Boca Juniors, Estadio Alberto J Armando (La Bombonera)

A Boca Juniors ticket will set you back about $200 – $300, US dollars that is, because it’s generally tourists who can and are willing to part with that sum of money to visit the Bombonera, and America’s most famous football club. By comparison, earlier this year a Racing (one of the country’s ‘Big 5’ let’s not forget) vs Boca Juniors ticket cost $300… Argentine pesos.

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Arriving into Buenos Aires, it quickly becomes apparent that Boca Juniors is special, especially special. Match tickets for Boca games are only sold to members. You will be waiting about a decade to become a member, if new members were being welcomed. Therefore worshippers of the Xeneize (Genovese) rightfully speak of a trip to the Bombonera (chocolate box) as a pilgrimage or an unattainable goal. It’s a big deal for all Boca fans from all over the country, young, old, poor, rich, male or female.

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So to clarify, Boca tickets equals very difficult or very expensive. If you’re here long enough you might be lucky enough to be a 15 minute walk from the stadium half an hour before kick-off when your phone rings with a call advising you of a spare ticket which will otherwise go unused… good things come to those who wait and all.

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The history behind Boca Juniors adds to the mythical aura they present to the Argentine public. As football grew in the country and became professional, they emerged as the country’s foremost powerhouse. with regards honours, they are actually second to two Buenos Aires rivals in continental and national titles with 6 Libertadores triumphs (one behind Independiente), and 31 Primera championships (5 behind RiBer Plate as the Boca fans mockingly call them, in reference to their relegation to the second tier).

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A traditional working class neighbourhood, a famous tale of the origins of the club’s colours, years of Superclasicos with the richer and snobbier rival River Plate, a plethora of fabled former players, Diego Maradona, former club presidents becoming National Presidents, a fanbase that inspires books to be written just about them, and a uniquely designed stadium that amplifies the football on show as well as the sound – everything about Boca is magical, mythical and spiritual to their thousands of followers in Argentina and abroad.

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The neighbourhood of La Boca is one of the prime tourist locations for visitors to Buenos Aires with its brightly coloured sheet-metal houses lining the streets of the working class area. The Alberto J Armando stadium however is as much of a draw as anything as thousands of tourists proclaim themselves honorary Bosteros (manure handlers) for a day. The bostero nickname originated as an insult in reference to the bad smell of the locality (in part due to the highly polluted Riochuelo river) but was happily appropriated by Boca fans as a sign of pride in their heritage.

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Upon entering the Bombonera, one is always struck by how close the stands are to the pitch and how they grow vertically towards the sky rather than away from the pitch. Today on matchday, it was also noticeable the pockets of space right before kick-off. Some of these were understandable the vitálicos (veterans) have no assigned seats but as they are lifelong socios, they always sit in the same seats and don’t have to worry about arriving early. Additionally the tier above the famous La Doce barra brava was surprisingly sparsely filled, it was obvious however that many people had snuck into the tier below to join Argentina’s most famous hooligans.

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Despite the fact modern legend and prodigal son Carlitos Tévez was suspended, those in attendance were treated to some fantastic forward play. Recent signing Darío Benedetto scored a superb hat trick, including a 35 metre screamer to send the crowd into pandemonium. He also notched an assist with a backheel that sent the whole Quilmes defence the wrong way, guiding his team to a 4-1 win, and assuring his place in the Boca Juniors history books. An experience like no other.

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