Sunday, November 22, 2009

(new) A Sunday at church.

It’s fitting that football matches are played on a Sunday because in most parts of the world they are a religion and nowhere more so than Bs.As. The team around here is Boca Jr. where Diego “hand of God” Maradona played as well as many of the players that have made Argentina a World Cup contender. For the past 8 months I had been denying Adrian the opportunity to see a football game, telling him to save it for Argentina or Brasil. Now we were here and today we were going to the church called La Bombonera to see Boca play Gimnasia.

With so much to look forward to, it would have been nice to wake up fully refreshed but nature was against us. Well not nature since I don’t think mother nature was responsible for the loud dance music blaring from the bar below. It began at 1am and didn’t stop until, actually it didn’t stop before we left at 11am. Although the kind folks did turn it down to a dull roar around 6am. However, mother nature was to blame for the bites that now speckled my body. That’s right, I had about a dozen or so bites that looked rather suspicious. I think they might be bed bugs but considering that it was just a handful of bites maybe they were just flea bites. Whichever they were, they were itchy and grossed me out so I was glad we were getting the heck out of that place. It was probably the fastest we’ve ever packed and eaten breakfast. But can you blame us.

We took the subway to the new hostel and walking through the doors we felt a hundred times better. They’d fixed our reservation so now we had the same room for all three nights we were here. It was quiet. The bedroom was clean and bright and the bed comfy. They even had a kitchen with stuff in it and a bunch of munchies for sale. So we bought some empanadas munched on those and enjoyed the silence. We even bumped into a familiar face, John who we’d met in Baños. He was on an extended holiday from his job as a tv presenter in China. Nope he wasn’t Asian just an English guy fluent in Chinese who’d stumbled into the job while doing translation work in China. We weren’t able to catch up as he was heading to bed after partying all night (hopefully not at the bar below the old hostel) and then off on the night bus. There were also new faces. Mintaut a girl from Lithuania was at the tail end of 6 months on the road. We chatted with her while waiting for our pick up.

The mini bus picked us up around five. It was a small group of just 15 plus our guide Hernan. Since we were the closest to the stadium we were the last ones onboard and it was a short drive to the stadium. Although the game didn’t start for another 2 hours the streets of La Boca were already full of people all proudly wearing their Sunday best – the team colours of blue and gold. If we were so close to the stadium you’re probably wondering why we didn’t just go on our own. Well, La Boca wasn’t the best area after dark (or in the light) and with 60,000 rabid fans in attendance we paid the (super high) premium to avoid sitting in the wrong section wearing the wrong colours and to make sure we got back in one piece. Overly cautious I’m sure but since I’d just heard how a fellow traveler had to walk 6km back to his hostel after missing the last subway, I wanted to make sure.

Okay, so back to the game. The bus let us off a few blocks from the actual stadium – the streets were actually barricaded and only ticket holders could enter on foot. So we showed our tickets to the police and were allowed to pass. Inside it was a giant street party. Crafty locals had set up bbq grills and were selling food to hungry fans. Hernan guided us into one of the store fronts were we were seated in a temporary street café. We were fed tasty choripans – sausages on French bread and given beer. When we were stuffed Hernan got us all together and led us through the packed streets to the final barricade just before the stadium entrance. He helped us stash away contraband items like lighters (banned because they can be thrown) and throw out drinks that we weren’t allowed to bring in. This barricade involved a pat down (for the guys) and search of our bags. The girls should have gotten the same treatment but the female officer had disappeared so we got through easily.

Then it was through the actual ticket gate and up the stairs and up and up to the terraces – general admission concrete stairs. I thought for the price we had paid (A$230) we’d at least get seats so I was momentarily disappointed until I realized we were sitting in the locals area. Here were the real fans. And directly across from us was the super crazy area know as La doce, the twelveth player (photo above). Hernan told us to sit anywhere we wanted but suggested staying away from the front rows which were in throwing distance of the stands above us. Over the next hour both our section and the one on the other side filled with more people than I thought possible and then when I thought that was it even more packed in. I have a feeling there is no fire code capacity up here.

Hernan stopped by to visit us (although I’m clueless how he found us in the crowd) and told us a few fun facts about the team. Although blue and gold are the team colours they weren’t always. Supposedly they were once the same as another teams but neither wanted to change. To settle the dispute, the two teams played a game to decide the issue. Boca lost and decided that their new colours would be those of the flag of the next boat that came into the harbour. It was a Swedish ship. Just a little history there.

While we waited for kick off, we saw lots of plastic bags of liquid being thrown down on the people in the first row. In retaliation the people in our section taunted those above with gestures that looked a lot like eating a popsicle (if you know what I mean) and chants that questioned the sexuality of those above. But compared to what was happening over in La Doce it was nothing. The other section was nothing but a sea of banners. A band was somewhere in the crowd – we could hear it but couldn’t see it. They were leading the chants which everyone in the stadium (except the gringos sprinkled throughout) sang along with. Or tried to sing - unfortunately we happened to be sitting in front of the one tone deaf person in the whole crowd, who of course was also the loudest. The songs only stopped when the refs and the visiting team took the field and then it was just a cacophony of whistles. But when the hometown boys came out it was back to the chants.

Since we don’t have anything that takes videos I looked up someone else’s to give you an idea of what it sounded like and to a certain extent what it looked like. There were no fireworks on our day. Probably because they had no lighters to light them with.

Here's one song and a good view of the crowd.

Then it was time for kick off. Immediately everyone packed into the stands stood up and any gaps in the crowd were filled by others who had been waiting for their chance to squeeze in. It was packed (I can’t say it enough) and I was glad we were in the back where there was a bit more breathing room. As for the game well it was just like any other football game and since I’m not a fan or a conneisseur I’ll skip commenting on it. I can say that the crowd went wild when Boca scored twice in the first half and that the refs were victims of a chant that involved both the word puta and puto (I’ll let you look them up) which didn’t seem appropriate for a Sunday. Adrian thoroughly enjoyed it even after discovering that no beer was sold in the stadium and technically wasn’t supposed to be sold inside the barricaded neighbourhood around the stadium.

At half time, everyone sat down and with triple the amount of people to the amount of sitting space packed in, to call us sardines would be the understatement of the year. In fact I didn’t even get a seat having hesitated just a little too long. I ended up leaning against a stadium support unable to even wiggle my toes between the bodies. It was amazing to watch people head to the washroom trying to navigate the crowd. People above would pull them up by the arms while they placed their hands on people’s heads for support. And nobody minded.

The second half was even more lively. Boca scored two more goals and I started to feel bad for the visitors. I secretly hoped Gimnasia would score just so we could see what would happen in the crowd. But it was not to be. The game ended and Boca won 4-0. I expected there to be a surge toward the exits but instead everyone sat down (this time I got a seat). For 45 minutes, our section and la doce were kept in while the rest of the stadium emptied. I guess it was an attempt at crowd control and also to ensure that the visiting fans didn’t mix with the home fans. Finally we were allowed out. And Adrian and I fought against the crowd and made it to the meeting point. The crowd thinned and Hernan led us back to the minivan and back to the hostel which was just heavenly after our evening at the church of La Boca.


Ayngelina said...

Okay you need to let me know which one was the flea/bed bites hostel so I don't accidentally stay there. Ew.

Also, I appreciate the bbq pics, looks soooo good.

liz and adrian said...

the fleabag hostel was called Domus.

the nice hostel we moved to was the Garden House.

liz and adrian said...

oh and the choripan was delicious and i've seen them for sale for less than a dollar on the street.