Buenos Aires, Argentina
Friday, March 8, 2013

Flares, fencing and fanatics probably sums up my second football game in the Argentinean capital. Whereas 11.8.1 had been organised through a tour agency, this time it was much more rogue.

It all started in 11.3 a few weeks ago when I met Bruno at the top of Mount Fitzroy. On the back of his invitation, I got in touch once I arrived in Bs As, and after finishing work on Friday, he met me underneath the city’s “obelisco”. I think it marks the centre of the capital, and it appears to be the equivalent of Trafalgar Square.

We then took the subway and bus to his apartment out towards the more residential area. Somewhat reminiscent of 6.1 / 6.3, we nipped to “the Chinese” for some snacks and a beer. Back at the flat we generally spoke most things football, and at around 20:30 we headed out towards the Independiente stadium, a short walk away.

I should mention that Bruno is a diehard fan of the Argentinean “Red Devils”. His friend, German (name, not nationality) is equally dedicated in his support. On the way to the ground, the two of them knew all the back-alleys to get there quickly, had people who could open gates to avoid the time-consuming police blocks, and generally were switched on as to how to avoid the crowds.

Outside the stadium the crowd piled up and began chanting, partly for camaraderie, and partly as a gentle reminder to the police that kick off was in five minutes. It was at this stage that I undertook the alias of Felipe Gonzales, a friend of the lads’ who couldn’t make the game. With a well-placed thumb, I flashed “my” card and was through the security.

We walked into a volcano of red fans – erupting in noise and smoke. Our places were amongst the other season ticket holders, so we found a spot standing just behind the goal. The flares were blaring, drums booming, and we needed to duck several times under the streamed banners being stretched the length of the stand.

Soon after the get-go the chants, clapping, and arm thrusting began. Then everyone (well, the guys) took off their shirts and begun whirling them around their heads. Each had at least one ‘Club Atletico Independiente’ tattoo somewhere on their person. This really was the serious end of the club’s support.

The match itself started off pretty evenly, with each side sharing possession and the home team hitting the post. Then Godoy took advantage of a sloppy defensive error to take the lead going into the half-time break. In the second half, Independiente were much more dominant, controlling play and constantly threatening the opposition. Their striker missed a simple header from near the penalty spot, and shared the frustration of the home crowd.

In the dying minutes, a speculative effort from Independiente’s No. 9 beat the keeper and rattled down off the cross bar, the follow up header was too heavy and the chance was gone. Everyone in our stand had their head in their hands. With typical time-wasting from the opponents, it ended up being the last real opportunity of the game.

As the away fans filed out before us, everyone had some time to settle down, and pack up the flags which were hung up along the fencing behind the goal.

By the time we were out, it was near enough midnight, and so naturally it was Argentinean dinner time. Once again, Bruno and German used their local knowledge to navigate through the side streets, and we were soon at a “parrilla” (barbeque) with some hot meat baps and a couple of beers.

Both were very interested to hear about England, and test out their English (I obliged in teaching them some naughty words) and we also spoke in the international language of football; comparing backgrounds of our respective teams. We sampled a few local drinks and carried on chatting until the early hours.

It was then time for me to return the shirt I borrowed for the game, and also Felipe’s card. German and I took the bus back, and I hopped off near my hostel, walking the last couple of blocks.

This was once again an example of the friendliness of Latin American people: after merely sharing some trail mix a few weeks earlier, Bruno had completely sorted me for an enjoyable and authentic evening of football. We left in agreement that I would return the favour next time he is England.

The home fans

Gutted after defeat

Behind the goal

Entering the fray

From Bruno’s flat

Walk back