Expat Rite of Passage: The Boca Juniors Game
Article by Sharon Salt.
I may not be the most devout fútbol fan, but I always know when there’s a Boca game.
In the early afternoon before each match, I’ll pass clusters of people in blue and gold on the streets around my San Telmo apartment, some carrying drums, others drinking from topless liters of Coca-Cola. Then at night, the sounds from the stadium will come pouring into my bedroom from my balcony windows.
I had never actually made it to a Boca game, but not for want of trying. Everything was always sold out before I could get my hands on tickets, in part because so many of the seats are already purchased through season passes. It was looking pretty hopeless.
But this past Sunday, I finally had a chance to go to the stadium myself. As it turns out, it’s not so hard, so long as you use a ticket procuring service like the one at LandingPadBA.com. Essentially, they pay to borrow member cards or buy special tickets for games, after which they resell them to common expats like you and me. I hadn’t – and haven’t – heard of any other services like this, so I was excited at the prospect of finally going to a game after all. LandingPad has a full listing of games and tours to attend!
And the service doesn’t stop with just the tickets. They also arrange a van to pick you up and take you home, which is important as the Boca Juniors stadium is, of course, in La Boca. It’s not the safest part of Buenos Aires and even less so after sundown, should you go to a night game.
You’ll also have a tour guide. Ours was Matias, who is actually a River fan (shhh!). He did an excellent job patiently answering our questions about the Boca-River rivalry and the best players to watch, among other things.
Also, had it not been for Matias, we definitely would’ve gotten lost in the maze of entrance barricades, pat-downs, and security-check turnstiles – four of them, actually – before we climbed what he endearingly called “the most longer staircase in your life” until the top of the stadium. Our seats were at the very top of the very top, and the stairs were steep enough that I was afraid – irrationally, of course, but still – that one of us would somehow tumble all the way down to the center of the field in one big arc. The view was excellent, though.
Before the game, Matias shared a few more interesting tidbits. For example, I had no idea that four hours before and after the game, no alcohol can be bought or sold within a twenty-block radius from the stadium. It doesn’t matter if it’s beer or liquor, a bar or a grocery store, a guy in a jersey or a family of four – no alcohol. This is, of course, in an effort to prevent brawls between the fans. There’s also a rule that gives visiting team supporters thirty minutes to leave before the Boca fans, which wasn’t actually put into effect on the day I went, but it’s there. These measures have helped curb the number and severity of fights, to be sure, but they haven’t stopped all of them. Again, I was glad to be with Matias.
Sure enough, by half time, the Boca fans directly across the stadium from us lit firecrackers and started throwing them on the visiting team supporters down below. Firecrackers – and lighters, for that matter – are prohibited, but that hadn’t stopped them. It didn’t look like much, i.e. no one was burning or screaming, but it couldn’t have been pleasant either. It’s just that fútbol fans here are so loyal, maybe too loyal, easily getting caught up in everything and finding trouble.
But it also means that they cheer from the first whistle to the last, with only a break for half time. That’s over an hour and a half once you add in the time players spend faking twists and sprains. And let me tell you – is it impressive. There is nothing to show their shared interest and sense of unity like the strength of their voices reaching across the entire stadium in chorus, or feeling the shaking of your seat as they beat their drums harder and harder, as though if they chant hard enough, they can will the Boca Juniors to win.
In the end, the game ended in a 0-0 tie. But finally – finally – when all my yanqui friends ask if I’ve been to a soccer game yet, I can say yes. If you’re looking for the ultimate soccer experience in Buenos Aires, and a great tour, check out Landingpad.com.