd by a 12-foot fence might be an invitation. We booed – really loudly.

Then River scored. I thought I might go deaf – they say that Seahawks stadium is the loudest in the NFL. Jon, a guy from Seattle who goes to those games, said this was the loudest thing he had ever experienced in a stadium (or he might have said that he was experience cramps in his cheering arm – it was really loud and hard to hear). Thank god half time is coming.

Half time entertainment was a folk singer. He sang his little ditty (George Bush eats excrement) while nice looking young people carried an enormous banner that read “No Mas Violencia”. Somehow I don’t think that is going to keep this crowd from getting after each other – but I appreciated the effort.

The second half proved to be a fantastic game. I have seen several Major League Soccer games in the U.S. and as much as I like those guys, this was an entirely different sport. The players on both teams played with such speed and their skill with the ball was just amazing. I can’t do the game justice, but it was an amazing display of athleticism.

River scored two more goals in the second half – Boca was shut out. Interestingly the Boca fans didn’t sulk or make their way out of the stadium quietly. Instead they stood defiantly singing and chanting. A couple of minutes before the end of the game the people running the stadium asked that everyone stay in their seats at the conclusion of the game. They had decided to allow the Boca fans to leave the stadium first. Following the lines of good sportsmanship that had been displayed throughout this game the Boca fans remained in their seats chanting and singing for about 90 minutes after the game ended. Finally the police had to remove them from their section – I guess they were tired of the Boca fans burning things in the stands and throwing whatever they could rip up down onto the seats below them.

So, including all of the pregame chanting and the post-games displays we were at the stadium for 6 hours. And, the crowd never stopped cheering and singing. It is indeed something you need to see to believe.

Sorry about the long post – I would blame it on Jan, but I can’t think of a reason….


At 9:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Rowan and I are sitting here wondering just one thing... You cheered for River?!?!?!?!

At 11:41 AM , Anonymous Lucas said...

Just one correction: the The Guardian Observer's article referred to the match, BUT played in La Bombonera (the chocolate box - Boca stadium)..... it's a whole different event, believe me!!!!
Boca fans are known for being the most supportive, chanting and singing even when the team is not doing well; that's why they are called Jugador Numero 12 (number 12 player) since they can help the team win....
Anyway, great post!!!! Saludos!!!


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