Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Boca Juniors Match, Parte Dos

(Continued from Boca Jrs. vs. Independiente Parte Uno)

The stairwell up to the popular bleachers is a fifteen-foot-square four-story gray brick rectangle. When we enter it, there are three or four men on each level, urinating either towards the wall, or in the more classic Latin American style, facing away from the wall and pissing into the middle of the walking area.

People had been entering La Bombadera for a couple hours before this time, so the floors of the stairwell landings were nicely humidified with their first coats of fresh piss. The smell was not yet overwhelming.

We came to the first door out into the bleachers, and I had a sense we should keep ascending in the stairwell to a higher level, but my companions pushed on through this first door and into the already totally jammed bleachers. This may have been a mistake. If we had gone higher up, we could have ended up in the shade under the upper deck, with a better view, and out of the throw/spit/urinate line of the enemies in the opposing-team's-fans section above us. As it was we were in direct sunlight, watching through a barbed-wire fence, and in danger.

Next time you are heading into La Bombadera's popular section, keep going as high as you possibly can.

The popular bleachers are made of cement, nine ten inches front to back, eighteen inches from butt level to foot level. When we first got in about an hour before kick-off, though we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other fans--actually there was shoulder overlap--you had a place for your feet and a place for your butt. But by the time the game started, you only had one place: you could either stand there, or sit there and pull your knees up to your stomach with your feet on the same level as your butt, in a roughly 9-inch-square area.

I AM smiling, Che.

Each team is sponsored by a company and the company name is the dominant thing on their jerseys--the pro ones and the fan ones. On the Boca Juniors jerseys the word MEGATONE blazes across the front and back in blue on yellow. Independiente's colors are red and white, and these are also the colors of their sponsor's logo. I will not mention who their sponsor is because for some months I am a Porteno, not some sub-human Independiente-loving scumball who throws wet and or burning things onto my body while I try to watch fut.

The opening proceedings have a lot to do with promoting the sponsors' stuff, plus some sports-for-kids stuff, then some cheer leading stuff. Our cheerleaders were lead by Batwoman, as you can see in in this video.

All of this involves yellow-and-blue related things around the periphery of the field, but the whole time a big red and white logo for the opposing team sponsor is spread out dead-center in the field and beautiful young (but probably subhuman) women stand around the logo holding red and white flags unmoving for the full hour-plus.

When the match finally starts, it takes a minute or two for the popular section to get into full roar, but by the time they do the volume is unbelievable.

They sang and chanted at least thirty different songs in perfect unison and it was like having icepicks reamed into my ears it was so freaking loud. They must be half deaf after a few games of that and are now insensate to the ridiculous decibels.

Immediately I could see this was a higher level of soccer than I am used to seeing on TV in the States where I am watching American, Mexican, some European, and some international matches. I was dazzled by the skills, and it looked like Boca was going to dominate, they were so creative, precise, and fast. Yet I know it can be very hard to get a small ball through eleven guys and into a small net, and one bad moment on your end, and you're screwed.

I learned at that match that soccer is not as boring as it seems. Being in a psychotic horde of deranged maniacs who have nothing to live for but the game, you start getting a feeling for what it's all about: appreciation for skills, bravery, and heroism. Every time something skillful happens, the crowd flips out with applause and songs and hoots in appreciation, even if it ends up in "failure." One guy taking on six defenders and getting THAT CLOSE! got nearly as much applause as if he had scored a goal. A player stealing the ball from another who had just beat three other guys: roaring cheers! An unbelievable spin move followed by a precision-lofted ball to a downfield attacker, pandemonium of chanting and screaming and clapping and cursing and taunting at the enemy above us. Even if we had not put a number on the scoreboard, we had just smote the enemy to our own everlasting (one or two seconds) glory.

On TV you don't get that. You don't hear it or feel the continually changing pulse of the crowd as it reacts constantly to what is happening on the field, second by second.

The great joy of the own-goal.

And then BOOM. Boca own-goaled themselves, right in front of us, right in the goal not forty feet down to our left. I saw it in my mind over and over: our defender sliding in on his knees trying to block the ball in the frenzy of action at the net, and the ball clearly coming off his grass-sliding knees and into our own goal. You see this in the first part of the video linked to below, from television broadcast of the match.

But there was no sense of fan anger against this poor sap. Everyone in the stadium knows the sports gods are unfathomable. Some pats on the back, the ball was taken to the center line, kicked and the game continued.

And the first half-stick of dynamite came down from the upper deck, landed five feet from me, and blew about twenty of us off our feet. I could feel my rib cage bend inward with the blast, I was momentarily deaf and all I could see was white.

I had to clear up a bit before I could determine if I was injured. I wasn't, really. Sort of an unusual blast-radius sensation in my chest and legs, but that's all. Others around me were checking themselves, laughing nervously, and trying to continue watching the game, but with frequent furtive glances to the upper deck that would continue until they let us out of there.

The bombs seemed to be a ploy to get us into a situation where we were continually looking back into the upper deck, from which the spitting and tossing of cups of scary substances then commenced. This was responded to by our section with explosive torrent of abusive screaming, the most common and recognizable word of which was PUTA!!! whatever that means.

During the rest of the match, only one more bomb came down. Our senses were so heightened by this time that we could almost hear the thing flying down at us and so we covered our ears, spun away from the likely explosion point and curled away from the explosion.

The spit, though, and cups filled with scary unknown liquids mixed with cigarette ash, continued to rain down the whole time. Huge viscous spit wads hit our backs, heads, shoulders, chests, faces, depending on which direction we were facing. We were constantly glancing up and behind for fear of more bombs coming down, and then we'd see a rain of phlegm descending from the sky and there was really no way to avoid it if it was coming down at you, because there was no space to move. You could see these guys were used to it: a huge wad would hit their shoulders, and they'd just reach back with their shirt and scrape it off, often without taking their eyes off the game if something exciting was happening.

Earlier I had noticed that most of the shirtless guys around me had pretty large bruises on their legs and arms and torsos and massive scaps on their elbows and knees. I have to reckon these guys were season pass holders, because those bruises could easily have come from both being bombed and from being knocked down on these sharp-edged cement bleachers. If you look at this next video you will see that our team scores at minute 1:46 of the clip. My friends and I are in the stands to the right of the word BUDGE, and notice how there is tidal wave of humanity the second the goal is scored by #10, Riquelme, a guy who many (even outside Argentina) think is the current best player in the world. #10 is also the number on most of the tourist jersies, though you'd think his name was Megatone. Maradona, who was also in Boca Jrs, also wore #10.

At 1:46 in that video, upper left, is the moment where I first got bowled over by a tidal wave of humanity and and injured my pelvis pretty decently. At least I seem bruise- and scab-free even if I can barely walk more than a week later and my back is killing me. On the plus side, the powder burns on the right side of my neck from that first bomb seem to be healing really well.

So the game ended a 1-1 tie (both goals unfortunately scored by our team) and there was a lot of scary threatening going on between guys in our area and guys above. I decided, after several hours of putting aside my intuition to get the hell out of there, to get the hell out of there now and I got about thirty feet closer to the exit when I realized we weren't going nowhere. The doors were locked.

They kept us locked in the popular area for more than an hour while the entire rest of the stadium completely cleared out. So we sat on beer- and Coke-soaked cement, staring through barbed wire, in 100F heat, for an hour while the animals above us threw cups of wet grossness down upon us and the "security" dudes stood around and didn't do squat. You couldn't move from your position if you were in a particularly rich line of fire because we were all just crushed in there like 12 people in a 5-man elevator. We just simmered, stewed, and got abused, while maybe a hundred of us hung on the barbed-wire cursing and gesturing at the people above.

Once they got all the rich white folks out out of the rest of the joint, they finally opened our doors and the mob flood started. I was hot to get out of there so I sort of aggressively pushed my way into the stairwell.

Guess what! It was not TWO FREAKING INCHES DEEP IN PISS! It was an un-partable Sea of Urine that soaked through our tennis shoes as we slowly herded ourselves, inch by inch, through the airless tunnel.

But not just airless. There was actually an honest-to-god piss fog in there. The heat and the moisture and the vast quantities of urine had turned the stairwell into a full-on toxic urine gas chamber. I held one hand over my nose and mouth and tried not to breath too much; meanwhile the sticky cloud stuck to my flesh and burned. Eventually I got out and stood on the sidewalk waiting for Chris and Cory. When they came out they both had their shirts wrapped around their faces. They pulled them away and gasped for air. Their shoes were soaked to the ankle.

When I got home after 2 hours of trying to catch a taxi later--we finally snagged the 29 bus back to Plaza de Mayo--I got on the internet and bought a ticket to another match. I will be returning to the section popular.

Surely the fans of Colón de Santa Fe cannot be as debased as those of Independiente.


tangobaby said...

Okay, I don't even remember what I read here anymore except for the part about the sea of urine.

Excuse me now while I go throw up the piece of toast I had for breakfast.

b said...

Hi, tb. Sorry about that. I didn't want to make you barf; just write down what actually happened. There's no way I could have left out that one super-memorable aspect. I will try not to make you puke with future posts.

Michelle said...

I can't believe you're going back to the popular section! sounds a bit scary but I guess you get a rush from being there in that environment.