If you’ve never been to a fútbol game in Argentina, be sure to make it the next goal on your list. I recently had the pleasure of witnessing Argentina’s battle against the new World Cup champions- Spain, though it didn’t turn out to be much of a battle at all. To be honest, I haven’t watched too many fútbol games in my time, but I did watch enough of the World Cup to know that 3 goals in the first half, two of them scored in the first 15 minutes, is almost unheard of. Finishing the game off with a score of 4-1, September 7th’s win was not a bad way to continue Argentina’s bicentennial celebrations, and the experience certainly left a lasting impression on me.
Walking into River Plate stadium felt like walking into Rome’s Coliseum. You could feel the tradition exuding from the old cement stands, which were quickly filled with families and die-hard fans. Even River Plate and Boca Junior followers (archrivals, who under any other circumstances would be at each others’ throats) seemed to have a temporary truce for the day. For this very special occasion, 72,000 Argentines gathered to support the country’s national selection team. The opening ceremony proceeded with both country’s national anthems and their team colors shot high into the sky with confetti.
Aside from the flashy opening ceremony, the rest of the experience was without all the seizure inducing distractions that I’m accustomed to having at games. There weren’t overpriced souvenir stands strategically placed around every corner. There weren’t 31 flavors of ice cream, no vendor with a fancy thermal backpack full of hot chocolate, or even the corny announcer playing radio sound effects to drown out the quieter moments.
Things were simple and revolved around the game, the importance of victory. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy being able to get a chocolate malt, lemonade and cheeseburger without even leaving my seat, (you chubby little American you), but there was so much more to focus on. Like the fight songs they belted out. These weren’t just chants like, “Let’s go [insert name of home team]!” followed with a series of three claps incited from the all knowing jumbo-tron. They sang ballads for their team. Love songs. And the entire stadium got involved.
Even the two young boys behind me, who hadn’t quite gotten every lyric down, were singing at the top of their lungs and by the end of the game they were swinging their jerseys above their heads. The stands shook with fans jumping out of their seats, and the expanse of the stadium echoed with the infamous melody of “Ole, ole, ole” sung from 72,000 mouths. The people of Argentina live and breathe fútbol, and their love for the sport unites the entire country. Even it’s most vicious rivals.
The Argentina-Spain game was unlike any sporting event I’ve ever attended. Fútbol is so engrained in the culture here that a trip to Argentina wouldn’t be worth talking about without spending a few hours at River Plate’s Monumental or Boca Junior’s La Bombanera stadium.
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