To be a sports fan in Phoenix, where I live, means to go watch your team occasionally and jump on the bandwagon when they start to make a playoff run.
But in other parts of the world it takes on it's original meaning, as to be a fanatic, to be seemingly possessed with the spirit of the team, or to have single-minded excessive zeal. That is what it means to be a football fan in Latin America.
Prior to arriving in Buenos Aires, I had arranged a day tour with a guide that I had seen on the Travel Channel. (I hope to have a separate post about that experience at a later time). During the tour today, the guide received a call from a friend who had tickets for this evening's Argentina versus Chile football match. This was the first of the 18 matches that are part of the qualifications for the 2010 World Cup.
I have never thought of myself as a big football (soccer) fan, but going to the game live certainly changed my interest level. The stadium is in the northern end of town and is called El Monumental, it is one of two major stadiums in town the other being the more blue collar area of town called La Boca. (Perhaps more on that in a later post). The stadium holds 70,000 and these are not your-sushi-eating, Perrier-sipping, fifth-inning-arriving Dodger fans (sorry Kevin), these people come early and they come loud. An hour and half before the start of the match, the stadium was full with people chanting and singing. At various points they reach a frenzy and begin to jump up and down. It was quite an experience. I'm sure the entire southern cone of South America was watching as these two neighbors battled it out on the football field.
I had my small Canon point and shoot camera that takes video and so I captured a few of the moments from the evening.
The first video is from the moments right after the Argentinean national anthem has ended and immediately before the game begins. It gives you a sense of the atmosphere of the match and enthusiasm of the crowd.
The next video is actually from a French TV broadcast of the game. (I couldn't find the Spanish language version on YouTube.) I post it here so that the next video will make sense. The shot was brilliant as the Argentinean player "bends it like Beckham" and curves the ball into the goal.
Below is the video I shot of the first Argentina goal. It will give you a perspective of my seats in the stadium and the pandemonium that breaks out after the goal. I'm not sure that you can actually see the ball go into the goal, on this grainy video, so that is why I posted the first video.
So that is my first Latin America football experience. Argentina won 2-0. I may begin to follow the World Cup qualifying a little closer now that I have been introduced to a few of the teams.