Every day, we come across Argentines tattooed in the colors of their favorite team
Every morning at the youth hostel, we have breakfast under the portrait of the living god Diego Maradona (next to Che Guevara)
24 hours a day, several TV channels broadcast Argentinean or Spanish soccer
In the province of Buenos Aires, there are no less than 19 professional teams and the Superclásico between River Plate and Boca Juniors is reputed to be the hottest derby on the planet
In Argentina, soccer is a religion, impossible to miss
As a soccer fan, the desire is great to discover the atmosphere of the Argentinean stadiums. The timing is perfect: after a few days of strike (due to late wages), the championship starts late, the very WE of our arrival in the capital
As soon as I arrived at our hostel, I inquire about the possibility of attending a match. The receptionist explains to me that an agency offers an “all inclusive” package to attend the River Plate game on Sunday. If I have a reduced budget, I can attend Saturday’s game of his favorite team: San Lorenzo by myself to buy my ticket and go to the stadium
San Lorenzo is cheaper, River Plate is more mythical, what to choose?
After a long reflection of at least 5 minutes I decide: it will be San Lorenzo AND River Plate. The opportunity will not come again soon, we might as well take advantage of it!
San Lorenzo vs Belgrano
San Lorenzo is part of “Los 5 Grandes” of the Argentinean championship. This team is (notably) known to have a great supporter: Pope Francis!
No agency organizes the trip, so I have to make my own arrangements. I go to the club store to buy a ticket
The operation only takes 5 minutes, I just have to choose between the 3 price ranges offered. The popular tribune appeals to me but I promised Anh to be careful and I’m not sure what to expect, so I choose the intermediate range for 400 pesos
The next day, I take the bus around 3pm (the game starts at 5pm). After about an hour of travel I discover the Estadio Pedro Bidegain, a 48,000 seat stadium
Clearly the neighborhood in which the stadium is located is poor, far from the beautiful areas of Buenos Aires. I don’t feel insecure at all but it would surely be different one evening at 11pm. The police presence is important but no more than for a game in the Parc des Princes (with the difference that the Parisian CRS aren’t equipped with shotguns). For the last 10 years, all the matches in Argentina have been played without the presence of opposing supporters..
The indications to find the right access door are non-existent, so I’m having a hard time getting into the stadium, I’m glad I got a little bit ahead of the game
Once in the grandstand, I’m struggling again to find my place (the ground markings have been erased a long time ago), the steward to whom I ask for help shows me the wrong way. It is finally an amused supporter to see a gringo here who will show me my place
It’s the beginning of the game and I quickly understand that I shouldn’t expect too many shows from the field
A festival of missed passes, clumsy forwards, catastrophic defenses, no tactics, … the level of play is very low. All that’s left for the actors is their grinta to give them a little credit. Tackles at knee level, which would be sanctioned in France with a 5 match suspension, are only worth a yellow card here
Until a few years ago, the best Argentine players played a few years in the best clubs before moving to Europe. Now they are leaving before they have even played in a big Argentine team. In fact, Argentina is the country with the most players playing abroad. The best symbol of this disaffection is Lionel Messi: the best player in the world arrived in Barcelona at the age of 13, before he had even brought his genius to the Argentinean championship
If the show isn’t on the field, it is in the grandstand. From the first to the last minute, the whole stadium sings and dances, led by the popular tribune to my right very well organized. No time out, the volume increases when the fans want to push their team in an important moment. They make a characteristic gesture: bending and unfolding the forearm in rhythm, very nice visual effect
The game will end with a 2-1 victory of San Lorenzo with 3 goals from set pieces: 2 head goals from a corner and a penalty (itself obtained after a corner, …). The Argentinian championship with hyper technical players is clearly a legend 😉
The animation of the supporters
River Plate vs Union
River Plate is one of the biggest teams in South America, its white jersey with red stripes is mythical and its 60,000-seat stadium, El Monumental, is the largest in Argentina. It is also the club where our national David Trezeguet ended his career. I am looking forward to this match
Unlike the day before, I go through an agency (“Vamos a la Cancha”). It will cost me the sum of 100 dollars. If I had to do it again, I would try to buy the ticket by myself since its face value was only 350 pesos, a good margin for the agency. However, I’m not sure it’s possible to buy a ticket by myself since the hotel receptionist didn’t offer me this option
The package includes travel by minibus, dinner, ticket and the accompaniment by two English-speaking guides. There are about twenty of us in all
The game starts at 7 pm, so we’ll have dinner at 4.30 pm: meat and beer at will to get in condition. I meet a Swiss and an Englishman from Manchester who are used to travel for soccer. On their roster: the 2014 world cup in Brazil, the 2016 euro in France and they both plan to go to Russia in 2018
The guide is very astonished when I explain to him that I went to see San Lorenzo alone the day before, according to him the neighborhood is crappy
After dinner, we take the bus back to the stadium. The guide explains us that he will be able to translate the songs for us if we wish but that usually it is about the mother or sister of the referee or the opposing players
Unlike the San Lorenzo stadium, El Monumental is located in the heart of the city, so you can feel all the tension of the city as it prepares for the match. We can see several buses whose doors can no longer close as they are full to bursting point with already melting supporters
The stadium is beautiful and will be almost full during the game
Before the game, I’m surprised to see only the goalies warming up. An Argentinian supporter explains to me that it is too dangerous for the opposing players..
Local coach Marcelo Gallardo, who trained at River Plate and travelled through Monaco and Paris, is particularly acclaimed
Although more numerous, I find the atmosphere less good than the day before, the sound animation is less regular and focuses on a few key moments and to put pressure on the referee and the opposing players
Unfortunately the show on the field is even weaker than the day before. The level is low and despite a promising start to the second half, only a big shot on the crossbar could have disrupted the 0 – 0 that was looming. River Plate won the Copa Libertadores two years ago (the equivalent of our European Champions League for South America), that says a lot about the level of the South American championships
In conclusion, these two games were a great experience. At a time when in France, the ultra movement is disappearing with the will of the public authorities (see the poor atmosphere of the Parc des Princes despite the sports results), it’s good to see a passionate public present to party in the stands. However, we should not have high expectations of the show on the field which was very low during the two meetings I attended.