Boca vs River
I know I know, as another blog trundles along the production line and drops onto your screen you were probably hoping it wouldn't come 'quite' so soon after the last one. Yeah sorry bout that....but as Freddie Mercury said (before he died): 'The Show Must Go On'....and he was right (about that bit anyway, not about Fat Bottomed Girls making the world go round, that's just plain sick in my book). Back to warmer climates
Anyway back to the travel story (aka The Show)....and it was (in a Geordie voice) 'Day 236 on the Ginger world tour....and junk food cravings were getting to G as as it had been nearly 3.5 weeks with no Macd/BK/KFC...but luckily back in BA airport and he had the choice of 3...but only 20 mins before his shuttle bus arrived, what would he go for?'. Yeah, Taylor we all know it was a no brainer - MacDs all the way. Just to give you the heads up mate, the meals are called McCombos but if you ever get stuck I'm sure you could just point....oh and if you're really hungry the magic word is 'dos'.
So back in the capital city
then and so many things to do. The guide book said 'BA is full of opportunities to learn Spanish, watch futbol, dance the sexy tango and interact with the portenos' but my brain just translated 'BA is full of opportunities to watch futbol, futbol, and more futbol' starting with the game that I had rushed back to see. Boca vs Godoy Cruz
As tickets thro the hostel were expensive and for plebs (personal opinion, not fact) I went to the ground in the morning to check stuff out. Man, it was an all ticket (not good) and all cordoned off (still not good). After being told this by 3 different entry points I could have folded and ended up living on the streets for the rest of my life....but I didn't, I sought another solution, a local policeman as it happened. I asked him if he knew how I could get in, and to my surprise he said 'he' could get me in for 100 pesos without a ticket. I liked him (not like that). As I was meeting Allan (Sco) and Nat (Eng) for the game I arranged to meet him in 2hrs on the
Home to Boca Juniors
same corner (again, not like that - seriously you guys).
Having returned with Allan and Nat...there was no policeman. As we stood around for the best part of an hour I wondered if he just didn't like my new found pals. It didn't matter anyway (altho it may have to them) as a bloke came up to us and offered us tickets.. We agreed, as long as we only paid after we got inside, so he escorted us up to the third turnstile and there we were......inside La Bombanero - cooool!!! Altho there was a scare when an official stopped us on the way to the seats asking to see our tickets - but I used the old 'my mate has the tickets and he's behind us' line, amazingly it worked.
After climbing to the top there we were.....above Boca's famous 12th man with a perfect view of the pitch, the fans and banners creating a sea of blue and yellow. The teams came out to confetti and lots of noise and were rewarded with a Boca goal just before half time. There was a peach of an equaliser (which obviously we boo'd) in the 2nd half meaning
River vs Nacional (Par)
the the points were shared, but more importantly for us, both goals were at our end. Nice.
The following day and a bit of time on the internet I found some interesting stuff (not that sort) and if worked out that if I juggled my trip to Uruguay I could actually see 6 games in 10 days. Starting with River Plate in the Coppa Libertadores that evening. So with Uruguay on hold, Mike (Eng) and I headed to El Monumental.. River Plate vs Internacional
The game was the equivalent of the Champs League and didn't the away fans just know if as a stream of their buses went passed with the hanging out of the windows and skylights. Inside the ground and as with previous game, the fans, flags, confetti, noise, flares created a great atmosphere. El Monumental was a fantastic stadium, good enough in fact to have hosted the 1978 World Cup Final no less. That game however was a 4 goal thriller, ours on the other hand wasn't tho....we witnessed a no goal thriller. It was however one of the best 0-0s I have seen, just shading Cheltenham Town vs Welling (1999/00). Fans
didn't seem to mind that the mighty River had been knocked out of the competition, so I guess nor did we. Around the City
BA is a great city, easy to get around so armed with a map I went for a stroll and came across the International Bears. Now this is a cool little concept, give every country a white 6ft plastic bear and let them paint something on it representing something about their country making those from that country proud or reminding them of home, or hopefully both. All good in theory. However when I found the UK one the only thing I was reminded of was - Eurovision. Yeah. Our artist had created a stinker. I know art is subjective but man, there are exceptions to every rule.. Just to be sure I asked 3 people what they thought and they agreed. There were some good ones..and some scary ones. (see photos).
After that came a stroll around La Boca too, famous for its colourful houses, tangos in street, stadium/musuem and market. Argentinos Juniors vs Lanus
Who? Yeah that's what the person at the hostel said when I
Diego Maradona Stadium
Home to Argentinos Juniors
asked where the stadium was. After consulting with the doorman (who knew his footy) I was told not to go to this game...especially if I was going on my own....and definitely if I didn't speak Spanish either (ipod lesson 8 didn't count). So 'When in Rom.....er actually it doesn't work here but I still decided to go cos the same people also told me not to go to Boca without a ticket..
As I rocked up I was surprised that is wasn't a huge ground like the others, despite being named after.....Diego Maradona....man some people will do anything for attention (them, not him). It was quite a cool ground, it reminded me a bit of The Dell in fact (before it got knocked down and turned into a supermarket).
Inside and I was even more surprised to see that the game had kicked off and the ground was 1/3 full, and the players seemed quite young. Maybe Argentinos Juniors meant that it was a club for young kids before they get snapped up by the bigger clubs. Anyway I saw 1 goal, but at half time they all did a lap of honour and clapped the few fans
that were there. Confused? Yeah, so was I...
...Until shortly after the game, when the real Argentinos Junios and Lanus came out. The previous game must have been an U21 or something. The stadium was packed at this stage and I saw the home side, against the odds (they were bottom and Lanus were top) and much against the run of play, win 2-1. Recoleta Cemetery
Anyone who's anyone, (and filthy rich) used to get buried in this place. It used to be a bit out of the city but the same way most cities grow, it is now part of the city. The graves were all packed in but not a cemetery as you'd think, oh no these lucky people (apart from the fact that they're dead) had pretty amazing tombs, most in marble, some with windows, many with statues, and some like small houses.
I was there to find Evita's and thought it would be easy so I didn't get a map thinking I could just look for the crowds of people. This took longer than I had expected but I found it in the end and it was far less impressive
Independiente vs Huracan
and smaller than the other tombs, I hoped there was enough room for her to be turning inside. Independiente Vs Huracan
For this game along came Robbie (Eng) and we shared a taxi to stadium. However, on getting there it was a shock to find it still under construction and no fans. It wasn't a great area either and getting dark. We walked to Racing Club stadium and got chatting to an old lady sat outside her terraced house. I say chatting, I chatted in English, she chatted in Spanish, if we were honest with ourselves we weren't making much progress until she got her daughter along to translate. It appeared that the game was 'away' - had ESPN's relaible website really got it wrong? Luckily for us I could remember who they were playing and luckier still it was a local derby so the actual stadium was in BA. They called us a cab, we thanked them and off we went.
On arriving at the stadium if we were in any doubt that it was a local derby, the riot vans and police with shot guns and other guns (no AK47 with red dot
sights tho, Call of Duty 4 fans) were a handy reminder. We were also told in Spanish that no ticket = no entry (boo) so we hung around hoping that we could get in somehow.
Luckily near to kick off we were told we could buy tickets from the stadium, so the police were being big teases all along, ha the Argentine wit (yeah not a typo). We asked for 'seats' (plateau) and headed in to mayhem as people were pushing to get in....and then even more commotion when we heard a goal.
As we got in we got to see the Huracan boys taking the ball out of the net - cool Independient were 1-0 up then...but hang on Independiente were the away side right..and we were in the home section....confused? Yeah so we were, and we also realised we didn't have seats, oh no we were in the hard core standing section and (on the 20th anniversay of Hillsborough) we were up against a 12 ft fence behind the goal, a little on edge then.
The football match for the first half was kind of immaterial as I was bowled over by the noise and
San Lorenzo vs Velez Sarsfield
energy of the fans behind me..and fear for my safety.. We were still confused who was the home and away team as ticket said Independiente and there were more of these fans in the stadium. The second half came and Huracan pressed and pressed the goal at our end but despite hitting the woodwork twice they couldn't score much to the delight of the Independiente fans.
On getting back to hostel checked the web to see the goal and found out we had missed 3 goals as it was in fact 2 1...and Independiente play all their home games at... you've guessed it.....Huracan.. San Lorenzo vs Velez Sarsfield
These boys had had a new stadium built so I was excited as I headed to the 'Nuevo Gasometro' - a name that may encourage Bristol Rovers fans to flock here, or maybe not..
For this I had a seat so was in more tranquil surroundings if you can call it that, and true to Argentinian football games both sets of fans were as passionate throughout the game as the away team won with a 2nd half penalty.
5 games down then and it was
time to spend the next 6 days in Uruguay before heading back for 'El Classico' Uruguay
Having been given the heads up by Nat and Allan I took the 'Buquebus' which is a boat/bus combo (Taylor, it's not a new MacD meal) from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. Montevideo is of course the place which is home to 'El Centenario' - stadium where the first world cup final was held. You've guessed it...'When in Rome..'
The stadium was impressive, with giant centrepiece/obelisk towering above the pitch and better still I had the place to myself! Inside there was also a cheeky little 'Museum of Football', which had various photos and memorabila (see pics).
The next destination was the cool little fishing village of Punta Del Diablo and prior to my bus arriving I had some time to kill so I had a pit stop at you know where. And Taylor, in Uruguay when you ask for ketchup they also throw in a sachet of mayo too...altho for some reason the straws are yellow.
On the bus I met Daire (Ire) who was heading to the same place and same hostel so we had strength
Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay
in numbers (well, 2) when we rocked up and no one knew where the hostel was not even police. So we headed to another as it was getting late, and cold.
The following morning we moved to or original hostel 'Elida Elena' and were instantly glad we did as this place had to have the best verandah in the town! It also offered great food and had great hosts in Veronica and Ezekial.. Veronica is working on sutainable tourism for the region and is just setting up a volunteer program (if interested I can give out the link).
The beach was cool and had fishing boats scattered along the shore line (it's where they sit in between trips, there hadn't been a hurricane or anything). The waves were pretty impressive for surfing or just watching as they crashed into the rocks and sent water metres high (see pic and yeah beat that Leeroy!).
On the way back from body boarding I checked into an internet cafe, and was drawn to saw some kids doing some online gaming, as they were playing Call Of Duty 2 (oh yes) something I had not played since leaving the UK. So
I challenged them to a 'Team Deathmatch'. It wasn't long before I realised that playing with a keyboard and a mouse was in fact the most difficult thing ever..zoom was right click, grenade was 'g', didn't know what crouch, jump or sprint was and by this stage I had been killed 4 times.. And every time I tried throwing a smoke bomb it kept going to the main menu offering me the chance to change weapon.. In the end (predictably) our 2 man team lost, as they all racked up 35 odd kills and I only got 11. I told them that if they were in Cheltenham anytime soon I'd give them a rematch on Xbox....and that I'd take them all on. Not sure they understood tho.
Our final night was accompanied fish barbeque with some of the hosts' friends who actually worked in a restaurant which one guide book said was the best in Punta Del Diablo. Result.
After a few days of chilling it was time to head back to BA and this time I check out the little town of Colonia before boarding the ferry. It was cool too, and the cobbled streets were so
er 'cobbley' that the hire cars were...golf buggies. Boca vs River Plate - El Classico!!
As this is one of 'the' sporting events to go to it was always gonna be a sell out so I had to go thro hostel as no chance of getting tickets otherwise. We got there about 3 hrs before KO and stood under the River fans. We were told to stand back to avoid getting hit by stuff they threw down on us (bottles of piss etc, the usual) but I soon realised that I didn't want to be too far back cos they were also flobbing on us from the back too. Very resourceful these River fans. It actually reminded me of being taught at school, how in medieval times they defended castles...by chucking boiling water and tar on the invaders down below. So in the x hundred years since those times 'man' had progressed to wee and flob then.
After a game between the reserve or U18 sides the stadium was slowly filling up. Then the teams were announced amid obvious cheers for the home side and the opposite for River. Then more flags came out and
balloons were passed round, and as tension rose....the scoreboard flashed up the countdown to the start.....until........finally....wait for it...(especially as I had to for 3.5 hrs)...out came...... BOCA!!
I have never seen anything like it. Having seen the videos of the World Cup 1978 with the confetti and ticker tape this had to be the nearest thing to being there....Seemingly endless confettti, ticker tape, flares, balloons, deafening noise....and Batistuta wasn't even playing..
First half was pretty tense but in 2nd half the game came alive when the local god 'Martin Palermo' (not even good enough to play for the national side tho) swivelled and scored a belter from outside the box. Soon after River got a peach of a free kick to level things. And that's how it ended. So the River fans would have gone home the happier of the 2 sets of fans, altho that didn't stop more flobbing on us from them as the police ushered them out of the ground first whilst we waited....and waited..
When we did leave it was evident that those not wanting to use the toilet had just relieved themselves in the corridor so there was a bit of a
smell as we queued to leave.. luckily the smell of piss never bothered me but it did serve as a handy reminder that I needed a new pair of crocs tho such was the hole in the left one..
Before leaving the city I also took in more non football sites, namely the Botanical gardens, the Japanese gardens, the Evita museum (man, they love her) before my next destination....but where would that be?
Well, having decided that I could squeeze Central America in to the last 5 weeks of my trip by changing my return flight to go from Miami instead of Rio (I had checked this 3 times with Qantas) this meant that Brazil was up next. But as flights were quite pricey I decided on the bus.....which would handily take me via Iguassu falls (cool).....with a 'not so handy' timeframe...19 hrs (how long?). This however was just the warm up for the 24 hr one (is that possible?) from the falls to Rio. But that folks is next time, so adios for now mes amigos......
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