The Big One – Boca Vs River


Posted by admin | Posted in Argentina, Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires, Football, River Plate, South America | Posted on 26-03-2006

Boca Juniors Vs River Plate

Sunday 26th March 2006.

Well, this match turned out to better than I could have imagined. The whole spectacle was just about unbelievable.

I’ll start with the only slight downer which was the price. There were no tickets available except to members, so I ended up going through a kind of local tour operator called ‘The Godfather’ and soon found out why they chose that name!

They put on a cool bus with a driver who was continuously beeping the horn to random tunes on the way down to the cancha (stadium). I assumed he was into the footy after the game he asked us who was playing!

On the way I had chatted to the organiser dude (I can’t remember his name so I’ll call him Che – everyone calls everyone Che here, it’s like us saying ‘Hey’) who turned out to be a River fan and kindly let me know that we were in the River supporters away end! The German bunch of guys I the group only found out this after we stepped out of the bus and one of them went to put his new Boca cap on! Che looked like he had sh!t himself and jumped at the guy to get him to hide it down his pants!

Oh, and here comes a truth many of you won’t like; I am (now) a River supporter.

The Boca neighbourhood looked like a war zone, with loads of streets cordoned off making only one zigzagging route to the cancha. Each barrier had a row of policemen and every so often we had to go through a security check where a line of police in a different uniform padded us down. There were seven of these checks in total and the German guy lost his hat at the second! Che was sweating and looking terrified leading a group of gringos through Boca. Around one corner we were confronted with a tank with two water cannon turrets on top. At the penultimate corner a row of proper hardcore riot police were waiting; but at least Che managed to crack one joke by saying ‘I’ll give you 500 pesos if you go up to that lot and tell them their mothers are all putas!’.

And I can confirm that the Argentinian police have bigger truncheons than the English. Sorry Steve.

When we got into the stadium at about 1:20 a warm up match was playing between the reserve teams of both clubs. Che said that the best views are towards the top so I left then group and nudged my way as far up as I could. The reserves were pretty good and Boca ended up winning 4-2. The River fans constantly came out with new songs and were almost as vocal and passionate during the warm up alone as any fans I’ve seen and heard.

The stand was pretty full already and as I did’t want to lose my place I ended up standing in pretty much exactly the same spot for almost 5 hours – the stand was terraced – and kick off was not until 4:10pm! It was a hot day and the sun was beating down since there was no shade in the away end. I survived on 1 ice lolly but also, luckily, because of clouds that passed over every now and then.

Quick description of the cancha then the main event. I was on the top (3rd) tier in an all open stadium behind the goal at the opposite end to the crazy Boca stand. The stand was really steep and there were hardly any bars at all so when the crowd moved, you just moved with it.

‘El clasico’ is what they call this match. Before kick off the whole pitch was swarming with people; photographers, who were bunched over one area to the side (reading the paper the next day it turned they were taking pics of Maradona who is the Boca director of football), officials, dancers, I don’t know what most were doing.

The River players came out to warm and were running among all these people. When warming up the keeper with shots, the full back had to dodge around a photographer who was sat on a stool just outside the box. It was all pretty hectic. During this time the Boca fans had been singing one song, led by their full band, constantly for about half hour!

It all really hit me when the Boca players came out. Suddenly you couldn’t see the opposite end for bog rolls floating through the air from the top stand, blue and yellow confetti coming from all over and manic noise from the fans! I couldn’t believe how long all this went on for either! When some cleaners had finished clearing the bog roll of the pitch (which took a while as every time they finished another would rain down into the goal mouth) and when the guys had shifted the confetti with leave blower machines, I looked around and every single seat was filled.

Just before kick off a gigantic banner rolled down out of nowhere over 2/3 of the middle Boca stand and swayed from the fans pulling it about. Then another appeared with some text about River. That was really cool to see.

The game finally got going and was absolutely great to watch. The Argentinian matches tend to be really open, partly due to the skill of the players, any of whom can take it past a player, but also due to a lack of defensive organisation.

It had everything, a good goal before half time for River, an equaliser on 89 minutes for Boca via a penalty that came from a silky solo run, 3 red cards – 2 for Boca which were disgusting desperate challenges when the attacker was 1 on 1 with the keeper and then a defender and 1 for River which didn’t look like a foul at all. I know that sounds biased but even the Boca based newspaper agreed the next day. Oh, and both goals were at my end – sweet!

The best moment for me was when River scored. The crowd went nuts. The passion was more extreme than I realised. I ended up drifting with the crowd about 5 metres forward and then to the side and finished pretty much where I started.

The reaction of the crowd after the Boca goal was incredible, every single person bouncing up and down.

I learned a few more Spanish words that day but I think most wouldn’t be repeatable anywhere but a football match (especially “El Superclasico”).  I honestly think I heard the words puta / puto (b!tch or wh0re) several hundred times at least.

The whole thing was fantastic. They are unbelievably passionate about football and the fans have complete and utter hatred for each other. I can honestly believe that many would kill for their club! I kept my mouth shut a lot and either sang the 2 songs I thought I understood or mimed others – I survived it.

“Vamo Riiiiver Plate!”

Although all photos have, so far, been taken by me; I was advised not to take my camera (or anything of value!) to this match and so the pictures in this entry have been randomly borrowed and are not necessarily from this particular game.