Football Frenzy

In Argentina there are several very popular teams. Probably the two most popular of all teams are Boca Juniors and River Plate, both with their stadiums in Buenos Aires. The weekend just past was the clash of these titans, and it turned out to be quite a spectacular event.

I didn’t get to go to the football match as it was too popular and could not get tickets. It turned out to be one of the most sensational games of the season, or perhaps even more sensational than that. Let us look at the background for these two games first because it is this setting that made it so sensational.

The Competition
The current competition had the two teams, Boca and River running neck and neck, with Boca in the lead by two points. All River needed to do was win this game to get three points, putting them in the lead. The chances of this was very slim, even though River was playing really well, because Boca had won 30 games straight in their home stadium and did not look like letting this record slip. It was these things that totally packed out the stadium.

Watching the Game
At 3pm on Sunday afternoon, when the game started, I walked the streets with a friend of mine to find a place that we could watch it on television. Unfortunately, only certain places who were willing to pay the extra fee for the encrypted channel could show the game, and there was not a single place that was not full. In fact, every single place had people filling the inside so full that they were overflowing onto the footpaths and even the road at times. It was a very popular game.

We finally found ourselves inside a very expensive restaurant after a twenty minute wait. It was from here, craning my neck to see the distant television screen over the top of a high wall that we were able to see the rest of the game transpire. So when River won, it was a huge sensation over here. Not only was River now ahead in the competition, but they won in Boca’s stadium and also broke Boca’s 30 straight wins in their home stadium too.

Protecting Supporters
Soccer games can be really dangerous here and often people die or are killed after the game. To get the River supporters out safely, the River team hired over 1000 police to form a line between the River and the Boca supporters. It was incredible to see riot police, mounted police, and powerful weapons on display everywhere, and as the supporters flowed out of the stadium, the streets were filled to capacity with people.

To reduce the chances of incidents, the Boca supporters were kept inside the stadium for a further 40 minutes after the game. Even with this delay the two opposing supporters can still end up mixing as it takes so long to disperse from the area. This was one of the reasons why the the police are normally called to help keep the two sides separated, at the cost of the teams. It was all pretty amazing stuff.

Loving to the Limits
The passion for each team runs high and affects people of every age. After the game while I was walking home with two friends we experienced the fury of a Boca Juniors supporter when they saw the River Plate hat that one of us was wearing. An old lady in her 70’s or 80’s suddenly burst out in a brief statement of abuse over our support of the “opposing” team.

The ironic thing about this “attack” was that only one of us was a River Plate supporter. My other friend was a Boca Juniors supporter and I am still undecided at this point as to whether I will take sides. This event took place in a very respectable suburb too. In poorer suburbs such as La Boca where the Boca Juniors stadium resides, true fights and often deaths result between opposing supporters for soccer teams.

Football has reached a form of worship over here, and seems to affect the young and the old alike. How scary that people would take sport to such a level.