Hola, Si, my name is Ines Rodriguez. Si, this is my season pass. Si Si, I am a big fan. Cintia turns around and gives me a look as if to say “breathe a word of English and you will get stabbed. Really.” (I close my mouth). My hand shakes as I press the season pass onto the card-reader and pray the light turns green. The guard looks as me like he knows I’m foreign, like he knows I have never seen Boca play in my life. Our seats are member seats, and as Ines Rodriguez, for one evening I am privy to the glory that comes with being a Boca fan. Boca and River (pronounced Ree-verrr) are rivals and are the only teams that matter. The Boca stadium is, as one might guess, in the Boca neighborhood, one of the shadiest of the city. Stray dogs and stray children wander. Sidewalks are elevated due to the proximity to the river and constant flooding. Crushed soda cans litter the streets. Boca is dark and bleak and poverty-stricken.
In the taxi ride over we learn from the radio that a woman has been shot in the MacDonalds around the block for wearing the wrong team’s colors.
I cross the threshold and am told to throw out my water bottle and open my purse as my male companions are patted down. I half expect them to tell me to remove my shoes. It’s iffy but the operation is successful. We are in. We are Argentine. We are Boca fans. Our life has purpose.
The infinite hike up to our seats suggests we’re verging on nosebleed, yet the view is still decent from our grey cement benches. Despite the open-air, I get high off of the mixture of cigarette smoke and the aroma of grilled meat as the whole stadium vibrates with exhilaration. For Boca fans, futbol is religion, and today is Christmas. The players are announced and the fists begin to throw and the shouts and cheers gain momentum and when the crowd-favorite Riquelme (rival of Maradona) walks out, falling strips of white paper turn metallic under the stadium lights as they flutter down towards the field. Huge drums begin their low-pitch roar, like ogres preparing to eat the other team.
I order a coke, and the guy can’t make change (there is no change in this country). He promises to bring me back a peso in two minutes, then disappears into the crowd without waiting for my response. After more than a month here, it should not surprise me that he doesn’t return.
Palacio scores the first GOLLLLLLL and the fight songs, grunts and throwing fists become deafening. Argentine Spanish was made for futbol tunes. These are not of the go-team-go variety-- these songs, heavy on the subjunctive, speak of desires, hopes, hypothetical situations (losses) that will remain, at least for tonight, hypothetical. We pretend we know the words and hum along, hugging each other, thrilled to be part of something with such pasión, wondering if any New England Patriots fan would shoot a woman in a MacDonalds for wearing a Giants jersey...
After the half-time consumption of thick Chorizo wrapped in hunks of french bread, lethargic, full-bellied fans recline back into their seats. Lethargic, seemingly full-bellied players pass the ball back and forth as if in practice as the shouts and drumming and fight songs slow, trickle out, become barely audible…..
until Figuera heads the ball with absolute brute force and…..
We fly to our feet shouting, "¡¡¡¡Que Lindo!!!!"
It really was a pretty goal.
We are winners. We are Boca fans. As we are told before the game,
Boca always wins.