Halftime. Crowds of outfitted fans swarm into the stadium with stacks of generic newspapers in hand that no one will read. Preparations begin.
Papers fly through the air and into the grasping crowd of 40,000 River Plate fans. Hoards of grown men and their red and white stripped children begin to shred the papers with a furious intensity, accumulating piles of black and white scraps on the plastic bench next to them. Some lucky fans grasp hold of rolls of white paper.
The 7 year old boy in front of me reorganizes his pile of paper, humming “O, Boca… sos cagon” (O, Boca… you are a chicken) quietly under his breath as his father looks on in approval.
The visiting team enters to a muffled roar from the 5,000 or so Boca fans crammed at one end of River Plate’s stadium, closed in behind a 20 foot high steel fence topped with barbed wire. River fans are silent.
Tres… dos… uno: explosion. 40,000 piles of homemade confetti spill into the air as hundreds of rolls of streamers rain down onto the field. The River players run onto the grass to a deafening roar, full of hopeful shouts and disgustingly unrepeatable insults directed at their sworn enemy, Boca. Dozens of employees sweep onto the field to pull the flying strings of paper out of the players’ way as the second half of the Superclasico commences.
Boca versus River Plate is known throughout Argentina as the most intense game of the year. Boca is the working mans team. River comes from the ritzier north. Both have lifelong fan bases…to many Argentines, this game is bigger than the World Cup.
From day one of orientation we were told: DO NOT GO TO THE BOCA RIVER GAME. So of course, like the good students we are, we went.
The game was electric charged. There was scarcely another woman in sight in the stadium…we were obviously foreigners sitting in men’s turf. But the family of 5 boys and their father sitting by us adopted our cause… teaching us such lovely songs as “No se escucha, no se escucha, sos amargo, o sos hija de puta?” and others that I will kindly spare the public from hearing.
River was winning. Then Boca scored to the sound of vicious shouts. Then, in the most anticlimactic moment in futbol history, they tied and walked off the field.
The stadium was silent. Winning or losing at least vents some emotion, but this tie was unacceptable. For ten minutes no one moved.
Everyone remained in their seat: the government had equipped the game with 1,500 armed police. They physically blocked the doors from the stadium: no one would leave until the Boca fans were out and a good distance away.
But Boca didn’t want to leave. The fans tore apart their chairs then threw the pieces into the River crowd below. They screamed. They hissed. They spat and cursed. An hour and one dramatic fist-fight later, we were finally allowed to leave to stadium.
En fin? There would be no champion this year. We left the game and meandered down the blocked-off street, lost in the endless parade of unsatisfied fans.
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