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River Plate vs San Martin

Written on: Sunday March 2nd, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Author: Julie


Today, our day started off on the right foot. We had a great lunch of a steak sandwich and chicken sandwich for 10$. Around the corner from our hostel was a small take-out joint with only a small counter and large barbecue brazier. On it was slow cooking a large haunch of beef and a dozen half-chicken pieces. You could order any combination of meats to take out, wrapped in large butcher paper. We ordered the sandwiches and the cook cut long strips from the loin, cook them for a few minutes then stuff them into a fresh French baguette adding a bit of lettuce and chimichurri sauce made from chopped parsley, dried oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, and paprika with olive oil. It was so delicious! We went back three days in a row!

Today?s big adventure was attending a soccer game between Club Atlético River Plate and Club Atlético San Martín de San Juan. We were picked up by a shuttle bus full of other travellers. It?s not easy getting to the River Plate stadium and the football fans in Buenos Aires can be quite passionate. Not knowing how intense it could get we decided to pay a premium to be shuttled to the game by a local (50$). We could enjoy the experience without the stress and hassle. Kevin had been to a game when he had visited Chile the previous and it was one of the most fun and intense experiences of his life.

We took the main highway to get to the stadium and along the way we were exposed to the poorer side of Buenos Aires. . As we drove over a large overpass, below we could see a large shanty town that had sprung up. The economic collapse had left a large scar on this country that will take years to heal. In the previous days, we could see people were poor with large groups heading out at night to rummage through the rubbish piles put out for pick-up. In groups of two, they would pull large carts with 2 meter high burlap bags filled with paper, plastic and tin items. They would spend all night, ripping up garbage bags, sorting everything that was viable and leaving the remainder in large piles on the sidewalk. A few parks had small communities with makeshift shelters of cardboard boxes built under the protective branches of large trees.

Arriving at the stadium area, we found the streets barred off by the police for crowd control. We were allowed through since we were tourists. Included in our tour price was supper and we had the choice of burgers and choripan (chorizo sausage in a hot dog bun) from a street vendor. When we arrived at the stadium it was mostly empty. Our seats were under a covered section and above us was a caged in area for the opposing team. Surrounding them were police officers to make sure they didn?t throw anything on those sitting below them. Hung all over the fencing were fan-made team banners and flags. Fans would climbed over the fence, over the barbed wire, then hang precariously on the other side to tie them to the fence. The game started around 6:30 with the stadium filling up quickly. One minute there were just a few hundred people and the other there were probably four or five thousand. It never filled up and the crowd was fairly subdued. It wasn?t what I had expected based on Kevin?s account of his experience in Chile and videos we had seen of South American soccer games. We later found out it was because the San Martin de San Juan team is not a highly classed game so the expected outcome was a win by the home team. The opposing team fans, caged up overhead, were a lot more active and energetic. They had streamers running down the seating area, flares were set off regularly and they kept singing the whole time. Every time they got too loud, the home team fans would whistle to cover them up. I thought they should answer their enthusiasm with their own songs but most people just sat quietly, watching the game.

By half time, the game was 2-1 for River Plate. The stadium emptied out while people ran to get more snacks, have their much needed cigarette and more beer. They were vendors walking through the crowd during the game but they didn?t seem to keep up with the demand for beer (3$), soft drinks, chips, popcorn, ice cream, and fried snacks. Overhead large planes were passing directly over the top of the stadium on their approach to the international airport. The weather slowly turned into rain, at first a fine mist till it picked up and became a drenching, sleeting rain. Those who didn?t have covered seats ran for refuge under tunnelled entrance ways till only a few people were left huddled umbrellas and makeshift plastic coverings. The game had to continue and the players came back onto a slippery wet field. They were able to play for a while but it degenerated into a slip and slide with the ball only going forward a few feet before being stopped by the puddles and players slipping everywhere as they ran or falling over as they tried to kick the ball. With only 5 minutes remaining in the game, the officials finally called a stop. A few weeks later they are scheduled to re-meet and would play the last 5 minutes to see who was the winner.

We left the stadium, dodging large puddles as we looked for our driver. He had found a parking spot close to the stadium and we all ran quickly to get inside and away from the soaking rain. It took quite a while to be able to leave with people streaming out and cars trying to leave too. The typical congestion after a sporting even. Our drive back to the city was interesting as the rain had caused major flooding in our area and a few streets were now blocked or bogged down. Luckily for us we were in a bus so we were able to pass where many cars couldn?t. On our return to our hostel, we found out that not a lick of rain had fallen there.

Across the street from our hostel is an ice cream parlour selling about 30 different types of home-made ice cream. For those of us who love it, it?s heaven! The sizing available started at ¼ kg with three flavours to 5 liters tubs. That night I ordered the ¼ kg container (3$) with Banana, Strawberry Cream and Chocolate with Almonds. It is the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted.