The Superclasico. There is nothing in the world like it.
Boca Juniors and River Plate are the two most successful and popular teams in the history of Argentine soccer. As I have noted before, as far as sports go, soccer is life down here. So when it comes to a rivalry like the one between these two, the teams are out for blood.
Both teams have their roots in the working-class Buenos Aires neighborhood of La Boca, situated at the Southeastern corner and port area of the city. However, River soon moved North to the upper-class neighborhood of Nuñez. This led to the moniker “Millonarios”, meaning “Millionaires”, from the Boca fans. Many times the Boca fans are referred to as “Los Chanchitos” (Little Pigs) because of the supposedly bad smell of their stadium in La Boca.
Whatever the stereotypes are, the fans of Boca and River are absolutely crazy. My friends and I decided upon arriving 4 months ago that this was one match that was absolutely necessary to attend. The rivalry is legendary; it seems that almost everyone in the city roots for one of the two teams. To get tickets is quite difficult; we had to go through a middle man and it cost us about 75$ US. But it was well worth it.
We arrived at Monumental Stadium, home of River Plate, with about an hour and half to go before the game started. Even at that point, the fans were rowdy and the stands were filled as the reserve squads played an exhibition. We struggled for some time to find a spot until just before the big game began.
All of the sudden, we noticed a wide open space of about 4 rows right behind the goal box. These seats were too good to be true, and we grabbed them immediately. Soon, we found out why fans had not occupied this area. With about 10 minutes to go before the game, all the (insane) River fans in our section reached into their jackets and pulled out long red sticks: smoke flares.
The River fans were completely unaffected. They simply stood there, shirts off, chanting, absorbing all, turning around and taunting the Boca fans above us, and spewing streams of various insults. We joined in, and were immediately converted to River fans. Of course, to do otherwise would be give yourself a death sentence.
The game was incredible. The entire hour and half was one huge riot. In the 53rd minute, River scored a goal. The result was complete mayhem. Everyone screamed, debris was thrown.
At the end of the night, it was a River victory, and the fans were wild. We were forced to wait 45 minutes after the game to leave, to avoid riots and violence that would have been caused by interaction with the Boca fans. All in all, the event was the most unforgettable sports experience of my life, and we all walked away in awe of the fútbol culture.
In the United States, we do not have one sport that everyone follows. We have our pastimes, but nothing comes close to passion that soccer fans in Argentina have. It was amazing to be a part of that experience.
Well, I have only 8 DAYS left in Argentina! I can not believe how quickly the time has disappeared. I have met amazing people and seen amazing places. Though I will miss Argentina greatly, I also can not wait to be home and see my family and friends!
Expect probably one more blog post before I leave Argentina, and one more coming back to the US, and then that will probably be it! Thanks everyone!