[Disclaimer:  I have been having some amazing life moments in the past few weeks and I realize that for that very reason I have been totally slacking with writing.  Just the other day I read that the worst thing you can do as a blogger is leave your followers without a new post to read.  I couldn’t agree more.  As a blog reader myself, I can’t describe the disappointment I experience when I visit a site and there is nothing new.  So I hope I haven’t frustrated you too much, the good thing being that all that I was experiencing will make for some compelling posts.]

To experience a futbol game in Argentina alongside the most intense die-hard fans in the sport is something that leaves a lasting memory.  It´s hard to think of a single sport in the U.S. that garners the same kind of universal passion and zeal – in fact, there isn’t one. I had been to an Inter game while living in Milan, the only other live experience I had, and I remembered loving everything about it.  From the almost magical fog that floated into the stadium from above, characteristic of their stadium, to the excitement I witnessed from fans who set off flairs from their seats.  It was a passion and energy I never forgot.

The Boca Junior fans of Buenos Aires are on another level.  The game I saw was Boca vs. Tucuman, which was a bit ironic given I was leaving for Tucuman the next day.  In my opinion, La Boca is one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in Buenos Aires and happens to be where la cancha (stadium) is located.  It’s also one of the poorer and most dangerous ones.  The stadium is known as La Bombonera or “box of chocholates” because of the way it is shaped.  Once I had a glimpse of just how wild things get for this neighborhood team, I understood why people had told me never to go to a game alone.

Pair futbol fans who, around the world are known to live for the sport, add in that these particular fans might not be the most calm given the roughness of the neighborhood they live in, and then put the stadium where the team plays in that very neighborhood, and voila you have one of the most intense and exciting sporting events.  I don’t follow soccer at all and it’s a sport that I never once played growing up so I’m not totally clear on the rules, but to feel the live energy of the fans is all I need to keep engaged.

Our seats were directly opposite the Boca “hinchada” (literally known as the “loco” seats), a fan group so well-known worldwide that other hinchada leaders from Europe come to the games to watch and learn from them.  I couldn’t stop staring across the stadium wondering what it might be like to sit there.  As we waited for the game to start, I saw people draping huge blue and yellow banners across entire rows of seats: “the best hinchada in history” and “nunca hicimos amistades” (we never make friendships) they said.  Another one “Jugador No 12” which I learned is a society that supports the Boca team and are called this because normally there are 11 players per team on the field – the 12th, in their eyes, is the hinchada.

What a site when it´s packed, section where the Boca hinchada sits

I learned that everyone in that section of the stadium avoided sitting in the center area until the game started because they know who is “allowed” to sit there and it includes mafia.  I watched as people sat squished together on either sides.  I wondered where the fans would sit with all the banners strewn about.  The term die-hard seems accurate to describe these fans, with fights that break out frequently over who is leader or if the leaders think someone isn´t cheering loud enough.   These fans are known to sniff lines of cocaine during the game to keep their energy up.  Years ago there was an incident where ¨jefes¨of the Boca hinchada attended an untelevised ¨for-fun¨game and stabbed to death players from the other team.  I couldn´t find any videos or details about it on the internet, seemingly suspicious.

I kept getting distracted from the game because I felt these small earthquake-like vibrations that came all the way from the part of the stadium where the hinchada jumped and cheered in unison. I have probably seen one too many of those “disaster caught on video” clips about futbol stadiums collapsing, but every time I looked over and saw the wave-like motion of the stadium it seemed imminent.  The roaring cheers from these fans never once stopped throughout the game, and a brass band just next to them never once took a break, making the scene all the more wild.

Right in front of where I was sitting I watched three fans grab their private areas and shout expletives to the Tucuman fans that sat above us. All of a sudden I saw some sort of liquid drop about a foot in front of me and Jorge saw my face and explained it was spit from the fans above.  That followed by some water balloons and empty soda cans.  There is a slang term in castellano “de cabeza” which basically means “without class” and I could see why my coworkers had explained it to me as a word to describe the way people act in la cancha.

No one sits during the game.  Nor goes to the bathroom, nor gets food or drinks. No one.  And no beer or any sort of alcohol is sold (thankfully). There are no passing aisles where I was sitting, making the thought of trying to leave or move during the game impossible as you would need disrupt some decently rowdy fans.  The cheers are catchy and powerful, I found myself humming along even though I didn’t know any words.

The video I posted really doesn’t do any justice (be sure to turn up the sound loud for full effect), but you can get the idea and hear the cheers.  I also ddidn´t have my pro camera so the footage isn´t exactly sharp.  As you look straight ahead you will see large banners where the hinchada sits and you will see that whole area bounce up and down as they cheer.  Keep in mind I was sitting in the “calm” seats and the stadium holds roughly 60,000 fans.  The pure energy and madness of these futbol enthusiasts is what compelled me to go to a game in the first place, and left me wanting to go back the very next weekend to see them again.

The game was scoreless and I was more than disappointed, curious what the madness would have been if Boca won.  Police in full riot gear stood on the field and an even stronger presence was just outside the stadium.  Past brawls a result of the lessons learned and precautions put in place.  As we stood waiting for almost an hour for the police to allow us to exit (they block the exits until all opposing team fans have left to avoid any fights), I looked over and noticed the hinchada’s brass band still playing as if the game were still in full swing.

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