I did suspect something was going to happen on Avenida 9 de Julio because crowd control barriers had been set up overnight in front of businesses around the Obelisco—I just thought it would be for a possible International Women’s Day march on Sunday.
I did realize there was a football game in the evening because I kept on seeing city buses packed with loud Boca fans speeding towards La Bombonera.
I had no idea that another chapter of football history would be written a few hours later.
“There’s a game tonight,” I told Feng when I called him around 11 p.m. “Wow, sounds like Boca won…”
Feng Googled it.
“Oh… OH! OH MY GOD, BOCA SCORED WITH 15 MINUTES LEFT AND WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP!”
My brain translated it as “Boca won an important game.”
I checked the local news on my side. Indeed, Boca had just won the Superliga Argentina.
I don’t care much about football but I do know that:
- There are two clubs in Buenos Aires, River Plate and Boca Junior.
- They hate each other.
- Maradona played for Boca Junior.
- Boca Junior is based in—you guessed it—the colourful working-class neighbourhood of La Boca.
- Football is a very, very big deal in Argentina.
Just before midnight, I went out to see what was going on 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires’ main avenue and widest street in the world. I could hear cheering from Avenida Corrientes.
Fans were coming back from the game, pouring out from subway stations and gathering around the Obelisk. An hour later, the avenue had turned yellow and blue. Two hours later, it was closed to traffic and fans were going crazy.
It’s 3 a.m. and they are still going crazy—chanting, drinking, waving Boca flags and other things sports fans do when their team win. There’s a huge crowd around the Obelisk—men, women, grandmothers, newborns and even a few dogs wearing Boca colours.
I met eyes with a police officer watching the crowd.
“Pretty well-behaved gathering for football fans,” I noted.
“That’s because we’re lucky they all support the same team,” she laughed. “And it’s far from being over…”
Meanwhile, a fan was stripping down to his underwear to show the crowd his many Boca tattoos.
I don’t give a damn about football but the enthusiasm is contagious and I’m happy for Boca fans. It’s a tough world, with bad news all over the place. Many Argentinians don’t have an easy life and it’s pretty obvious that Boca is the club of Argentina’s working-class.
We should celebrate whatever makes us happy. It’s not “just” football, it’s an evening and a night spent bonding with strangers and feeling on top of the world.
Tonight, I feel lucky to be at the right place at the right time—surrounded by euphoric Porteños.