Them words just go together don’t they? Any football fan will know thats a huge game. In Argentina, well it is life or death, literally. These hardly fought teams over the years have battled until the end, until now there has been that much violence and trouble with both sets of supporters, including deaths for both sets, its forbidden to allow away support in League and Cup domestic games.
However, there is an exhibition match played every summer, before the league begins. This allows for both fans to attend in a more friendly nature, albeit it still hostile. The location this year was Mar Del La Plata, a rich seaside town 5 hours south of Buenos Aires. Tickets were sold out, but I had to go. There was no way I wasn’t.
Giving it was high season and the game itself, EVERYTHING in terms of accommodation was booked out. Luckily, I only brought a small bag with me with the essentials. Setting off late, me and an American backpacker, decided to hit the road and get involved. After getting there, and a few moments of diddling about, we decided to head straight to the game and see if we could get in. It was more difficult than I thought, but honestly I knew I’d get in. I had been through similar scenarios, and there is always a way, always.
Firstly, I had to convince the policia who were commanding the outside area, just let me near the stadium. First, a women officer seemed adamant not to let me through, only for me to insist I was getting tickets from a friend. A little white lie doesn’t hurt. The policia man let me through. It wasn’t like anyone else wasn’t passing through ticketless either, we just got stopped because we kind of looked like tourists. My American backpacker friend did anyway.
Reaching the outskirts of the stadium, it was like a war was about to happen. Policia helicopters hovering above the stadium, riot squads everywhere, this was real. I had been warned about lots of fake ticket offerings. I knew what was what so I was pretty confident when I turned down a couple of offers for tickets after getting a glance at them. They looked like they had just been printed from a Word document! I was willing to pay 600 ARG Pesos, so around 50US Dollars. It was Boca V River! Maybe once in a lifetime.
Anyhow I managed to speak to a guy who said in Spanish, that we would pay him 600 each inside. Little to know what his plan was at first, it soon became clearly obvious. He had clearly experience in situations like this, and he knew one of the younger ticket security officers. I recall glancing at a nod from the seller and officer to say wait. Yet the seller tried to distract the other officers whilst we got in. It was SO obvious, it was insane. But I knew it would kinda work eventually. It just didn’t at first because of the lack of number of fans coming in this particular turnstile, limiting the camoflauged approach. Eventually, we got in after a few knock backs. We didn’t have tickets in the end, we just snuck in! Crazy to think for such a big, policed and high profile game.
Now it was time to find somewhere to actually see the game. The Stadium had a walking area that sloped into the standing area where all the Boca fans stood. That was our place. After a few attempts walking around, we seen a gap of a big Boca fan, letting people through this gap between fans. I asked if him if we could go too. He knew we were tourists, despite me now having my Boca jersey on. He shouted “20 Pesos! “ Then laughed and waved for us to come in. We were behind the goal, centre with Boca fans who were constantly partying, jumping and singing.
First half still, I remember saying to my fellow backpacker “ Imagine if Boca score, this will go off!” Guess what happened next?
Around 8-9 seconds later, the ball was in the back of the net. The place erupted! People piled forward the standing area, huge flags were flopping around, people falling onto each other and that whole Latin Cheering Echoing around the arena, sounding like a ‘Ohhhhhhhhh’ but with a hint of a Spanish twang. It was crazy. Such a passionate moment. This meant everything to these fans. Such a passionate Derby, such a battle between both.
The fans sometimes don’t realise half what’s going on the pitch. They are too involved in there own party atmosphere, reaction times can be slow. But then again, they won’t miss a blatant incident if play is building up and fast paced. There was several red cards and the reaction was almost as if they expected this to happen, it wasn’t a surprise or something new, and not really something to be bothered about. Compared to games across in England that I’m use to, this was strange. A red card would signal the start of constant booing and cursing from fans from then on.
Anyway, the match played out at 1-0 to Boca. Such a passionate fixture this was. And for when Boca scored the winning goal, I couldn’t have been better placed to celebrate it.