If you’ve spent some time in Argentina, you’ve probably discovered that Argentinians are very passionate people. Whether it’s yelling at each other in the street (or making out with each other in the street) or dancing tango or watching football, Argentineans are not ashamed to show their emotions. In my opinion this passion comes out in its most pure and intense form through football. The first game I ever went to was between two very important teams, Independiente and Boca. It was outside the Buenos Aires city limits in the Independiente stadium. I remember being shocked by many of the things that I saw. These include:
- EVERYONE (men, women and children) standing up the entire game, shouting and singing the fight songs. The “popular” section with all the insanely passionate fans played their drums and sang nonstop. After only 30 minutes I felt exhausted and overwhelmed but everyone else seemed to feed off the energy of the crowd
- The huge fences separating the fans from the field
- The policemen lining the stadium with full-on SWAT uniforms
- Waiting for every single person on the visiting side to exit the stadium (dancing their way out, since they won) before we could leave.
After my first football game I quickly found that Independiete and Boca were not for me, and that my loyalties were to reside instead with the San Lorenzo team. My boyfriend is a devout “cuervo” along with other famous figures such as the Pope and Viggo Mortenson. As a San Lorenzo fan, here is a list of a few things I witnessed in my many visits to the cancha (stadium).
- Once San Lorenzo scored a goal. I repeat: a goal. They didn’t win this game in particular or anything, but they did score a goal. Immediately after the goal I looked around the stands and saw that almost every single person had tears in their eyes. My boyfriend included! I was shocked! I had no idea how to react so I turned away to give him some space and proceeded to watch the other grown men cry like babies.
- There is a San Lorenzo fan that represents the ideal passionate football spirit and he is known as “El Gordo Ventilador” or “The Fat Fan.” It’s technically “fan” like a ceiling fan, but I didn’t realize the pun in English until now! The Fat Fan is a large man that climbs up the fence without a shirt on and remains perched in what looks like an extremely uncomfortable position for the entirety of the game. Be it rain or shine the Gordo Venitlador is a loyal fan, waving his blue and red San Lorenzo shirt around in the air in a fan-like motion.
- The most intense experience I ever had at a football game was a couple years ago. To be honest I don’t really know what happened, but the referee made some call that really pissed off all the San Lorenzo fans. Everyone started yelling and ripping of their seats and throwing it over the fence onto the field. The referee had to be escorted out of the stadium and people tried to climb down the wall to catch him before he got into a car. Then, to get the fans out as fast as possible the SWAT- like policeman started tear-gassing the stands and shooting rubber bullets. We were on the other side away from the “popular” section so we didn’t get a direct hit of the tear gas, but I did experience an awful feeling in my eyes and throat. We ran out covering our eyes with our shirt. I was terrified and couldn’t believe how quickly everything had escalated. My boyfriend had always told me to wear running shoes whenever we go to a game, and I finally understood why.
Despite that one bad experience that I had at an Argentine football game, I love them. The energy and excitement at the games is invigorating. Experiencing a football game in Argentina is an essential part to understanding its culture and the passionate souls that inhabit it.