Argentina

 


 

It seems to me that Boca Stadium is trembling. I’m up high in the press stands and down below on the terraces where ‘La 12,’ the fearsome hoodlum Boca fan-base, is leaping, I can see the rowdiest element of this crowd. 50,000 people are leaping in unison in some sort of barbarian tribal dance. Boca stadium is perhaps unique for the way it moves when the crowd jumps. Jump it does – but tremble never. The stadium doesn’t tremble say the Boca supporters: It BEATS!

 

This is a big night for Argentine football. Boca Juniors – the country’s premier team and the world’s most organised hooligan army – are out to enjoy a big night. They are playing arch-rivals Racing but are actually already celebrating the fact that they are champions. Even a Racing victory tonight is unlikely to shake the death-grip that Boca has over the league. Out on the eastern terraces I can see the Racing supporters lighting coloured flares and trying to raise their voices over ‘La 12’. On victory night the Boca section is jumping, and their famous stadium is vibrating. 

 

In the very epicentre of that human storm there is a banner, in Boca colours, bearing the number 12. The Boca warriors are renowned as the 12th player in their team. Come rain or shine, victory or defeat, nothing stops them from singing. Another banner bears the legend ‘Nunca Hicimos Amistades’: We Never Made Friends, attesting to the fact that ‘La 12’ never formed an alliance with any other hoodlum gang. Legend has it that, below the shelter of that hallowed ’12,’ the chiefs of what is one of the world’s most feared barbarian tribes sits with his lieutenants enjoying what are said to be the purest drugs in South America.

 

Tonight has been a big night for Boca Juniors for many reasons. Rafael Diliceo, the king of the ‘Boca Barmy Army’ was informed upon by his second in command and has just been released after three years in prison. On the way into the stadium tonight, laden with camera equipment (and the bush-knife that I had forgotten to take out of my backpack), we had to run the gauntlet of a network of streets that seemed be entirely controlled by Boca patrols. The police were nowhere to be seen and some are expecting what might amount to a civil war among ‘La 12.’

 

Nevertheless, tonight the Boca fans are also celebrating on many levels and as they sing one of their token songs somebody reminds me of the Argentine World Cup song. ‘El que no salta es un ingles’ (the one who doesn’t jump is English).

 

I jump in time with 49.999 others and remind myself that the Boca stadium doesn’t tremble. It beats.