So, there I was, just watching a Copa90 Documentary on my way from London to Birmingham, and then … I saw it.
Compared to the atmospheres in most of Central Europe, those like La Bombonera in Argentina are second to none in terms of its intimidating tactics, monolithic appearance and outright craziness in their response to what they see on the pitch. Especially when it comes to when their beloved team score a goal. Then all hell breaks loose!
In almost every way imaginable, La Bombonera Stadium is enormously impractical. Stuffed into the bright, bustling streets in La Boca in Argentina, its erection serves the neighbourhood within which it’s surrounded. But considering the square footage of the area taken up by the housing in its shadow, there wasn’t really much room left.
With its pitch size built to the smallest dimensions allowable by the Argentinian footballing hierarchy, the only way (quite literally, in this case) was ‘up‘ for the builders of what would become the home of Boca Juniors. Hence why visitors are often taken aback by the pure confrontation of the stands in front of them when standing on the turf.
The club itself soon became embroiled within a rivalry in the Primera Division which stands to this day, and one for which the fearsomeness is derived from the clear juxtaposition with their opponents. In this case, La Bombonera’s inhabitants hold a great disdain for those housed by El Monumental – the home of River Plate.
Currently, it stands as one of the most striking, passionate and tempestuous rivalries in the history of the game. So fierce, in fact, that the simple gold and blue emblem of Boca wouldn’t be seen anywhere near in the vicinity of the River neighbourhood – and vice versa. Even Coca Cola had to follow suit near La Bombonera after their red and white style was noticed on a stand near the stadium; now it has a black primary colour to appease their customers.
Over time, River Plate became known for their ‘beautiful’ style of play, which is believed to represent their surroundings as well as the affluence of their founding figures. By contrast, Boca Juniors have adopted a ‘winning by any means’ mentality. Hence why the battles between the two is often one which can throw up a serious surprise as the ‘new form’ of the game meets its ‘most pure’. Synergies can even be found in their celebratory rituals.
Though overzealous to the untrained eye, River Plate fans generally pride themselves on their relative ‘dignity’ compared to their ‘ill-disciplined’ opponents. But unperturbed by the snobbishness of those Monumental patrons, Boca have since decided to embrace this image of ‘unkemptness’ in a showing of relentless passion and support for the Blue and Gold. The greatest of ways for the ultras among us, is their wonderful ‘Avalanche’ communion.
Stationed behind one of the goals in the West of the stadium, is an unseated terrace of bedlam and mayhem. Stabilised on a small angle, it didn’t take the locals long enough to realise that, if done at the same time, they could all run in unison toward the front without seriously injuring their fellow comrades in the process.
So, what’s the one thing that can get any number of fans in the crowd to react in the same way? Yes, you guessed it. A goal. Whenever you do get to watch a game at La Bombonera, just watch that Avalanche fall. Waves of people rushing to the front and yelling at the top of their lungs to signify their support. A symphony of togetherness, passion and the emphatic sense of release that only a goal in football can bring. It’s just breathtaking.