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March 16, 2011

I will be the first to say that soccer is not always the most exciting sport and I HATE it when players are wimps and dive or play up being hurt.  However, I LOVE soccer and played it from when I was three until intramurals in college.  So, being in Argentina there was absolutely no way I would pass up the chance to see a local game, especially when the teams were Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo, two of the best.

The sun setting on the CASLA stands

Jen and I had tried to get to River Plate (a rival team) match when we first arrived in Buenos Aires but our flight was delayed and immigration was terrible (both of which seem to be very common here).  We showed up to that game at the half and were not allowed in due to security and our lack of interest in wanting to bribe the gatekeepers.

Anyway, back to the Boca and San Lorenzo game, we went and it was a crazy, insane experience.  First of all, Boca fans are legendary for how intense they are during games as well as for their melodic chants that go on nonstop (they put Aggies to shame).   Their passion and intensity alone truly made the experience and made it even more apparent how important this sport is to South Americans and their communities.  Here is a quick clip from the beginning of the game (filming credit to my lovely wife):

Unfortunately the game was at San Lorenzo.  I say unfortunately because we didn’t get to experience a full stadium of Boca fans, and also because San Lorenzo’s stadium is a piece of junk located in the hood.  Literally people just throw garbage in the middle of the street outside of the stadium – and no, no one comes to pick it up.  However it is the team that is known to have the average Joe, working class fan and their neighborhood lived up to what we had heard.  Not to mention Jen and I were more or less in Boca colors which wasn’t good, but turned out to be not too much of a problem and we covered up well.

The game underway with CASLA already up

Regardless, the CASLA (San Lorenzo) fans were pretty pumped too and loved to jump up and down and chant just as much as Boca.  They also came fully prepared with fireworks, smoke, flares, toilet paper, and more.  In the end the home team was particularly excited because they ended up winning the match.  Then they let the visiting fans have it, unleashing a slew of chants about their victory and waving their arms in the air directed at the visitors.

Security is tight at these events.  There are large barricades separating the fans inside and outside, along with riot police on hand to squash any uprisings.  Additionally, the visiting fans are allowed to leave the stadium first so as to prevent any conflicts on the streets (the home fans were held inside for about 45 minutes after the game).

Enjoying Argentine Futbol!

On a business note, which I of course have to make, it was interesting to see how poorly concessions and tickets were handled.  I am not sure if there is an underlying problem but there is huge opportunity for these teams to make more money by selling better concessions and streamlining the ticket process.  The installation of fountain drinks would literally do wonders at this place, making hundred-thousands more pesos, along with sufficient gift shops.  I did not see any alcohol being sold, for reasons I completely understand.  Lots of potential being left out there in my opinion.

I cannot wait for more sporting events in other countries and this futbol match was truly a great way to start off.  For a kid that grew up constantly kicking a soccer ball against the side of the house to practice, it was a remarkable experience that I will not soon forget.

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