THIS is what it feels like to be in a city that LOVES football (soccer for us Canadians) …
Tonight was River Plate VS Boca Juniors. Two local rival teams playing in the semi-finals of the South American Cup.
The game started around 8 pm. Thankfully I had already made my way safely back to my apartment by then. I had been warned not to be near the stadium during a game. In fact, you can’t just go to a game, you have to purchase a tour package and go with a group. Tickets are well over $100 US. Although I’d love to experience it, I’m not sure I’m brave enough!
It’s quiet in a city that is almost always busy. The main street that I live on (Diaz Velez) has only a quarter of the cars as usual. No one is out walking. It’s almost a ghost town, but you can see lights on in all of the apartments nearby.
I had been in the centre of town until almost 8 pm when I hopped a taxi back to Almagro, the local area that I’m staying in. I’m a good 15 minutes by car from the stadium. It took me about seven or eight minutes from the centre to ‘almost’ home where my taxi driver dropped me off. He tried to tell me that he couldn’t go down the streets near my house because they were the wrong direction, which is true for some of them, but not all of them. He was either super lazy or in a hurry to get somewhere to watch the game. So, he dropped me off and I walked the five or six blocks home. I understood him, but couldn’t seem to make him understand me; I think he was just being stubborn.
I was sitting in my room when I heard the first loud cheer (around 10:15 pm). When I say cheer, I mean not just one or two people, I heard the voice of my neighbourhood. I messaged one of the locals I had met to ask what happened as I immediately knew it was ‘the game’ talking. The response was that River almost scored, but didn’t. It was a false alarm.
About 30 minutes later, I headed to the laundry room to hang my clothes to dry and nearly fell over when I heard the city roar. Have you ever heard a million people scream all at once? I hadn’t, but apparently, it’s loud enough to fill the night air and carry throughout the city. (a million is just a guess by the way … three million people in the city, one million cheering for each team and one million who aren’t watching or don’t scream … that was my thought process ha ha)
And, that was the roar of the game being ALMOST done.
30 seconds later the city erupted in one louder-than-loud roar. So loud that you didn’t just hear it, you could feel it. It was the voice of Buenos Aires! The excitement of the fans was unmistakable. A smile spread across my face as I stood near the window in my laundry room watching the fireworks near the stadium. I was amazed that I could see them, but with an eighth-floor apartment, I guess there are some unique benefits. The fireworks continued for a few minutes, as did the screaming, without losing strength, not even a little.
Hidden amongst the boom of the fireworks was the beat of a loud drum (or many drums), a scared dog howling at the night and the occasional celebratory gunshot. It’s funny how when you hear fireworks you think it could be a gunshot and vice versa, but when you hear them both at the same time, they are very distinct.
I continued to smile, thankful to be inside and not in the chaotic core of the city. The energy and excitement of the city had reached me even though I wasn’t watching the game. And shhh don’t tell anyone, but I really could care less about soccer. (Please don’t hate me Buenos Aires!)
By about 10:55 pm the roar had subsided, the fireworks were done and the main street in front of my apartment was trickling with traffic, laughter and yelling.
20 minutes after the end of the game I had heard police and ambulance sirens, screeching tires, beeping horns and there is a constant hum outside of people talking about the game.
An hour after the end of the game the neighbourhood is still buzzing and occasionally a happy driver (or 10 in a row) honks their horn all the way down the street. More sirens. More screeching tires. And, I’m not even close to the stadium! I guess it has taken an hour for fans to get from downtown back to their homes.
I’m guessing the city will be awake for a while. For me, it’s time for bed.
PS – River Plate won tonight, so they move on to the finals and La Boca is done.