Photo by nica*
Club Atlético Boca Juniors has its roots in the Italian immigrant community of the La Boca area of Buenos Aires and was originally founded as an amateur club in 1905, winning the first newly created professional league title in 1931. Boca, unlike their city mega rivals River Plate, have famously never been relegated from Argentina’s top flight – the Argentine Primera División. The club have a number of nicknames – ‘the Xeneizes’ or the Genoese or ‘La mitad más uno’ or half plus one, a reference to the fact the club is supposedly to be supported by more than half of the entire Argentine population. Fans of River Plate will beg to differ, rather vigorously. Its reported that 70% of Argentinians support one or other of the two clubs.
Games between city rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate are famously known as the ‘Superclásico,’ which many would say is the most fiercely contested football derby on earth, between two teams united by neighbourhood but divided forever. A Boca Juniors fan here summarises for us what the fixture means for him – “Winning the derby has become a goal in itself. It is the party of the year. The win represents salvation, redemption or coronation. The defeat brings about suffering and humiliation. A victory is celebrated as a title, a fall is not easily forgotten. Years pass, one wins, the other wins, draws, exciting games, boring meetings, the sad and dramatic events. Boca cannot live without River, River can not live without Boca. Argentina can not do without this derby.”
A matter of life and death? -the Superclásico of 2013. Photo by rogeriotomazjr
Currently there are discussions between both clubs regarding the playing of a future fixture of this game in Cancun, Mexico in an idea dreamt up by, you guessed it, both team sponsors, in what would be the strangest of Argentine exports.
Meanwhile, the next Superclásico is March 30th 2014 at LA Bombonera in front of ‘you know who’ – Club God Diego Maradona who has his own family VIP box at the Boca Juniors stadium, which he can regularly be seen literally hanging or climbing out of screaming ecstatically.
Here spend a minute or two with the CABJ faithful at the home tie of the Superclásico of 2013.
…and in case you are wondering what the chant in that clip is, that will be the “River how does it feel song” (referring to their recent time spent down in the second division) which, with all due respect to River Plate fans, is the greatest football sing-song ever penned in my opinion.
CABJ fans will tell you that their club is the ‘true’ club of the working class of La Boca neighbourhood, as River Plate or ‘Los Millonarios’ sold out when they moved to the wealthier suburbs of Núñez in 1925. Fans of River Plate are known to Boca fans as gallinas (chickens) whilst the latter are referred to by fans of River Plate as ‘Los Chanchitos’ (little pigs) or ‘Los Bosteros’ (the manure handlers) due to the apparent smell of the local river. Yes it’s that childish and that silly.
Although there is nothing remotely silly about the ultra hardcore Argentine football culture of the ‘Barras Bravas’ (fierce blocks) which have been referred to as ‘the world’s most dangerous football fans’, operating as gangs of football mafia with a variety of ‘business interests’ and a particular foothold in the poverty stricken backstreets of Buenos Aires. These gangs argue that Argentine football belongs to them – and have been reported to “have the occasional word’ with a player if required.
The history of Argentine football violence is bloody to say the least and in 2002 was declared a ‘national emergency’ by the Argentinian government. Away fans have been banned from attending matches since June 2013 as a desperate attempt to try and control the violence. Attendees at a recent Superclásico recount the moments where a police helicopter hovered one metre above their heads whilst sat inside the Boca Juniors stadium. Its different over there.
Boca Junior’s most hardcore fans are known as ‘La Doce‘ (the twelfth player) and they literally ‘run the doors’ at La Bombonera with scant security applied to their activities – and are the self styled Kings of the Stadium. They are undoubtedly Argentina’s most talked about fan group with it’s leaders famous cult anti-heroes and are backed with what as described as ‘serious funds’ and even have a book devoted to their history, of course they do.
CABJ play in the iconic open air Estadio Alberto J. Armando otherwise known as ‘La Bombonera’ or ‘the chocolate box’ which has a 49,000 capacity (almost 9000 of that standing) and was opened in 1940 in the La Boca area of Buenos Aires. La Bombonera is known for the incredible atmosphere of home games as well as its tiny pitch (the smallest allowable under FIFA regulations) and has an unusual ‘Capital D’ style construction. The design of three stands only was due to the lack of space in the stadium’s residential surroundings. The ground has also been home to many rock concerts and due to the incredible acoustics, many locals have been unfortunate to be exposed to the sounds of the likes of Elton John and James Blunt whether they wanted to be or not. There are plans for a new stadium but its been clearly stated that the historic La Bombonera will remain and be used for ‘ other purposes’ – we do hope so. It’s an incredible piece of football culture and history.
La Bombonera: Photo by wallyg
I have known grown men (and women) almost weep at the bare mention of the kits of Boca Juniors and their iconic Logan’s Run style blue shirts with gold band. Apart from the odd year where the band was transformed into a dare we say ‘River style sash’ – the kit has changed little since Boca ditched the black & white stripes in 1907 and never looked back. The colours and style of the kit were said to have been been inspired by the Swedish flag, attached to a random ship in La Boca’s harbour. That story is so good it has to be true.
In terms of design, the Boca Juniors home kit is probably the greatest if not the most beautiful home shirt of all time. Too much? You decide. Here are some pictures for you to review in private. NSFW.
CABJ are at time of writing 8th in the Argentina Primera Division and one point behind noisy neighbours River Plate. Those familiar with Argentinian football will be aware that the season is split into two Torneos and the overall champions are crowned following a play off between the winners of the two competitions. In this season’s Torneo Inicial, Boca finished 7th. In 2012/13, Boca finished 6th in the initial ‘Torneo Inicial’ and 19th in the second part ‘Torneo Final’ of the season. Will they tail off again in this year’s ‘Torneo Final’? We will watch with interest.
SILVERWARE: Argentina Primera División Champions x 30 (that’s 5 less than ‘you know who.’ ) Copa Libertadores x 6 and lots of other Copas, Recopas and Supercopas ( Argentina has more Copas than you can shake a stick at and CABJ have won a bit of everything.)
NOTABLE EX-PLAYERS: There is only one place to start and end. The Alpha. The Omega. Diego Maradona played twice for the club he loves. Once as part of the title wining team of 1981/82 and again in 1995/97 where he ended his professional career. Boca’s list of heroes includes that lad Carlos Tevez, mega hero Martin Palermo and club giants Silvio Marzolini and Roberto Mouza amongst a long list of others.
And to end, here is Diego at Boca Juniors doing what Diego did best…. astounding.
© LRM for @awaycolours 2014