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A Taste of a Soccer Game

 

 

 

Cowboy culture, mighty meat and toe-tapping tango all finish a distant second to Argentina’s number one national pastime: fĂștbol (soccer). Don’t shy away if someone invites you to a game, but bring a strong voice and your rally shoes. The national obsession, fĂștbol, is as much a part of Argentine life as eating, sleeping and breathing. It courses through conversations like blood through veins, and everybody—women and children included—is an expert in tactics and players. To attend a live game is to experience Argentinean culture in the raw. The event begins before the day of the game, at home and at the workplace, at the bus stop and in the cafĂ©. Passionate discussions about fĂștbol culminate in flailing arms and flying insults. If you don’t know about a team’s history, it’s better to sit back and listen to the experts: it is part of the pre-game training (and surely as exhausting as the players’ professional training circuits).

 

 

On game day, hordes of fans swarm the streets, moving en masse like an army to the battlefield. FĂștbol culture in Argentina has its own language, a collection of idioms, chants and hymns that accompany the trek to and from the stadium. These boisterous demonstrations of fĂștbol-piety echo through the streets, filling the air with an electric buzz. The atmosphere inside the stadium is no less charged. Once inside, don’t be surprised to see wired fences separating the fans from the field; they are intended to protect players of rival players from the overzealous and sometimes violent advances of rabid hometown hinchadas (fans). While violence has been known to erupt at some matches, it is not the main event, nor is it the focus of the throngs of fans that descend on the stadium.

 

 

Most of the back-and-forth between rival fans is good natured, teetering between absolute hilarity and total absurdity. So don’t be afraid: sit back, relax, and enjoy the dose of adrenaline administered at these tournaments. During some special games, the so called “Clasicos,” such as Boca vs. River, Racing vs. Independiente or San Lorenzo vs. Huracán, you’ll see incredible behaviors, such as fans throwing bags of sugar at the opposite team (an attempt to sweeten their sourness), or you may witness diapers sailing through the stands. The intended target: the cobardes (cowards) on the other side.

 

 

All the excitement may make you hungry. If your tummy starts to rumble, try the choripĂĄn, a sausage wedged between slices of fresh white bread. You can by it at the stadium entrance before or after the game.

 

 

For an insider’s fĂștbol experience, go with a local fan who can debrief you on the teams, their records, the usual tricks and the prevailing mood in the stadium. It is not difficult to find such a mentor if you say that you love fĂștbol. Even the most timid of travelers will be swept away by the enthusiasm. When you find yourself spontaneously reacting as the crowd does, you will know that you are part of that collective body, and you will give your heart and your full voice, at least for that day, for the team of, yes, your love. Ultimately, fĂștbol is Argentina’s number one passion: make it yours too.



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