Sunday, November 22, 2009

my first fútbol game: a tearful experience

A little bit about me: I am blonde. I am tall. These two things combined make me stand out among the sea of petite, dark-haired Argentines that float delicately around Buenos Aires--I am a Viking among hobbits. For this reason I was a bit hesitant when asked to go to a local soccer game yesterday: I wasn’t too keen on being the only gringa in a stadium full of passionately puteando Argentines. But I was assured that nothing would happen, and I was going with a very (self-proclaimed) responsible guy, and I’ve always wanted to see a game here, so I said what the heck and went.

I met Joaco (a guy I met at the asado last weekend, who is the little brother of the friend of my friend el Negro, who begat…) and his friend whose name I can’t remember but who was definitely a member of the Tiny and Brunette Argentine club on the corner of Las Heras and Puerreydon, and we took the 118 bus alllllllll the way down Puerreydon to the Huracán stadium (la cancha). For those as ignorant as I was, here’s a little intro to Argentine soccer, from what I’ve gathered from various conversations with locals and from subsequent research on Wikipedia. La Primera División, or the First Division, of the Argentine football league is composed of 20 teams, including the famous Boca and River teams. Within the league, there are various rivalries which have a lot to do with local barrios (neighborhoods) and where stadiums are located, etc. When two rival teams play each other, that game is known as a “clásico,” which is where the famous Superclásico between La Boca and River Plate comes from. That game is by far the biggest rivalry in the league, but there are others, which you can read about HERE. The game I went to yesterday was the Huracán clásico, historically played between Huracán and San Lorenzo, and is also known as the Clásico del Barrio.

Once we arrived at the stadium along with hundreds of other Huracán fans sporting red and white jerseys, we passed through several different checkpoints where policemen did pat-downs for weapons, alcohol, etc. Unlike sporting events in the US which are often used as excuses to get wasted and take one’s shirt off, alcohol is not sold anywhere near a futbol stadium. It’s just not necessary. The fans are already so passionate, so quick to defend their teams, and if alcohol were involved things would just get out of hand, more so than they already do, and many more people would die. (If you’ve seen the film “Green Street Hooligans” you know how well that turns out).

The stadium is nothing special, but it was impressive to me anyway. The fans of the two teams are kept separate from each other during the whole process of the game: they enter at different times and locations, are kept on opposite sides of the stadium, and leave at different times and locations, to prevent any violent encounters. There are police everywhere, with helmets and plexiglass shields, trying to keep order. But the fans! Good lord. Considering that this was a game between two of the less-popular teams (compared to Boca and River), I wasn’t expecting the level of madness and passion that I saw. It was insane. I wish I could have taken pictures, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself as the gringa. The entire time—before, during and after the game—our side of the stadium was cheering, singing, jumping, cursing, beating on drums, and chanting in unison. It was really cool to see everyone wearing the same colors, singing the same songs, and sharing so passionately their love for their team. I’d heard how fútbol here in Argentina is a way of life, but it didn’t sink in until yesterday. There were kids running around in little Huracán jerseys, dads holding babies even as they shouted at the corner-kicker to go do something vulgar to his mother. It was kind of cute, in a way.

The amount of “puteando” that went on during the game was impressive, especially for someone such as I who revels in learning all the bad words. Every time a Huracán player messed up or a San Lorenzo player did something good, everyone would shout variations of “la concha de tu madre!” which I will not translate. That was definitely the curse of choice. Another curse, which was actually the main chorus to one of the songs being chanted periodically, was “la puta que te parió” repeated in varying octaves. Again, no translation needed. Also, whenever some poor San Lorenzo guy had to kick a corner, all the young Huracán fans would rush over to where he was, climb up the fence and start spitting on him and calling him names. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all the malas palabras, and might have even engaged in an “hijo de puta!” once or twice myself.

But for me, the best part was the tear gas. Gotta love tear gas.  Yeah. The other team’s fans got a little rowdy before the game even started, throwing things at the police and trying to start fights, so the lovely Policia Federal whipped out their crowd control training and tear gassed everyone. I’ve never seen that large a group of people move so quickly—all the San Lorenzo fans climbed on top of each other and huddled on the far side of their end of the stadium. We laughed at them, until the wind turned and sent the entire cloud of gas down to our end. If you’ve never been tear gassed, be thankful. It BLOWS. It gets in your nose first, and you can smell it and taste it in the back of your throat. And then it hits you full force, and your eyes start burning and watering and you can’t see anything and you can’t breathe very well and it sucks. Everyone turned their backs on the field trying to protect their faces in coats and tissues, but it didn’t really help. Eventually it dissipated in the rain (did I mention it was raining the whole time? Oh. Well, it rained the whole game, a nice, cold, steady drizzle) and then people went back to banging on their drums and puteando. Apparently tear gas is standard procedure at Argentine futbol matches. Who knew? 

Anyway, the whole game was quite an experience to say the least. Huracán lost, 2-0, which isn’t surprising considering they are ranked 19 out of 20 in the league, while San Lorenzo is up in the number 6 spot. But the fans remained loyal, chanting even louder and stronger after each San Lorenzo goal and then ending the game with a rousing cheer, something along the lines of “It’s Ok, we’ll get them next time, the dirty bastards!” Only slightly more vulgar. But I suppose I’m a Huracán fan now, since this is the only team I’ve actually been to see play. It makes me a bit sad because they are not good, but oh will be like supporting the Redskins all over again (3-6? Really?). I will definitely go to another game if I can, but this time I will be prepared: I’m going to learn all the songs, practice my puteando, and bring a gas mask, just in case!

*A side note: As I was going to post this, I was searching for images of the Huracán jersey or fans that I could use, and I found an article about how two people were killed at a Huracán game this past June. Kind of scary to read about after having been to a game in the same stadium. Nothing happened while I was there, I felt pretty safe, and I will still go to another game if I have the chance, but I just wanted to give some words of caution. Make sure you go with a local, and a trustworthy and preferably strong one. Girls, do NOT go alone. Also, DO NOT sit anywhere near the barra brava. The barra brava is the core group of fans who wield the drums and the banners and lead the songs, and they are considered the most dangerous and violent part of a fútbol game. Don't bring anything you value, duh, and just be aware that Argentines are volatile about their teams and can get extremely emotional. This isn't to put anyone off, it's an amazing experience so go if you have the chance, just be safe! If a 5 foot 9 blonde with blue eyes can go and come back OK, you should all be fine! Viva Huracán!

1 comment:

  1. Um, awesome. Except the tear gas part, although I would venture to say that is also awesome in that you can now officially say you've been tear-gassed. I'm planning on going to see my barrio's team Ferro play this Saturday and I too am going with locals. I assume they don't sit in the barra brava but I will double check first.