Unforgettable? A football match? That’s right. In Argentina watching a football match in person, in the stadium, is something everyone should do at least once in their life.
I am a Boca Juniors fan, and football is one of the most important things in my life. I’m not sure exactly, but it could have started because I always went to the stadium with my dad. What I do know for sure is that watching a football match at La Bombonera, the home stadium of Boca Juniors, makes me feel like I’m in heaven. If you, by any chance, sympathize with another Argentinian (or foreign) football team, it doesn’t matter. The same sentiment will ring true for your team, your stadium, and your passion about it).
To show you just what I mean, let me walk you through a typical match day, with a kick-off of 5 pm.
At one o’clock, I’ll have a shower, put some clothes on (the Boca Juniors t-shirt is a must, of course) and prepare to start my journey to the stadium around 2:30 pm, about a 25-minute journey on foot. After arriving, we have lunch at the stadium—you may find that curious if you’re from other parts of the world, but it’s an essential part of the experience! In every Argentinian stadium, you will find the best sandwiches, with sausage or other meat served in the famous national milanesa style, breaded and fried. There are almost no tables, so people eat them while they walk to the gates. There’s really no fancy stuff at all around the stadium—just the best quality, best prices, and best flavors.
At 3:30, after eating our meal, we start heading to the gates and towards the sound of the best music to ever grace one’s ears: all the people reaching the stadium will start singing at the same time in support of their football team. I don’t mean a song that goes for three minutes and fades quietly—I mean non-stop singing. Singing until your voice gives out. Once we get in, we find a spot and wait for a while until the match begins, the singing still going all around us.
Around 4:45 pm, there are no more free spaces inside the stadium. 50,000 people are gathered in the same place, singing at the same time, chasing one, and only one dream: victory. Suddenly, every person in the stadium stands up, and truly every person in the stadium starts to yell and scream in joy. It somehow grows even louder, and louder still as the Boca Juniors players begin to take the field. The fans are obliged to give them a nice welcome–to give them the confidence they need in order to win. The commotion is so great that you will have to grab the arm of the person next to you, just to keep from totally losing your balance. The stadium will literally start to move from the force of people jumping. Imagine 50,000 people jumping, singing, and shouting at the same time. Magic.
5:00 pm–it’s kick-off time and for the next 90 minutes, life has only one meaning: football. If we score a goal, we will hug the person next to us. It can be someone we know, or someone we don’t. It doesn’t matter. When it comes to football, we are all best friends. If we lose, we might be sad for awhile, but we will always keep on singing. We are there for our team, win or lose.
For Argentines, football is part of our culture. It is not just a sport, but a motivating force in our life. It is a mood-changer. We are happy if we win, we are sad if we lose. Every week we wait for Sunday to come, and not because we can’t wait to go to Church, but because we can finally go back to the stadium. If we’ve had a bad week, that will be our therapy. If we’ve had a good week, that will be our way of celebrating. It doesn’t matter what may have happened in our lives, we will always find someone to hug when we go to a football match.
I know that this may sound too much for some people, or you may find it hard to understand. It is hard to do it. I can only ask that if you someday visit Argentina, Google to see if there is a football match while you are in the country. And if there is one, please do not miss it! Your life will change after.
Have you ever been to a sporting event that has changed your life? Share with us in the comments!
Header photo by Mario Klassen.