In this week's post, Ben scores a ticket to see Buenos Aires' longstanding soccer rivalry in action! He first learned about the Argentine teams as a child in Queens, New York City, and was able to make it to see this game to remember in person while studying abroad. He shares how he got to the stadium, how to handle the first-come-first-serve seating basis, and why taking a cue from locals is the way to go. Stay tuned until the end where he shares his 5 tips on how to navigate your first soccer experience in Buenos Aires.
I have been an avid soccer (football/fútbol) fan for as long as I can remember, and having spent a lot of my childhood in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in Queens, NYC, I have been exposed to Argentine and Latin American fútbol teams since I was young. The rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate (Buenos Aires’ two best teams) has always intrigued me, and it’s known as one of the fiercest rivalries in sports. Before my arrival in Buenos Aires, I hoped that I would be able to get to a game and witness it myself. Unfortunately, the season had ended and I didn’t think I’d be able to see a game. Luckily, I saw that there was a different competition going on, and Boca Jrs. had a home game in the semi-finals. I knew I had to take advantage of this!
Boca Juniors is one of Argentina’s best and most popular teams; all the sports stores here are decked out with Boca gear like this shirt!
I texted a few friends and told my roommate about the game, and she texted a few of her friends. With a week left to the game, a group of around 8 of us had tickets. I recommend buying the tickets online using Viagogo or a similar site—while the customer service isn’t great and the process is a little drawn out, it worked out well for all of us. We all went to a neighborhood called Palermo Soho for food and drinks before the game. Unlike sporting events in the States, food and drinks are not served at the stadium. My next suggestion is taking a taxi or Uber to the stadium, or at least a neighborhood close by. Public transport gets congested and the walk may be long.
This is what the ticket I got from Viagogo looks like.
It is very important to have some sort of documentation on you at the stadium, whether it be a driver’s license or your passport—without one, you will not be allowed in. I also recommend not bringing anything; while bags are allowed, it’s more of a hassle than anything and you really won’t need access to anything.
There are tons of people at the game, so definitely be careful. My friend and I got past security and were waiting for my roommate, but she got separated from us. There were so many people in the area that our service wasn’t working, and we were unable to reconnect with her until after the game. Luckily, she found another group of our friends and didn’t have to watch alone, but this is a good example of how unexpected these events can be. This is not the kind of event you can plan to a T, you are better off letting the events unfold the way they unfold for the locals who frequent these games.
A view of the game: it was a little hard to see but the atmosphere can’t be beaten.
The game was very intense, but the atmosphere in the stadium was even more so. There was barely enough space to stand between the sections, and finding a seat was a lost cause. Unlike in the US, people don’t really care about their seat—it’s more of a first come—first serve basis mixed with a “push yourself to the front mentality.” This can be a source of culture shock for many people who go to a sporting event in a new country (I expected it based on my knowledge of fútbol), but rather than fighting it, you must embrace it. The locals will not take kindly to someone telling them to move out of their seats.
For the entire 90 minutes, the fans sing their hearts out, mock the other team, and rally theirs. While we get rowdy in the States too, especially in Boston, this is a more concentrated and unified system of support for a sports team. I think that if you have the chance you should definitely check out a local sports game; it’s a breath of fresh air from a lot of the tourism that you can get lost in, and it can give you a chance to connect with locals and be a part of their community. The game ended 1-0 in favor of Boca, who advanced to the final and later blew the chance to win the championship to a much weaker team (but we don’t need to address that in detail). Now, almost two weeks after the game, I still can’t get the Boca songs out of my head, and can’t wait for the season to start so I can follow from Boston!
My friend, Matt, and I after the game, with a great view of the stadium in the background.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Get a ticket. If there is a game going on, buy tickets even if you aren’t a fan. It’s a massive part of the culture here.
2. Travel light. Bringing just your wallet and phone will suffice.
3. Keep your friends close. Try not to lose your friends like we did.
4. Don't be shy. Push your way closer to the action
5. Do some research and learn the context. Think about the right questions like: what kind of game is it, is it a rivalry, who are the players, etc…
Ben Gunduz is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2019, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An International Businessmajor at Northeastern University, he is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Ben's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.