Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boca Juniors

Before the game

I'm not a huge soccer fan.  I do really get into the World Cup, but that's about it.  Honestly, I think soccer is kind of boring.  You know what really grinds my gears (Peter Griffin), soccer games where the final score is 0 - 0.  Make the goals bigger or the goalies smaller.  Do something.  New rule, professional soccer goalies have to be midgets, no taller than 3 feet high. I had never been to a professional soccer game, but that changed on Saturday.  

Soccer is the #1 sport in Argentina, and 40% of all Argentines pull for the Boca Juniors.  They're like the Dallas Cowboys of Argentina.  The Boca Juniors stadium is located in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Boca.  This neighborhood is like the Compton of Buenos Aires.  When I mentioned to a porteño (what the locals call themselves) that Pauline and I wanted to go to a game, he strongly advised us to go with a tour group.  My initial reaction was, no thanks, we'll be fine.  But then another porteño told me that he loved soccer but he hated going to Boca games.  He had been to only one game and when he parked his car, a soccer hooligan told him that he needed to pay protection money or his car would get destroyed.   Tourists are targeted and mugged routinely.  Soccer hooligans are a huge problem here.  The day before the game a hooligan was shot in the face by a cop. 

So, even though I had one month of taekwondo under my belt, we decided to go with a tour group.  It wasn't much more expensive than going to a Bengals game (actually it was a lot cheaper because they don't sell alcohol in the stadium).  The tour started out great.  They picked us up in a van and drove us to somebody's house that lived right next to the stadium, La Bombonera.  It was very authentic; a cookout, homemade pizza, and beer.  Boca was definitely a sketchy neighborhood, way worse than OTR. We met some cool people from London and Jerusalem.

Three Israelis and Mike in Boca jerseys
So the game starts at 9:15.  For some reason, we leave the party at 7:15 (with our protection following conspicuously behind us) and are in our seats at la Bombonera at 7:20.  Our guide said for safety reasons we have to get their early.  So that kind of sucked, but no big deal.  Our seats are standing room only right behind the goal.  It was a great view of the pitch.

Our tour guide (on left)

Stadium entrance
The stadium starts filling up, and everyone is chanting, throwing confetti, and setting off fireworks.  It was an insanely cool atmosphere.  The best I've ever seen.  The game was great.  Definitely an experience.  The guy next to me smoked four joints all by himself and was chanting the entire time.  I liked him.  The guy next to Pauline, however, is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for "having the loudest and most annoying voice in the world".   He was behind the Jewish guys and was screaming and leaning on their shoulders, apparently trying to get them into the game or something, but in actuality was only making them hate Argentina.

Boca Juniors vs All Boys
With 30 minutes left in the game, the fans were getting rowdy and jumping up and down.  I then noticed stuff falling on my head and all the fans around me looking up inquisitively at the ceiling.  The upper deck was directly above us, providing us with shade in the daytime but at that moment, was crumbling under the weight of the fans above and threatening to end our existence.  After a while everyone around us came to the consensus that we would not be crushed to death and the focus turned back on the game and how unfair the refs were being tonight.

So the game ends, which is good.  We had a long day, and we're tired.   So from where I'm standing, I see people leaving the stadium.  No one in our section is moving at all.  "Ok," I think, "they're dismissing us section by section to avoid a mad rush for the exits.  Excellent."  45 minutes go by.  The stadium is completely empty except for our section and the other standing room only section on the opposite side of the field.  Finally Pauline asks our tour guide why the game ended 45 minutes ago and we are still standing shoulder to shoulder.  So it turns out that we are in the cheap seats where all the assholes sit.  They let everyone leave and sometimes make our section sit there an hour after the game ends or until the surrounding area is clear (especially of the other team fans).  So, as you can imagine, this was really grinding my gears (Peter Griffin).  I had at least 5 different people touching different parts of my body.  It was packed.  It was hotter than a well digger's ass.  I hadn't had a beer in 5 hours.

Finally we were dismissed.  After a long bus ride home through the slums, in which I witnessed a boy of ten years throw a big piece of wood at the tour bus in front of us, the experience was over.  Sitting here now, I'd have to say that I'd do it all over again.  There were moments when I would have rather been in an Afghani prison, and probably would have felt safer, but the game was great and the party beforehand was awesome.   

Oh yeah, the final score was 0 - 0.


What a great group.  Everyone was a blast.

A picture of me being awesome.

Pauline and I on the pitch.
Not once in my life have I ever thought to myself, "man, I really want to play some Polo".  Polo was always a sport that was reserved for upper crust Brits and European royalty.
"A boy from Hamilton, Ohio, play Polo??  Ha that will be the day! " said an imaginary British guy with bad teeth.

Well, last Friday, the impossible happened.  Pauline and I took a Polo lesson (about 4 hours).  Besides us two, there were two Canadian brothers, and two chicks from New Castle, England that took the lesson with us.  Good people.  After the lesson was over we split up into teams (Pauline and I were on the same team) and played in an official polo game, which we won 5-4.  I don't like to brag, but for this blog to be historically accurate I must profess that I scored four of our five goals.  Did I miss my calling in life?  Do you know who else scored 4 times in one game?.....Al Bundy.  He scored four touchdowns for Polk High, including the winning score as time expired.  Guess what.  I too scored the final, game winning goal as time expired.  Granted, Pauline and I have ridden horses over 100 times in the last couple of years and everyone else had only maybe taken a trail ride on a downtrodden donkey, or ridden a camel with a saggy hump at the zoo, but personally I don't think that has anything to do with it.

Pauline scoring a goal (in practice).

Our polo instructor, Fernando.

After the polo match we drank some beers and watched the sunset.  Pauline and I both agree, it was the best day yet.