‘Ranjit Reminisces.’ Green Gives Goosebumps
By Ranjit Shergill
Whilst Buenos Aires is synonymous with Tango shows and some of the finest steak, it is the footballing gods that provide the truly local flavour. Whilst tourists across the world may be seen in the branded football jerseys of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United, these football arenas are more of a tourist hotspot. Should you wish to feel the true vibrancy and obsessive passion for football then you must attend one of the many football matches on offer in Buenos Aires.
During my stay in Argentina’s capital, I attended the Copa Libertadores (equivalent to the UEFA Champions League) match between San Lorenzo and Sao Paolo. Our tour group were driven to the ground by a local guide familiar with the stadium’s layout and indeed San Lorenzo’s deep rooted history. Should you be staying in the central districts of Buenos Aires then be sure to start your journey to the Estadio Pedro Bidegain at least two hours in advance of kick-off. At times it appeared that pedestrians were moving faster than vehicles during rush hour.
On arrival at the ground the gargantuan roar of the home crowd had us all licking our lips at the prospect of embracing the partisan atmosphere. Our guide told us that 250 fans have been killed at this ground during riots in past years and that we should not worry as his presence will ensure our safety. This certainly allowed us to fully focus on enjoying this monumental occasion. It would not be an understatement to say that the crowd literally carry you through the match. Their pride and joy is watching their heroes give a gladiator style performance on the field. The sight of metal fences infront of the stands might resonate with second class citizen connotations. However it increases the raucous atmosphere and there are some fans who hang off the fences to demonstrate their unwavering support.
The San Lorenzo fans created a synchronised sea of blue and red around all quarters of the stadium. The kids were also being well groomed for future supporting of their hometown club. A cheeky but humorous hand gesture was witnessed by some of them to display their disapproval of opposition players homing in on their side’s penalty box. I was sure to wear as much clothing as possible to resonate with support for San Lorenzo in order to merge in with the home crowd that I was surrounded by. Whether you as a tourist fan wish to celebrate a home goal or not, you will be dragged to your feet by home supporters either side of you. It is almost tantamount to attending a political rally.
There was a small section of Sao Paolo fans whose carnival music playing was about as much entertainment that they experienced as their side’s performance flattered to deceive for large periods of the match. The final result of a 1:0 home victory to San Lorenzo was a fair reflection. The theme of the article ‘Green Gives Goosebumps’ rings true as the home players zipped through the playing surface to find their way to goal which in turn created spine tingling celebrations. Let your heart beat with a ferocity and adrenaline that will leave you feeling that you have lived like a local when you come to the epicentre of this football mad city. The drum rolls start from the moment the home fans enter the stadium and for hours on end after the match. The quality of football is not important to the fans as they are old school. As such they demand hard tackling and an inhumane effort from their players on the pitch above all else. The modern day tiki-taka football is music to their ears.
Quite simply you haven’t been to a football game until you have been to Buenos Aires. I as an Arsenal fan struggle to bring myself to return to the Emirates stadium which is equivalent to that of a cemetery. Moreover the ticket prices are extortionate for continuous sub-performance. However in Buenos Aires the bullring environment is worth paying for in itself. Even non-football fans are witnessed spurring the home side on with screams of approval.