Against my better judgment, I’ve opted to stay at Milhouse, one of the biggest and most notorious party hostels you could find. I’m planning on going out from South America with a bang. Literally.
I’ve spent the day getting used to my new surroundings and acclimatising to the sheer size of the place. It’s a 300 bed plus monstrosity, and it’s going to be home for the next week, for one reason and one reason only; the shower. I’m telling you this thing could cure cancer. However bad you’re feeling, whatever nick you wake up in, this power hose blasts you clean and refreshed. I’ve always said when I open my hostel, the shower is my number one priority. Have decent showers and you’d be fully booked the year round. That and a smoothie bar.
I’m overjoyed to find they have four tickets left to the game. This is going to sting me around £120, but how often do you get this chance? Boca Juniors are one of the biggest and most passionately supported clubs in South America, if not the world. Their fans are legendary, particularly for their violent clashes with bitter rivals River Plate. This game is the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final, played against the Brazilian team Corinthians. It’s the equivalent of the Champions League, and I’d pay any money to see that ultimate game in that competition. For the spectacle we’re about to see, it’s well worth it. Once in a lifetime stuff.
The crowd gathers around 5pm, with a large contingent being made up of Corinthians fans, obviously choosing to stay at a hostel for the away leg. This doesn’t bode well, considering the only way to get tickets is from Boca supporters. Consequently we’ll be surrounded by Boca fans with a load of Brazilians in our midst. Lord help us if Corinthians score. They have been told to keep their mouths shut.
Buenos is buzzing. The city is coming alive for the game and the atmosphere is electric. I’ve contemplated putting the kilt on with a Boca shirt but it might be a bit much. I also don’t want to show my support too feverishly for fear of upsetting a hidden River Plate fan. It’s worse than Celtic Rangers. The craziness of these supporters is well known. I shall be keeping a low profile.
Except I don’t. Obviously. Instead I turn into a hooligan approaching the ground. I’ve bought a Boca scarf, and I’ve been swinging it wildly round my head. Some of the Boca fans have taught me a couple of chants. I’m ready to go. I’ve turned into that dreadful actor Danny Dyer in The Football Factory. Only not as dreadful.
I’ve been handed a credit card sized, errr, card, with someone else’s face and name on it. Apparently I’m to be ‘Luis Frederico Finoccherio’ for the evening. I’ve also been informed that the hostel buys it’s tickets from Boca’s firm. Translated; the hooligan faction of a supporters group. How very reassuring. My suspicions are confirmed when they let a little ginger pasty white Scottish girl in before me, then turn me away after asking my name. I should have memorised it, as clearly it didn’t matter that we look anything like Argentinians. Myself and three other guys are stuck outside while our hostel guides rapidly dial numbers. Eventually someone appears out of the crowd with a ticket and thrusts it to me. In I go, only I don’t, because the ticket is false. Rather than being arrested, the guy just shoo’s me away. A few minutes later someone else appears with a new brief. This time I manage to finally enter the ground, as I was getting concerned I’d miss the build up atmosphere. I needn’t have worried, the game doesn’t kick off for another two hours.
I’ve seen more Blackburn Rovers games than any other football team. In spite of being a Liverpool supporter, my Dad was Rovers, and in the 94/95 season when they won the Premiership, Dad took me to most home games, culminating in their trip to Anfield on the last day of the season. Liverpool won, but Rovers took the title because Manchester United could only draw with West Ham. The Liverpool fans were singing Blackburn songs, and vice versa. That was a very special day. I love watching live football, especially with Dad, and he would have loved this. I’ve been to some passionate matches, but this was just insane. In England there is a chant that goes something like this:
“Sing when you’re winning, you only sing when you’re winning. Sing when you’re wiiiiiinnnnningg, you only sing when you’re wiiiiiinnnniigggg…”
Boca fans don’t ever stop singing. From start to finish voices can be heard all around the ground and even after letting a goal in, the fans are still belting their hearts out. I’m joining in. The stadium itself shudders and creaks under the weight of so many supporters jumping on the terraces. Firecrackers and flares ring out, filling the air with smoke and colour. The beat of drums echo through your very bones, and it doesn’t stop for a pulsating three hours. I couldn’t imagine what the atmosphere is like when River and Boca clash. I’m not sure you would come out alive.
With the score finishing one each, it’s nearly 2am by the time we make it back to the hostel. I’m tempted to try to go out, but in the end I decided to call it a night and be functional tomorrow. I’ve exhausted myself singing “ole ole ole ole Boca Boca” all night.