Football is king in Argentina and as we were in Buenos Aires the day that ‘Team River Plate’ were playing for the cup we felt we couldn’t miss the opportunity to witness the event. As we walked towards the “Monumental” stadium, a sea of white and red football jerseys appeared all around us. The atmosphere was electric with chants of “Vamos, Vamos, Vamos River Plate” rose from the surrounding crowds.
Arriving at the stadium we took our seats. On the pitch was a veteran’s game to keep the crowds entertained whilst they waited for the main event. On the far end of the stadium was a small corner of yellow and red – these were the ‘Team Olimpo’ supporters who’d travelled about 200 miles to support their 2nd rank team versus the current league leaders. Even though there was still one week of play ‘River Plate’ would be crowned champions if they won this game.
As the veteran’s game came to an end the excitement rose within the crowd. More chants and stamping of feet echoed around the stadium. Confetti and streamers were thrown from above high and red and white flairs burned around. Hands clapped with more vigour, feet stamped with more insistence and voices chanted louder and with more passion. The game hadn’t even started. And then the crowd erupted as their team ran onto the pitch.
Kick off and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind who the stronger team was. One after the other attempts on goal were made and when ‘River Plate’ finally scored the crowd went wild with excitement. But then the wind changed, ‘Olimpo’, who had been doing a decent, if not amazing, job at defending themselves, scored. The tension rose with the close of the first half, but the fans still believed in their team.
The second half was more of the same and the atmosphere rose once again. And then, finally, ‘River Plate’ scored their second goal and the stands trembled with the excitement of the crowd who were up on their seats stamping their feet and chanting at the tops of their voices. The referee blew the final whistle and cries of joy filled the air, ‘River Plate’ were crowned Argentine champions for 2008.
The away supporters were let out of the stadium first to avoid fans from both teams mixing. As we were with the ‘River Plate’ supporters we had to wait. Finally we were let out and walking the surrounding streets in search of taxis the whole neighbourhood was abuzz. That evening ‘River Plate’ fans from throughout Buenos Aires gathered around the Obelisk in the city centre to celebrate and share.
Watching any football game in Argentina is an experience, but watching such a key match is on a whole different level. The atmosphere at this game certainly surpassed the atmosphere I felt at any other live sporting I had been to anywhere in the world. Vamos Vamos!
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