Monday, October 08, 2007
Yesterday Elitsa and I were privileged to witness the premiere rivalry in Argentine soccer: El Superclásico, River vs. Boca. These two teams' fans make a Yankees-Red Sox game look like a cuddle party.
Held at River's home field, El Monumental, the game attracted a sold-out crowd of about 40,000 River supporters and 3,000 Boca fans — along with about 1,100 police officers and national guard troops, according to the newspaper Clarín.
Within 10 blocks of the stadium, the police presence was hard to miss. Everywhere cops in riot gear, with batons and tear-gas guns, lurked on streetcorners imposingly maintaining order. In particular the roughneck Boca fans from the other, "bad" side of town were eyed suspiciously by the cops, and if one of them stepped out of line he would be roughly corralled back into place.
Not being a huge fútbol fan, and I have to admit that the game itself felt a little underwhelming. Two goals and maybe two excitingly close shots in ninety minutes of playing time is not my idea of excitement. But it was hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd. Almost everyone was wearing the team colors of red and white, although we passed through a fiercely partisan crowd of blue and yellow Boca fans outside the stadium. (The rivalry between the fans is so intense that the Boca fans have to enter through a special corridor to the stadium, sit in their own isolated section guarded by hundreds of police, and after the game ends, the River fans cannot leave the stadium until all the Boca fans have been first escorted out to practically the next zip code.) When River, who had been considered the underdog, scored each of its goals, everyone around me from a 10-year-old to a chain-smoking old man offered me jubilant hugs. In between goals (what I would consider the boring part), the fans sang loud, amusing songs that everyone knew the words to except us. And anytime a referee, a River player, or (especially) a Boca player did something unpopular, fans young and old unleashed a torrent of puta! this and tu madre that. It was all gloriously uncivil.
I have a bit of a cold and a headache and don't feel like writing much more, but here are some photos of the whole affair.
The Boca section:
Various River fans:
Elitsa outside the stadium: