August 8th, 2004

Footy

Boca

La Boca is a poor neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. It is where the poorest immigrants from Spain and Italy arrived early last century. The barrio has become well known through a football club named Boca Juniors, where once a young man named Diego Maradona played a couple of years before moving to Europe.

Obviously as a footy fan I had to go there. Not just for the neighbourhood, described as dangerous in some guide books, but at least I wanted to see the stadium. Unfortunately for me the competition is having a break, which means I can´t go and see any match while I am here in B.A. As some of you might know, I try to pick a game in any country I visit.

I walked to the stadium from the underground, only had to ask directions once to a policeman, and saw the stadium from a far, behind a circus and several empty pitches where some children were playing. I also saw that behind a fence, next to the stadium was a game being played.

It was a game from their top youth team and I arrived just before half time, watched it until the end with just over 100 other fans. It was extremely cold, I had underestimated the weather (again) and only had a fleece to protect me from the wind, which was even worse when the sun disappeared.

Afterwards I walked to the stadium, found an open gate so continued into the stadium and before I knew I had seen some offices, the ref´s dressing room and found myself on one of the stands staring at the pitch. I did bump into the museum a bit later, still surprised how open everything seemed.

The museum was great. Much more fun than the one at Real Madrid I visited on my way to South America. Apart from the obligatory hall of fame with pictures of anyone playing at least one official match, plenty of trophy´s, a lot of nice relics from the past, like player cards from the fifties, newspaper clippings from their world cup win in Tokyo a couple of years ago, pictures of their tour of Europe in 1925 and video´s of every major title they won.

Though the best thing about the museum were the movie rooms. One with a screen all around, as if you walk on the pitch of the Bombonera (their stadium) yourself and another with clips of all their famous players, with surprisingly little attention for Maradona, who only played here a couple of years. I can imagine it would be tempting for the museum to play that card a bit more, but they didn´t and deserve respect for that. The gift shop obviously hadn´t made the same choice.



The highlight was the tour of the stadium. I wasn´t sure about that, as I had already seen a lot unofficially, but I am glad I joined the group. The stands and the press room were fun, but standing on the pitch was brilliant. I saw several of our group putting some grass in their plastic bags or pockets, it was fun to see.

Great day, but still on my list to do before I die: see Boca Juniors play (against River Plate) in the Bombonera.