As a sports fan, I know I'm late to the game. For years I've caught clips of soccer (let's just call a spade a spade- it's football to the rest of the world...) matches on TV that, at best, would be described as wild, raucous, feverish. A palpable passion on display. Crazily driven individuals with one goal in mind. I'm not referring to the match on the field, of course. In the stands. The crowd. The masses. In Argentina where football dominates the sports realm and with over 200 football stadiums in Buenos Aires alone, I couldn't wait to experience the feeling for myself.
They say in Argentina that there is nothing a man is more loyal to than his football team. Hmm... no judgment. The bond between a man and his football team is no joke. It's what he wants to talk about, participate in, and watch whenever possible. I was told the best way to chat with a local is to familiarize myself with the local football team as that will consume about one-third of the conversation! So you best believe I hung on every ounce of advice and direction from the local guide who chaperoned a small group of us outsiders to rivals' San Lorenzo vs. Estudiantes match like we were his daughter at freshmen Homecoming.
No passports. Of course! No credit cards. Not a problem! Absolutely no red or white clothing (the opponents' colors- we were San Lorenzo fans for the night, royal blue and red). Sure thing! No chapstick. Whaaaaa??? Pump the brakes! Anyone that knows me knows that my cherry chapstick is pretty much my plus one wherever I go. How could they not want soft, sun-protected lips at the stadium? Turns out anything throwable was strictly prohibited. Cell phones were OK but even those rarely made it out of pockets.
And so we went. Forging ahead without a scratch through the dense sea of people, through the multiple lines of police donning riot gear, to our bird's-eye view seats. A perfect spot for the spectacle about to happen. Which started long before the match started, by the way. First the bass drums. Then the cymbals. Then the trumpets. All hidden underneath San Lorenzo's large, unwieldy banners. And all riling up the packed stadium from that minute til after the match was well over. Nonstop. From this chant to this song to the next chant to the next song. No one cared how loud they were. No one cared how well they sang. Everyone simply jumped and joined in. It was pure excitement, joy, and support that I had never witnessed at a sports event before. What was even more inspiring was when a player screwed up. The jumping only got higher and the singing only got louder. There was never a boo. Never a back turned. Never an insult hurled.
Except to the visiting team. The hollered obscenities were frequent of which our guide translated to such favorites as 'son of a bitch' and 'your mother's a whore'. Completely cracked me up. Interestingly, the city of Buenos Aires put a temporary ban on visiting teams' fans attending matches due to recent violence that's erupted at the stadiums. In fact, when visiting fans are present, protocol allows them to exit the stadium first before the home fans can exit. So all of this angst and fervor today were meant specifically for the 11 players down on the field! To boot, there is not one scoreboard, not one time clock, not one announcement (well, there was one to tell a few idiots standing on the edge of the top deck to sit down or they were basically "going to fall off and die"!) and not one alcoholic beverage in the stadium to distract from what is happening on the field.
Except me, of course. I could barely watch what was happening on the field in fear of missing something in the stands! No question that the athleticism out there was fantastic. But the unifying force in the stadium... that was the real show. And even though San Lorenzo lost a close game, the crowd still songfully bounced up and down with as much encouragement for their team as in the first minutes.
I can attest. Argentinians are indeed loyal to their football teams. No question they've jumped with both feet in for a lifetime.
Enjoying the great seats and great crowd as we cheer on the San Lorenzo home team
The unstoppable waving banners
Some of our very vocal neighboring fans that kept us in stitches
One more minute. Because jumping is damn fun.