Sunday, December 5, 2010

Goooooooooooooooooooool!

As huge sports fans one of the things that ranked high on our list of things to do in Argentina was to see a soccer (futbol?) match.  It seemed obvious that we would do so in Buenos Aires at the well-known and well-loved Bocas Juniors* stadium (the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, colloquially known as La Bombonera).

Part of the draw to see an Argentine soccer game, between teams that we didn't know (or care) about, is the enthusiasm and passion of the fans.  We were told that there are no fans like Boca fans, that the energy in the stadium is palpable, and that the experience of going to a live game was not to be missed.  The trick, however, is that tourists cannot (allegedly) simply go to the box office or call a ticket broker to get the 40 pesos ($10 USD) ticket.  No.  Because the game/fans/neighborhood/insert your own scary thing is so dangerous, so wild, and so unmanageable, tourists are advised, and strenuously (and by no one more strenuously than the hostel owner who enjoyed a kickback in front of our faces), to buy a futbol-touring package.  And in exchange for nearly ten times the ticket price tourists are offered a suite of services including tickets, security, dinner, beer, and more.  Here is what we bought for $600 pesos ($150 USD).

- A two hour bus ride to the stadium.  In a hot school bus.  This included walking 15 minutes from our apartment to another hotel for our pick-up, and then driving in circles around our neighborhood filling up the rest of the bus (including stops on our block!).  Note: A door to door taxi at that (rush hour) time takes 25 minutes and costs 25 pesos ($6.20 USD).

Why wouldn't we be taking a school bus to the soccer game?
We were repeatedly ordered to keep the curtains drawn because it was too dangerous to show our gringo faces.
The bus was rather obviously full of tourists and not Argentine school children.

Could this bus be any less discreet for the pick-pockets, muggers, and hooligans we were so often warned about?

- Bocas Juniors Fight Song Lessons - While our guides/security guards/chaperones were not on their cell phones they taught us a Bocas Jr fight song.  The only aspect we could figure out was to make a tomahawk motion with our hand while yelling/chanting/singing "Bocas".  Hard to value this service.  

The staff seemed surprised and confused that no one knew the Boca fight songs. 
- The bar - To call the bar that we went to a dive bar is an insult to dive bars worldwide.  Dark and dank, the unfinished concrete floor was nicely complimented by the 1950's era refrigerator (ice-box?) from which they served the beers.  Random assortment of Bocas Junior photos and gear adorned the walls.  The bathrooms were a highlight as they were directly off the main (and only) room and did not have any doors.  One's positioning at the urinal was important because it was in direct view of all patrons in the main room.  In case I have not explained this clearly, let me just say that the situation was such that Jesse chose not to go in the bar, but instead waited until we reached the stadium.  She didn't know at that point that the tickets we purchased were in a section without bathrooms.  Oops.

The bar also helpfully sold us over-priced, low-quality Bocas Jrs. gear.  Wanting to fit in and look the part Jesse, along with the rest of the bus bought us each a hat for 20 pesos each ($10 USD). 

The Bocas Jrs. patch fell off my hat before we reached the stadium. Crap. 
 - Unlimited pizza.  Pizza in Argentina is bad; well, as bad as bad pizza can be, which is still pretty good.  Anyway, at the "bar" we enjoyed some Argentine pizza.  Think, huge, silly amounts of flavorless cheese (i.e. half-inch thick) piled on top of a bland, white bread crust, topped with 4 large olives. With pits.  Also, don't think about sauce, because at best you get a visible, but tasteless smear of it at the edge of the crust.  Oooooh how I long for Ray's slice - pepperoni, extra hot.  

- Unlimited beer - I was, of course, able to set up shop right by bar and get my fair share of Quilmes grandes (750 ml, the same as a bottle of wine).  It remains unclear if my moustache advanced or undermined me.  A Quilmes grande generally coosts $15 pesos in the bar ($3.75).

NOTE: This is from a different night, but is substantially similar to what happened in the bar.
Not to worry, I shared with my friends.
- A Great Futbol Experience
After the long bus ride, beer, pizza, and shopping the game itself was really fun.  We met friends, heartily rooted for Bocas, and cheered in a crush of 50,000 Bocas fans.  Sad to say Bocas lost but the experience was great.  Here are some more photos of the time.

A beautiful sunset at La Bombonera before the game.

Dave gets his cheer on.  Bocas!  Juniors!  Bocas!  Or something like that.

A Porteno's (a person from Buenos Aires) passion for Bocas Juniors is only exceeded by their passion for mullets.

They really, really, really love Bocas Juniors.


Just some of the friends we made at the game.

All in, going to a Bocas Juniors soccer game is expensive, and the fact that the tickets cost so little, but the tour costs so much stings a bit.  Nonetheless, the experience on the "gringo" bus was fun, we met good people and enjoyed ourselves. 

JDMesh Recommended.




* And though we don't know why they are called juniors, I can assure you that this is a professional team of full-grown men (half of whom are mulleted).  Interestingly, the club's full name is Club Atlético Boca Juniors and according to Wikipedia in addition to their futbol team they field "a professional basketball team and amateur teams in futsal, basketball, martial arts (judo, taekwondo, karate), wrestling, volleyball, gymnastics (artistic, rhythmic, aerobic), swimming, and weightlifting."  Who knew?

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