We wanted to see a football (soccer) game in Buenos Aires, but it’s very difficult to get tickets for the better games. So even though it would not normally be our preferred way of taking in a local event, we decided to go on an organised tour to the River Plate vs Velez game at River Plate’s home stadium. River Plate is one of the two local Buenos Aires teams, the other being Boca Juniors. Games between these two are highly coveted, but Velez is also an arch rival so hopes were high for a thrilling game.
The minibus picked us up at our B&B in the afternoon and we headed to the ground. When entering the stadium, we were subjected to several security checks during which my ballpoint pen was confiscated. My plans for epic pen-based violence thwarted, we entered the stadium and took our seats and watched the 2nd division teams play.
It became clear when my pen was confiscated that security is a big issue at these games. We had heard about crazy Argentinian football fans and how violent they could get, but in recent years they have made huge advances in stopping it. Firstly, since a lot of sport violence is alcohol based, absolutely no alcohol is allowed into the ground or available for sale (not even light beer like the SCG!). Secondly, there is a huge security presence including security guards and riot police. Finally, they take enormous steps to seperate the fans of each side. The stadium is setup with a seperate “away team” section, behind a huge fence. This section has its own entrance, and all the away fans leave at the end of the game, get on their buses, and are gone before the home team is allowed to leave the stadium. This controls the violence both during and after the game.
Our guide explained a lot about the teams and the game itself and happily answered our questions. He was a River Plate fan so more than happy to be there to see his team, and his brother, a Boca fan, was also there. Despite the fact that Boca weren’t playing, they ribbed each other constantly about their allegiances. It reminded me a lot of a certain Adelaide family split between the Crows and Port Power! Since River Plate have the same colours as the Sydney Swans, we of course barracked for them (also it would have been a health hazard not to!)
Our seats were great (another advantage of going with a tour), and we were close to where the players came out onto the ground. The game itself was not particularly interesting, to be honest. It ended in a nil all draw, but still the standard was high enough to still be entertaining.
The main attraction was really the crowd. Even with not a lot happening in the game, they were a rowdy lot, and the atmosphere was electric. They kept us entertained with their singing for the entire game. To give you an idea here’s a short video clip:
For some reason which I assume is to to with available space, the crowd on the upper level likes to line up with their legs over the fence. It doesn’t look very comfortable (or safe) but they don’t seem to mind. We definitely spent more time watching the grandstands than the field.
After the game we had to wait for the Velez fans to exit before we could leave. Once we cleared the stadium, We grabbed choripans (sausage on bread) and beers outside and headed home. Despite the result, we had really enjoyed the experience.