Futbol in Buenos Aires
There’s no denying that futbol (or soccer as we call it in the US) is an integral part of many Latinos’ lives. They play it with their friends, they watch it on TV, they attend the games. It could be argued that many people feel their teams are representing the identity of their nations. It could certainly explain some of the passion and even violence surrounding this sport.
Once, on a Friday afternoon, a Colombian friend (who was also studying abroad in Buenos Aires) and I went to a futbol match between Argentino Juniors (one of the many Buenos Aires teams) and Rosario (a city in the nearby Santa Fe province). It was a lot of fun! I started to understand why people love futbol so much. It's much more than just the sport; it's a surge of adrenaline as well as a sense of community.
From a very young age, kids are taught the chants and dances of their teams, and on either side you can see streamers, signs, colored umbrellas, etc. When the teams come out to the field, fans throw confetti into the air and set off colored smoke (in team colors of course). When a team scores a goal, people start jumping and yelling, and it's just so infectious that you want to join in.
If you’re unfamiliar with futbol, the games always last about 2 hours, and if there is a tie like with what happened at our match, there is no overtime and no team wins. The visiting team is always allowed to leave first out of courtesy, and also because it's supposed to discourage fights between the fans.
Brasil vs. Argentina
If you’re not aware, Brasil and Argentina are huge rivals, especially when it comes to futbol. While I was studying abroad, there was a particularly big game that many had been anticipating for weeks. A few of my classmates traveled to see the actual game in Rosario, but the tickets were almost $200 USD a person.
I was on a pretty strict budget, so instead, a group of us went to a bar in Recoleta where they were playing it on a projector. I don't know how this happened, but we managed to pick a bar that had far more Brasilian support than Argentinean support, so we felt a bit outnumbered.
Argentina is considered a VERY good team in Latin America; after all, Lionel Messi, perhaps the most famous futbol player in the world, plays for them. However, Brasil had won the World Cup several times in the last few years, so people were cautiously hopeful.
However, this didn’t mean that as soon as a player scored a goal, everyone didn’t instantaneously throw back their chairs, stand up, and start screaming. One guy even took off his shirt and started running through the bar! Needless to say, there was a lot of alcohol involved. Unfortunately, Argentina lost 1-3 to Brasil during this game, but it wasn't seen as shameful because Brasil is a world-renowned team.
On another occasion, a group of us (Argentines and Americans) traveled by bus to La Plata to see a futbol game between some local Argentine teams. It was about an hour away from Buenos Aires, and by the time we got there, we were half an hour late. (If you’re traveling for a match, day packs are great for day trips like this.)
One of our Argentine friends was wearing a branded jersey for the team he was rooting for, but for some reason the ticket sellers of that team wouldn’t let him in. This meant that we wouldn’t be allowed in to see the game at all, because due to security concerns, fans of the two different teams cannot sit next to each other. Of course, they wouldn’t believe us if we said we had changed our mind and wanted to support the other team now.
This may seem like an exaggeration, but the violence at futbol games in Latin America can be so extreme that they often hire police SQUADRONS to come in for the games. In fact, while at the Estadio Ciudad de la Plata, I saw crowd control police, regular uniformed police, and over 40 security guards (and that was only outside the stadium)!
It was really sad that we had traveled all that way and couldn’t even get in but we eventually found a cafe that was showing the game so we at least got to see it that way... but I could hear all the fans chanting their teams’ songs from the stadium and really wished I could have been in there.
Moral of the story: don’t wear futbol jerseys!
Find out more about Argentina and Latin America!