To me it is known as ‘football’, to others as ‘soccer’, but I reckon it most-arguably is the world’s most-popular game. A passionate game it is, defending the colours of quartiers or entire cities. Argentina’s culture is sodden with the sport’s culture.
Major sportsmen and –women publicly express which club they support, even though their sport (such as tennis or hockey) does not have anything to do with the game mentioned before. Juan Martín Del Potro is known as a fanatic Boca Juniors’ supporter, and rugby player Juan Imhoff has expressed his support for his home-town club Rosario Central, whereas Emanuel Ginóbili has shown his sympathy for River Plate and Luciana Aymar for Newell’s Old Boys, and so various others have expressed their enthusiasm for a football club.
Argentinian culture simply breathes football.
You take a taxi and without doubt at some point the question of which club you support comes up. And so it will while enjoying a true autochthonous asado or maybe even while queuing up somewhere.
When I landed at Ezeiza for the first time, I knew the game, but was not really into it. But within a few months things had changed completely. The first game I attended in Argentina was Boca Juniors vs Vélez Sarsfield. The passionate supporters caught my attention, and the better I got to know the Argentineans, the more curious I got.
After that first football game, many grounds have followed; not only those of the so-called Big Five (River Plate, Boca Juniors, Racing Club, Independiente and San Lorenzo de Almagro), but also of clubs with a much more local stronghold. Throughout the course of time I have visited home games of clubs such as Atlanta, Vélez Sarsfield, Argentinos Juniors, All Boys, Huracán, Lanús and Banfield.
All of these are strongly identified with the barrio in which they are located. The quartier’s daily life got completely paralysed on match days, and its inhabitants mobilised. Flags hang out of windows and got suspended on balconies, while chants of the supporters sounded from load speakers from balconies and living rooms. Bars got packed by people dressed in the club’s colours and parrillas appeared along the roads. No matter whether it was a Wednesday evening or Sunday afternoon.
The atmosphere within the football grounds is just beyond words, especially with local rivalries such as Lanús vs Banfield, Atlanta vs Chacarita Juniors, Argentinos Juniors vs All Boys or San Lorenzo and Huracán vs San Lorenzo. Of course clásicos such are Boca Juniors vs River Plate and Independiente vs Racing Club are unutterable experiences, but without doubt not the most accessible ones; tickets are extremely difficult to obtain.
But I can tell you one thing; in such case, try to enjoy the match and its atmosphere only some blocks away from the stadium. But make sure you wear the correct colours; dressing up in the colours of opposing team can lead to intimidating reactions.
Attending any football match in Argentina is a unique experience; the enthusiastic supporters on the popular grandstands (usually located behind the 18-yard boxes) include both families and organised supporter groups and are well-known for their orchestras, chants (with ingenious lyrics) and decorations. These guys (and girls) truly sweep up the whole stadium, no matter whether their team is losing or winning at that moment. Drums and horns accompany flags, while others set off fire crackers and fireworks and the grandstands are decorated with major banners. Thousands of papers in club colours often get thrown onto the pitch when the home players enter.
Yes, that’s football in Argentina, and not only at the country’s major clubs, but also at el club del barrio (the quartier’s club). No matter whether you are in football-crazy cities such as Buenos Aires and Rosario, but also in for instance, San Miguel de Tucumán, Mendoza and Córdoba.
So, when you have the possibility to attend a game, do so, and… enjoy!