Flags swirl, banners fly, balloons reach high into the clear Buenos Aires sky. The communal voice of 50,000 of Argentina’s most fanatic fans overwhelm Boca Junior’s Bombonera stadium. Shirts are swung, songs screamed out. Frenzied fans let off fire crackers and fireworks. On the east stand drums beat and horns blast, while above them the outnumbered enemy, dressed in the red and white jerseys of River Plate, try their best to drown out the Boca crowd.
The latest in our series of interactive guides turns its attention to football (it was only a matter of time). Here we look at an eclectic bunch of stadiums, restaurants and sights.
The Argentine football league varies in quality from entertaining and unpredictable to scrappy and, well… unpredictable. The one thing for which it can be relied on, however, is its ability to produce a seemingly endless stream of talented youngsters – the best of whom inevitably end up moving to Europe’s richest leagues and quite often, to international superstardom.
Considering that barely a ball has been kicked in Argentina in the last couple of weeks, it’s been a tumultuous time for the Argentinian football. Firstly the sacking of the manager of the national team after the lackluster showing at the Copa America in the homeland, the Tevez and Aguero saga at Manchester City and – oh yes – the biggest shake up of the Argentinian league game for, well, ever, to a system so revolutionary that no team will ever have to be relegated again.
Argentinian primera división (top division) football is full of historical rivalries that are both notorious and colourful. This footballing folklore more often than not manifests itself in cheeky banter between opposing sets of fans. At times it famously descends into wanton violence. Teams define themselves by who they despise. Chants that can be heard in stadia every weekend are full of such insulting language about opponents that uttering such things publicly in most countries would get you arrested.
The neighbourhood of San Telmo is the Buenos Aires that people imagine when they think of the city. Dancers really do tango on the plazas, the sound of an accordion can be heard echoing through doorways and elephantine steaks are served in the area’s restaurants.
The sky turns white with torn newspaper. The clattering of drums heightens. Machines blast out blue and yellow smoke. “Ole, ole, ole, ole” 40,000 of the world’s nosiest fans scream. They bounce – the shaking stadium is felt more than two miles away. Many have their shirts off in the heat and are swinging them around their heads. The horn section can be heard through the melee. And the fans continue singing: “Soy de Boca/cada dia te quiero mas”, I’m Boca/everyday I love you more. Boca Juniors have just appeared from the tunnel…