26 July 2007

Manuel Negrete


Tonight I completed a kind of pilgrimage. Twenty one years ago, I was a spotty faced teenager who was fortunate enough to be playing in a soccer tournament in Portsmouth, England. My fortune was doubled because we were able to watch the World Cup every day, something that would not have been possible had I been home in Texas. On June 15th we headed down to the pub to watch Mexico vs. Bulgaria in round of sixteen match, the winner going on to face Germany in the 1/4 final. Mexico had never been further than the round of 16. They were playing in the nation's capital, playing in the largest stadium in North America, 114,580 fans packing the Estadio Azteca to the roof. Bulgaria, coached by the peripatetic Bora Mulitinovic, was a disciplined side prone to fits fo violence. Mexico had great hopes, recovering from the earthquake, asserting itself on the international stage, playing decent football, that sort of thing. Thirty one minutes into the first half, this happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drU2OzGuVfQ

There might be words to explain that goal, but I can't find them.

Tonight, I met the man who did it, Manuel Negrete. Negrete looks like many ex professional soccer players of a certain caliber. He is tanned, fit, confident, well-spoken and handles the press easily. We chatted in the kitchen area of the press box for about ten minutes. It's hard to know what to ask someone who has entered into the global consciousness in ways that you or I can never hope to do. He told me that last year, to mark the 20th anniversary of his goal, the Bulgarians flew him over for a tribute. Everywhere he goes, people ask him about the goal. He is clearly used to talking about it and has well polished answers: "very proud of my accomplishment", "it's opened some doors", "just one great moment in a long career". That goal clearly changed his life. He often finds himself in the same room, at the same dinner table, as Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Sanchez. He is known throughout the world, by people born after that goal. I remember trying to practice that movement, that goal, that moment of genius again and again in the backyard, always failing and flailing. I'm sure there were many others trying to do the same. This was one of the purest moments of genius on one of the biggest stages of anykind, in one of the most pressure filled situations imaginable. Conjured out of (literally) thin air, the unmistakable brilliance is impossible to diminish.

But for all the glory and fame that has come of that one moment (12:35pm, 15 June 1986), that one goal that etched Negrete into the stone of the immortals, he is still trying to find his way, coaching here and there, working as a technical director, trying to find some way to latch onto the money machine that is global (and Mexican) soccer. After a 20 year career that took him from UNAM Pumas, to Sporting Lisbon and Sporting Gijon of Spain (a rarity for a Mexican in those days) he has taken up coaching, received his masters in soccer administration from the Johann Cruyff University (http://www.cruyffacademics.org/), served as technical director for Atalante and is currently on tour with Cruz Azul of the Mexican first divsion as part of Tecate's bid to sell more beer to the huge U.S. based Mexican community. I left our interview more impressed than I was 21 years ago when I stood up screaming in an English pub.

So after twenty-one years of thinking about that goal, I have met the man who scored it. A small circle is complete and he and I go our ways in the world of football.

07 June 2007

Railhawks article in the Independent Weekly

Top left: Kupono Low’s winning goal goes past Charleston goalkeeper in the RailHawks’ victory on May 19. Bottom left: Scott Schweitzer, head coach of the Carolina RailHawks, at practice. Above: RailHawks players celebrate the Low’s winning goal against Charleston at SAS Soccer Park in Cary.

Poised to fly

The Carolina RailHawks bring professional soccer back to the Triangle. Will they remake the culture of the suburbs in the process?

by chris Gaffney photos by Rex Miller

A

s the team bus pulls into RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Stadium at Silverbacks Park, the stadium name is not the only source of confusion. The facility is still under construction, so there are no locker rooms, only trailers. The grass isn’t grass, it’s turf. The press box has no functional electrical outlets. It isn’t even a box, just plywood on scaffolding. It’s Saturday night in early May, and the RailHawks left Cary at 7 a.m. this morning, having battled the Puerto Rico Islanders to a 0-0 draw the night before. Head coach Scott Schweitzer knows his team and its stingy defense will put up a good fight against the Atlanta Silverbacks, but will they have the legs for 90 minutes? An early goal could be the difference.

With the arrival of the Carolina RailHawks, the latest expansion franchise in the USL-1 league, the Triangle now has a team that is professional soccer’s equivalent of the AAA Durham Bulls baseball club. The RailHawks play at Cary’s 7,000 capacity SAS Soccer Park, a field that attracts nationwide attention because it is considered one of the top soccer venues in the country (an opinion confirmed by strolling across the billiard-table-smooth grass).

The team is an odd mixture of local success stories, journeyman professionals and rising young talent. Earning monthly salaries ranging from $1,500 to $4,500 per month, players from England, Ireland, Ghana, Trinidad, Brazil and Argentina combine with those from 14 states to form one of the deepest pools of talent in the league. Among them are Nigerian-born Connally Edozien, a powerful midfielder with delightful moves and vision; David Stokes, a graceful, tough defender who spent three years with D.C. United of the MLS; and Santiago Fusilier, a knavish young midfielder who came to the team via N.C. State University and Buenos Aires.

The team is overseen by the 35-year-old Schweitzer, an intense man with the bearing of a drill sergeant—and indeed, his specialty as a player and a coach has been defense. Schweitzer, who played for N.C. State in the early ’90s, spent most of his 15-year career with the Rochester Raging Rhinos and was twice named USL-1 Defender of the Year. Now, he looks focused and concerned as his team faces its first road trip, less than 24 hours after last night’s frustrating draw. “Having squandered six points at home [their first three home games were draws, worth one point; wins are worth three], we are playing to win,” Schweitzer says. “We’re going to play our style of soccer. If we do the right things for long enough, we will eventually start winning.”

The

team is the fledging brainchild of Chris Economides, a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame and longtime owner of professional soccer teams. Originally from Rochester, N.Y., Economides co-founded the USL-1 Rochester Raging Rhinos in 1996 and developed it into one of the top 10 small market sport franchises in the country. MLS considered elevating his Rochester club to major-league status, but Economides decided to look for a new project that he could call his own. After scouting viable markets with strong youth leagues, soccer traditions and supportive city governments, Economides settled on Cary, which had partnered with Wake County to build the $14.5 million State Capital Soccer Park in 2002 and was home to the now-defunct professional women’s team Carolina Courage.

Indeed, it’s easy to see why Economides saw the Triangle as a golden opportunity. With registered players numbering around 20,000 and recreational players pushing 50,000, it is a rare Triangle resident who does not know someone who plays, watches or drives someone to play soccer. In fact, seven members of the current squad—including University of North Carolina alums Chris Carrieri and Caleb Norkus, and N.C. State’s Eric Kaufman, Santiago Fusilier, ex-national team member Dario Brose plus Schweitzer—played at local universities. More local talent is in the pipeline playing with the RailHawks’ under-23 squad (the Cary RailHawks) in the USL’s Professional Development League (PDL). The Triangle is one of the United States’ soccer hotbeds and was ripe for a professional soccer team.

Economides, who formed the RailHawks’ parent company Triangle Professional Soccer in October, 2005 said, “We’ve formed a true partnership with the mayor’s office and have had total cooperation from them. They are fair and decent people who have really helped to get this off the ground.” The launching of a team that has to underwrite travel between places as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia and San Juan, Puerto Rico is no small endeavor, and Economides has courted local investors to anchor the project in the community. “There weren’t too many stumbling blocks with the city or the league,” Economides said. “We’ve hit a couple here and there, but our partners are so committed that we’ve been able to deal with them.”

B

ack in Atlanta, the game is delicately balanced. The ’Hawks conceded an 18th-minute penalty kick and need to press forward in the second half in search of the equalizer. They were visibly tired at the end of the first half. Now, if they push too much they will leave themselves exposed, too little and there’s no chance of scoring, too late and they won’t have the energy. The Silverbacks’ fans barely have time to get their drums going when a rare mistake in the back line sends two Atlanta forwards scurrying toward Chris McClellan’s goal. Two goals to nil, and a mountain to climb.

Meanwhile, life in the major-league city of Atlanta is feeling a little less than grand. The power in the press box keeps going out, complicating the live broadcast I am doing with Dean Linke for WSHA 88.9. The crowd of 700 is loud for its size, with a dedicated corner of fans (one in a gorilla suit) providing a bit of atmosphere. While Atlanta has been in the USL-1 since 1999, the Silverbacks aren’t a well-known entity in the city, averaging 2,300 fans per game in 2006—well below the league average. When completed, the stadium will be a great place for soccer, but for now, its unfinished state adds to the visiting RailHawks’ discomfort.

The name RailHawks is a symbolic one, as there is no such bird. “RailHawks” combines North Carolina’s railroad history with our most common raptor, the red-tailed hawk. The name is surprisingly apropos: It is not infrequently that a train passes during a game, whistle blowing; while red-tailed hawks have not yet set up camp under the stadium lights, they continually threaten to do so.

Attending games at SAS Soccer Park is akin to stepping into the future while watching high-level soccer in the present. For players preparing to take the field at a RailHawks’ game, the future may look frightening as they have to run a child-gauntlet to get on the field. Before kickoff, Brad Myers, the RailHawks’ vice president of marketing and public relations, forms two lines hundreds of kids long to greet the players as they run out of the players’ tunnel toward midfield. At first, the kids cheered wildly for both teams, but they have since learned that casual slaps of the hand are more appropriate for the visitors. The RailHawks’ family-friendly atmosphere is augmented by their mascot Swoops, an admittedly clever name for a hawk, and the ever-popular gambit of throwing free things into the crowd.

The crowd is predominantly gringo American, which is to say white and suburban, drawn from the middle and upper-middle classes. However, commensurate with demographic shifts, there is a growing Latino fan base, which was underscored by the majority Mexican-American crowd of 5,025 that turned out in a driving rain to see the RailHawks beat Chivas USA of the MLS on May 8. As with crowds at car-racing, professional baseball and hockey, African Americans are under-represented, something that has as much to do with the demographic profile of soccer in the United States as it does about patterns of residential settlement, socio-economic inequality and the history of sports in the Triangle.

I

n Atlanta, the game has ended and the RailHawks have lost 2-0. The players are forced to shower in a trailer. It’s not pleasant right now—not only are we a long way from the glamour of international football, the team is also a long way from finding its attacking form, scoring just one goal in four games. Furthermore, the game was full of mutual antagonisms and scuffles, the players and coaching staff are exhausted, annoyed at themselves for losing to a team they know they can beat. The goals aren’t falling and they have to play again in two days. Right now, being a professional soccer player sort of sucks: It’s 10:30 p.m., there is no hot water and the six-hour bus ride back to Cary starts in 30 minutes.

W

hile the short-term future of the RailHawks depends on bringing in 3,000-4,000 fans a game (a benchmark they have met so far), what happens at SAS Soccer Park is also about the future of soccer and urban communities in the United States. The trend for major American sports such as baseball and American football is to build or renovate stadiums in urban centers. Soccer is just the opposite, reflecting the continuance of an unfortunate (and ecologically disastrous) cycle in our urban history, further isolating the game in affluent suburbia.

Still, it is in the realm of professional soccer that we see recent and not so recent immigrants connecting in the same moment. Latinos who grew up with the game find its highest local expression in the RailHawks. Affluent suburbanites who have made soccer a lifestyle choice (replete with gas-guzzling SUVs and minivans) can also see the end goal of all those trips to practices and tournaments—which are ultimately aimed at producing college soccer players who then go on to the pros. For other groups, such as the Triangle Soccer Fanatics (trisoccerfan.com), the RailHawks are an object of passionate support that gives texture and life to the anomie of suburbia.

A

few days after the frustrating loss in Atlanta, fans in Cary experienced one of the most exciting moments in the team’s short history when the Los Angeles-based MLS team Chivas USA came to play. The match drew a huge Latino crowd, but despite their presumed ethnic loyalty to the visitors, many seemed to turn against their erstwhile compatriots to cheer on the local boys. Later, Latino fans could be seen queuing up to buy the home team’s shirt after the match. It could be that the Carolina RailHawks will be a melting pot of sorts, allowing us to communicate similar feelings in dissimilar tongues, connecting very different lives in a very common way.

However, the Chivas game had some sour notes. It was interrupted three times by scuffles on the field, disruptions all the more striking because the game was an exhibition “friendly.” After the game, Schweitzer shrugged and said, “That’s just the way the game is played.” More recently, complaints about the RailHawks’ tough, defensive style have begun to crop up on soccer chat rooms like BigSoccer. The team is developing a style and reputation that reflects that of their coach, who Economides describes as “someone you hate to play against, but love to have on your team.”

After the RailHawks defeated Chivas in that exhibition match, their fortunes began to improve: Scoring two goals against an MLS team, and shutting them out in the process, put air under their wings. Since then, the RailHawks have put together an impressive string of results, taking 10 out of a possible 15 points (three wins, one tie, one loss), including a road win over the defending USL-1 champion Vancouver Whitecaps who were undefeated over their past 16 games. The RailHawks are currently in third place in USL-1, surprising everyone but themselves.

The RailHawks begin a five-game, month-long home stand this Friday, June 8, against the Rochester Raging Rhinos. This may be the biggest match of the year for Economides, Schweitzer and the four ex-Rhinos on Carolina’s roster. After a U.S. Open Cup game against Chicago’s RWB Adria (June 12), the RailHawks resume league against Seattle Sounders (June 15) and Charleston Battery (June 23) before meeting the first-place Vancouver Whitecaps for a rematch on July 3.

La Ley 96.9 broadcasts highlights of RailHawks’ games on Sunday afternoons, and WSHA 88.9 carries all games live, with some of the best soccer commentating in the country. For more information and tickets, visit www.carolinarailhawks.com. x

25 May 2007

Temples of the Earthbound Gods preview

This is the prospectus for my forthcoming book, Temples of theEarthbound Gods. While orientated towards an academic audience, it will be much more readable thatn what follows below. Everything here is of course copyrighted as much as it can possibly be.

Temples of the Earthbound Gods: the Stadiums of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires

Christopher Gaffney


1. Overview


While generally under theorized as geographic objects, stadiums form an integral part of urban landscapes and cultures. As monumental architectural forms, stadiums represent place and senses of individual and collective identity. They provide a stage for the performance of sport and for ritualized combat between sub-cultural groups. Because they are built to control tens of thousands of people, stadiums play an important role in urban political economy, operate as sites of commerce, media production, and the dissemination of political ideologies. Similar to plazas, squares, and markets, a stadium is a nexus of broad-based socio-cultural interaction. This book argues that by entering into cultures through the stadium, a wide range of social interactions and geographic processes can be critically evaluated and compared.


The cultural centrality of stadiums in Latin America has a long history. The ball courts of Maya, Aztec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Hohokam, and Olmec societies functioned as ceremonial sites for the performance of sport and occupied important positions in religious and urban landscapes. The archaeological record informs us that these ancient sporting arenas possessed many of the same symbolic and ritual elements as today’s stadiums. In the late-nineteenth century, modern stadiums appeared on Latin American urban landscapes in response to British and North American political, economic and cultural influences. The proliferation of institutionalized sport in the twentieth century consolidated stadiums as central components of cultural life throughout the region and the world. Throughout this historical span the stadium has continued to function as a universal and dominant element of Latin American societies.

There is no question that sport plays a defining role in the formation of individual and collective identities in Latin America. Latin Americans are generally passionate and informed about beisból or fútbol, and the clash of teams and their fans in local, national and international competitions stirs strong emotions that occasionally turn violent. This is particularly true in Brazil and Argentina where the success of local and national teams on a global stage has solidified soccer as a defining element of national culture. These identities literally take place in the stadium. That is to say, the stadium is a physical realm that allows for the public expression of historically rooted, geographically situated senses of self and belonging. The geographic relationships that extend from the stadium inform and influence culture at multiple scales. Understanding the stadium is a critical, yet overlooked, key to making sense of the histories, geographies and cultures of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

This book employs a comparative methodology to investigate and interpret the way cultural differences are manifested in two different key settings for stadium construction and use. Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires provide an ideal basis of comparison because they share similar historical trajectories in terms of urban development, are of relatively equal size and contain vibrant local stadium cultures that have global implications. Temples of the Earthbound Gods describes and compares the historical development and contemporary realities of stadiums in these two cities from the perspective of cultural geography. It answers the questions: What is the historical role of stadiums in Latin American cities? What are the geographic relationships and processes that can be read in the stadiums of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires? How do stadiums inform and influence the public cultures of each city? What are the meanings and conflicts associated with stadiums? How do the very different stadium cultures within each city inform larger socio-cultural conditions? How can local responses to globalizing forces be understood through the stadiums of each city?

2. Rationale

This book will address an important gap in the literature dedicated to Latin American cities and cultures, on the one hand, and a gap in the geographical literature, on the other. Given the importance of stadiums and stadium cultures in Latin America, it is surprising that they have not received sustained academic attention. While there have been numerous studies dedicated to the sociology and anthropology of sporting cultures in Latin America, this will be the first book to examine stadiums in the region as geographic objects. Stadiums have been the focus of increasing attention from academics, especially in the context of urban planning and redevelopment projects in North America and Britain. However, there are no English language studies that examine stadiums in Latin America nor are there studies that undertake a comparative study of stadiums in two different cultures. In order to contextualize the stadiums of each city, this book provides a historical and contemporary examination of the urban and cultural geographies of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

The importance of stadiums in the cultures of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires is profound. These cities contain two of the most vibrant stadium cultures in the world and are deeply implicated in the global production of sport. The identities associated with soccer teams and their stadiums are historically rooted and preternaturally strong. For instance, in Buenos Aires, Club Atlético Boca Juniors is associated with Genoese immigrants, the working class and a particular geographic region of the city. The club recently began construction of a cemetery next to their stadium because of the overwhelming number of fans who wish to have their ashes scattered on the field – sacred ground indeed. The Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro is perhaps the most famous stadium in the world and has been classified as a national patrimony by the Brazilian government. This is ironic given that the stadium was the site of what was perhaps Brazil’s greatest national tragedy, the loss of the 1950 World Cup final to Uruguay. Despite the negative associations, the Maracanã is a symbol of the city and the nation. It is a repository of social memory that forms an integral part of local and national histories. Buenos Aires contains more than sixty professional soccer stadiums and Rio de Janeiro has more than twenty. Each stadium has strong connections to local communities, contains sedimented layers of meaning and functions as a site and symbol of culture. The symbolic and functional importance of stadiums in the cultural life of these cities is difficult to overstate, yet in most textbooks no mention is made of them despite their presence on the urban landscape for more than a century.

This book will contribute to a growing academic literature dedicated to public space in Latin America. Setha Low’s On The Plaza (University of Texas Press, 1997), Larry Herzog’s From Aztec to High Tech (University of Texas Press, 2002), and Joseph Scarpaci’s Plazas and Barrios (University of Arizona Press, 2004) are all examples of the increased attention to public space in the region. In each of the above texts, the authors undertake an examination of the globalizing forces that impact public space in the urban centers of Latin America. Through an examination of architecture, form, function and morphology of public space these authors demonstrate that by entering into Latin American cultures through particular urban forms (plazas, squares, centros historicos, and shopping malls) larger geographic processes can be evaluated and assessed. Consistent with these authors, I propose a similar model for evaluating culture that will contribute to the growing literature and understanding of public space in Latin America.

There is no question that sport plays a defining role in the formation of individual and collective identities in Latin America. Latin Americans are generally passionate and informed about beisból or fútbol, and the clash of teams and their fans in local, national and international competitions stirs strong passions that occasionally turn violent. This is particularly true in Brazil and Argentina where the success of local and national teams on a global stage has solidified the stadium experience as a defining element of cultural identities. These identities literally take place in the stadium. The geographic relationships that extend from the stadium inform and influence culture at multiple scales. Understanding the stadium is a critical, yet overlooked, key to making sense of the histories, geographies and cultures of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.


3. Table of Contents


Chapter 1: “Introduction: Stadiums and Public Space in Latin America

Abstract: This chapter examines the role of stadiums in urban cultures in the context of Latin American public space. Drawing on the extensive historical record of sport and the continuing debates over the role of public space in Latin American societies, the introduction traces the historical geography of stadiums in the region. Beginning with the ball courts of pre-Colombian meso-America and continuing to the present day, this chapter positions the stadium as a lens through which larger geographic and cultural processes can be read. It answers the questions: Was the pre-Columbian ball court understood as a space of leisure, religious ceremony, or both? And if it was a place mixing both types of meaning, how can we understand that particular combination from the beginning of the 21st century when places of leisure are generally seen as profane rather than sacred?

The second goal of the introduction is to establish the relationships between multi-scalar geographic processes and the appearance of stadiums in Latin America in the late 19th century. Modern stadiums first appeared in Latin America as a result of the mercantile and political interests of the United States and Great Britain. As Latin American societies became more industrial and urban, stadiums functioned as spaces and places for social integration, socialization and the performance of culturally specific gender, class, ethnic and national identities. By positioning the stadium as a product and symbol of modernity and industrial urbanism, this chapter lays the groundwork for interpreting the stadium as a geographic object. The pervasive influence of stadiums and stadium cultures on Latin American societies is demonstrated by using examples from Mexico, Cuba, Brazil and Argentina.

Chapter 2: “Race, Space and Cultural Transformation in Rio de Janeiro: 1894-1950”

Abstract: This chapter traces the development of stadiums and soccer culture in Rio de Janeiro from their origins in the 1890s to the 1950 World Cup. During this time, soccer evolved from an elite game played in elite spaces to a socio-spatial practice that in many respects defined conceptions of citizenship and the nation. The development of soccer as a central element of Brazilian national identity occurred through identifiable geographic processes. In the early 20th century, the geographic space of the stadium provided a venue for the control and contestation of race and class relations in a highly divided society. By 1950, however, the stadiums of the city had been transformed into a relatively egalitarian place and space that comprised a fundamental component of local and national identities. By describing the role of stadiums in the transformation of Brazilian race and class relationships, this chapter answers the questions: What role did stadiums play in the construction of Brazilian national identity in the early 20th century? How were race and class relations in Rio de Janeiro expressed and contested in the stadium?

Chapter 3: “Stadiums and Society in Rio de Janeiro

Abstract: Chapter three examines the contemporary roles of stadiums in the culture of Rio de Janeiro. The twenty five stadiums of the city are important elements of public culture. Through a contemporary examination of four stadiums within a four kilometer radius, this chapter identifies some of the different histories, identities, cultures, governance structures and geographic conditions that can be found in Rio de Janeiro’s many stadiums. Examination of the shifting symbolism, function and positioning of stadiums in relation to the changing social and cultural dynamics of Rio de Janeiro reveals that the stadiums are excellent barometers for reading the cultural shifts and institutional responses to multi-scalar geographic processes. This chapter answers the questions: What are the geographic meanings associated with stadiums in Rio de Janeiro in the modern era? How are these meanings changing in relation to shifts in the larger culture of the city and nation?

Chapter 4: “Buenos Aires: The City of Stadiums

Abstract: Buenos Aires has more stadiums than any other city in the world. The development of stadiums in Buenos Aires is inexorably bound to the historical development of the city. In the mid to late 19th century, Britain was Argentina’s largest trading partner. The approximately 40,000 British ex-patriates developed their own schools, sporting clubs and social spaces. Eventually, the British sporting practices of polo, rugby, and soccer reached the local population. During the periods of massive European immigration to Buenos Aires, neighborhood social clubs functioned as mechanisms for social integration. Each of these social clubs had soccer teams while local elites played polo or rugby. The struggle to find space to develop stadiums in a rapidly growing city resulted in conflicts that were resolved through political and economic mechanisms. The development of a multitude of stadiums in the city was a natural outgrowth of the association between social clubs, politicians and the struggle for urban space. Consistent with other cities in Latin America, Buenos Aires developed a very masculine public culture. The stadiums were part of a larger matrix of male-dominated public space - one that allowed for the virulent expression of masculine identities. Through a historical examination of the formation of public space in Buenos Aires, this chapter answers the questions: Why did Buenos Aires develop more stadiums than any other city in the world? What are the historical relationships between stadiums and public culture in Buenos Aires? What are the particular cultural characteristics of stadiums in Buenos Aires?

Chapter 5: “Class and Conflict in the Stadiums of Buenos Aires

Abstract: Argentine soccer, rugby, and polo teams compete at the highest international level. These three sports have very different historical and geographic associations and between them delimit the totality of socio-political and socio-economic structures in Argentina. This chapter examines the different actors and geographies associated with soccer, rugby, and polo stadiums in Buenos Aires. Each sport has very different geographic and political associations with the nation. The relatively privileged positions of rugby and polo tend to reify existing socio-economic and political structures, while soccer tends towards a kind of populist violence against the state. The stadium cultures of these three sports reveal different conceptions of masculinity, citizenship, and behavioral norms. This chapter demonstrates that the contemporary cultures and actors involved in these three stadium cultures are historically rooted and constitute very different geographical worlds that explain class and conflict in the city and nation.

Chapter 6: “Conclusion: Comparative Cultural Urbanism”

Abstract: The concluding chapter compares the stadiums of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires in terms of meaning and representation, organization and governance, and local responses to globalizing forces. Even though the stadiums of each city developed in response to similar processes, the stadium cultures of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires are very different. By positioning the stadium as a medium to compare culture, this chapter demonstrates that local responses to similar global forces may be similar or different. Understanding the everyday geographic processes through which local cultures are connected to the global provides deep insight into the culture of each city.

The stadium experience, in Portuguese

A experiência do estádio

Em quanto vemos um jogo de futebol na televisão, falamos de os jogos olímpicos no lugar de trabalho, lemos as contas de violência associado com torcidas organizadas nos jornais, o festejando um campeonato mundial, estamos participando numa experiência do estádio. Beisebol, futebol, tênis, basquete, rúgbi, cricket, atletismo, automobilismo, corridas de toros: O estádio forma uma parte integral da cultura no mundo todo e as experiências desses espaços são resultas e produtores de cultura. A experiência do estádio envolve um complexo de preconceitos, formas físicas, controles sociais e espaciais, formação de identidades associado com a geografia, classe, raça, e étnica, aliado com formas de estar, mídia, política, e muito mais. Porque os estádios são lugares poderosos em qualquer cultura, vale a pena investigar os processos que contribuem à formação de experiência dos estádios. Alem desse entendimento, é preciso avaliar as mudanças da experiência do estádio como um reflexo de processos sociais mais generais. Porque os estádios (em este caso de futebol) já se difundiam por tudo o país e a planeta, examinar a experiência do estádio e clave entenderem os processos e mudanças de formação de cultura e identidade de nação, cidade, bairro, família e individual.


Estádio mudo, estádio ativo

Normalmente pensamos no estádio só quando um evento está acontecendo. Mais o estádio está ativo sempre. Tem vida conceptual, funcional, e simbólico. Os estádios dominam espaço horizontal e vertical. Por isso, servem como pontas de geo-referencia na cidade. Porque tanta gente tem que chegar ao estádio numa hora certa, estádios são bem servidos por os meios de transporte, qual serve definir cidade-espaço. O tamanho da estrutura, a mescla de natureza, concreta, ferro, e plástica, assegure que sempre tem pessoas ai trabalhando em obras engenharias, reformações estéticas, administração, atendimento em lojas, o enchendo buracos na grama.

Alem disso, o estádio forma parte da vida cotidiana de milhes de pessoas. Não só para as pessoas quem trabalham ai. Cada vez mais, os estádios estão construídos para uma vida multi-funcionaria. Adentro de estádios podemos encontrar: shoppings, hotéis, restaurantes, estacionamento, escolas, cinemas, salas de banquete, oficinas, piscinas, e ate campos de golfe. O estádio “mais moderno”[1] e submeto as exigências do mercado como nunca antes. Estádio-espaço tem que produzir renda todos os dias, não só nos momentos em quanto às arquibancadas estão vibrando. Ė preciso ter espaço economicamente produtivo. Isso não foi sempre o caso. Resultante de essas mudanças, a arquitetura dos estádios tinha visto morfologias profundas, qual em turno influa a experiência do estádio.

Por exemplo, o Estádio Mario Filho via ter o sector “geral” eliminado em 2005. Isso espaço e um vestígio de uma época passada que não concorde com as exigências modernas de produção de desporte (ler, requerimentos de FIFA). Em efeito, e um espaço produtivo perdido, considerado “perigoso”. Então, se o estádio vai ficar adentro de o sistema moderno de produzir futebol (ler, a Copa do Mundo de 2114), o espaço tem que mudar para concordar com novas realidades econômicas. Porque o estádio e considerado um monumento histórico e parte do patrimônio cultural, o argumento segue, cortamos a nariz para guardar o rosto. O monumentalidade da Maracanã tem muito que ver com os tamanhos de publico que entravam ai. Hoje em dia e difícil idear uma experiência de um estádio com 220 mil pessoas. Há pouco tempo isso foi comum. [2] A mudança de geral da Maracanã e um símbolo das realidades e processos globais.

Os estádios são marcados, as vezes cicatrizados, por dias particulares. A natura histórica dos eventos dos estádios assegura que são pontas de cidade bem conhecidas, formando uma parte integral da “cidade imaginaria” e “mapas conceptuais” (Relph 1964). Às vezes chegam ser sinônimos com a cidade inteira, como e o caso com a Maracanã e Rio, o Camp Neu e Barcelona, Old Trafford e Manchester. Segundo isso, estádios formam uma parte integral de circuito turístico para milhares de pessoas. [3]

Os grandes estádios do mundo possuem as características de monumentalidade. Mais isso não assegure que são monumentos. Os estádios entrerelacionam-se com os outros espaços públicos da cidade. Quando possuem as características próprias de monumentos (Foote 1997, Corrêa 2004), os estádios tomam ainda mais significação adentro da cidade.

Se o não os estádios são construídos com monumentalidade como proposta inicial, os eventos do estádio podem-se transformar o espaço em um monumento real. Campeonatos invictos, jogadores famosos, momentos inesquecíveis, e tragédias profundas são perpetuados na memória coletiva associado com o estádio. As suas emoções, espetáculos, e acumulação de experiências comunais podem-se produzir um verdadeiro monumento que se comunica com os demais monumentos de cidade. A intertextualidade do estádio e cidade merece ser explorado em mais detalhe.

É claro que um grande parte de experiência do estádio esta formada antes do premer pito de juiz. Inclusivo com as temas discutido encima, temos que considerar geografia local, médios de transporte, mudanças históricas na cidade, clima, tradições associado com o local e o tipo de evento. É obvio que uma experiência de uma banda “heavy metal” num estádio lotado de jovens seria diferente que uma missa de Papa no mesmo estádio. Também, as experiências de um jogo de rúgbi são diferentes de um jogo de futebol, jogos internacionais e jogos de segundo divisão, campeonato carioca e a brasileira. Mais, as experiências do estádio têm uma variedade aliado com escala, grêmios sociais, formações arquitetônicas, demográfica da torcida e mais. Também não e preciso recorrer muito distancia ter experiências extremamente diferentes. Por exemplo, em um radio geográfico de dos quilômetros no Rio de Janeiro temos a Maracanã, o São Januário, e o estádio Figueira de Mello.

As características dos estádios enumeradas em cima contribuem aos sentimentos particulares associados com a experiência desse espaço particular. E preciso lembrar que isso espaço não e limitado aos muros de estádio. Tele-espectadores, ouvidores do radio, surfistas do internet, todos estão participando ativamente numa experiência do estádio. Os associes entre o estádio e bares, casas, e espaço publico são poucos investigados, mais existe em qualquer canto da cidade e campo. Também podemos falar sobre temos associado com gênero e o experiência de estádio. O estádio e principalmente um espaço e lugar masculino. Uma prova que os homens identificam-se mais com o estádio e que é raro ver uma mulher com uma camisa de um time preferido. Vestir-se numa camisa do time e ao fundo uma ação que se refere ao estádio, o espaço re-produtivo de naquela identidade tatuado na camisa. As cores e iconografia dos clubes são sinales semióticos que demarcam estádio-espaço em toda a cidade. [4]

O brinquedo russo do espaço e lugar.

Arquitetura da estrutura á experiência[5]. Contribuindo à produção e formação do espaço, a forma do estádio também implica controle do espaço. O estádio e uma estrutura particular em que tem muitos espaços e lugares entre si mesmo. Como os teatros, têm um “backstage”.[6] Tem espaços conhecidos por poucos, limitados, sagrados e profanos. Qualquer um de esses espaços o lugares implica uma moda de experiência diferente, geografias diferentes. O espaço rico fica ao lado de espaço pobre, o espaço meu aqui e o espaço seu aí, o sagrado cuidado e o profano violado. Vigiados pela policia, estádio-espaço e construído e controlado pelos interesses dominantes: os médios, políticos, dirigentes, as exigências espaciais de poder. Ironia satura ao estádio-espaço.

A tarefa de explicar as diferencias de experiência entre os espaços variados do estádio e amplo demais. Por exemplo, as geografias de juizes e bastante diferente que aos jogadores. Seus modos de ingresso e egresso, estilos de vida, relacionamento com a imprensa são bastante divergentes. Ocupam mundos diferentes, intersectam-se no campo de jogo. Para este papel, é suficiente pensar nas diferencias entre as arquibancadas e a tribuna de honor, o as camarotes e o setor geral, o banco de reservas e o campo de jogo. Os espaços particulares são os domínios de grupos diferentes quem em sua totalidade representam quase todos os sectores de sociedade. O estádio é de natura democrático, mais a ironia atropela-lhe. Também implico que o estádio e um espaço disciplinar, aliado com o teatro, escola, prisão, e a instituição mental de Foucault.

Qualquer pessoa adentra do estádio tem o seu lugar demarcado e vigiado. Os ingressos assegurem que as pessoas podem ser controladas, identificadas, e analisadas através de um espaço particular, uma cadeira. Desde os ambulantes nas escadas da arquibancada ate os jogadores no campo, todos têm seu lugar e espaço. (mapa de escala). Qualquer espaço/lugar do estádio tem suas próprias regras de estar, modos de ação, estilos de vestir, e características de experiência.

Espaço ativo, Estádio vibrante, sensos alertas

E preciso entender as formas em que os sensos contribuem a experiência do estádio. Os sensos combinam com pensamentos, e a estruturação do espaço formar experiência. Os sensos de visão, ouvir, toque, cheiro, e sabor informem-nos do meio ambiente. Receptores animalescos alertas, os sensos estão correndo em alta freqüência durante a experiência ativa do estádio.

Visão

A visão e o principal receptor de estimulo em a maioria das pessoas. Podemos dividir a visão em duas componentes, olhar e ver. Olhar pertence em este caso à visão geral, o a paisagem do estádio, um ato mais passivo em as torcedores e mais ativo em as policias. Quando estamos aproximando o estádio vemos dezenas de milhares de pessoas com o mesmo objeto em mente: chegar ao tempo participar num evento. Ao mesmo tempo estamos tomando a paisagem do estádio, estamos vendo as ações de outras pessoas: observando os movimentos da policia, espectadores, cambistas, vendedores, o caracteres suspeitosos. Estamos recebendo o tempo intero signos de meio ambiente de estádio. É um mundo simbólico cheio com sua própria iconografia e semiótica, gestos, e cores.

Adentro do estádio sentamos-se em cadeiras engenhadas dar as máximas líneas de ver, o “sightlines”. As pessoas valorizam muito ter um visto claro de ação do evento, e os preços refletem esse desejo. Quando nossa visão e bloqueado por bandeiras o gente de repente a pé, reclamamos por que nossa visão estava interrompida. Os sistemas de segurança estão organizados ter o visto panoptico, o controle máxima sobre o espaço.

As implicações de televisores nos estádios de Europa, Ásia, e América do Norte são interessantes. Frequentemente, as pessoas ver mais de ação na televisão que em o próprio campo de jogo. Quando as câmeras de estádio filmam aos torcedores, fazem uma performance para si mesmo. Em esse caso, a experiência e valorizado por ser capturado na televisão, o ser visto por milhares de pessoas. É um conceito do publico muito diferente que ao principio do século, as arquibancadas dos estádios como Laranjeiras o General Severiano eram lugares “ver e ser visto”.

Ouvir / som

Som ocupa espaço e da textura a experiência. Da volumem e distancia ao espaço. Som é emocionante, cheio de sentido. O som de um estádio lotado, gritando, cantando, e murmurando e umas das experiências mais poderosas no mundo. Aproximando o estádio, ouvimos os gritos familiares de vendedores de cerveja, camisas, ingressos, e mais. No fundo o som da torcida sai de adentro para fora: orgulhoso, insistente, forte. Grupos de jovens passam de pressa, gritando, cantando, assustando. Fogos artificiais explodem no ar, interrompendo momentaneamente as conversas de amigos, assustando. Também ouvimos musica. Bateristas marcam o ritmo de jogo, se faz todos movem à cintura. Todos esperam para a pita de juiz, o som que indica a começa de batalha. Durante o jogo, o som de machidão ondula de um lado ao outro, pontuado com momentos coletivos de inspiração e expiração. “Oooooooh”, quando o time chute perto ao gol. Silencio quando o adversário marca.

Toque

Indo ao estádio implica aproximar-se a milhares de outros. Lhe que não gosta de estar perto aos outros não vai ao estádio. Essa aproximação também implica uma liberdade do corpo limitado, uma consciência mais alta de seu próprio corpo, seu próprio espaço de estar. Sentimos a pressão de corpos nas filas, a gente pisando nossos pés, o abraço de repente. Ampliamos nosso conceito do espaço em relação ao próprio corpo. Às vezes, perdermos a individualidade e entramos num corpo geral. O toque diga-nos os limites e possibilidades do espaço.

Cheiro

Quem pode esquecer o cheiro de um banheiro num estádio? E horrível. Também, quem foi ao estádio e não gostou de cheiro de lingüiça e pipoca? O cheiro e associado mais forte com a memória. O cheiro transporte nos em espaço e tempo ao outro lugar. E as lembranças da experiência de lugar viram muito fortes. Os lugares do estádio têm unos cheiros particulares: nas arquibancadas encontramos fumo, cerveja, corpos humanos. Nos vestuários temos suor, sangue, lineamentos, sabonete. Nas bilheteiras temos o cheiro de dinheiro e pó.

Sabor

E sumamente impossível e não desejado separar o cheiro de lingüiça de seu sabor. Os sabores do estádio não são complicados, e sempre foram os mesmos desde os Romanos: carne, álcool, e fumo. Bebendo cerveja e comendo carne semi-cozinhada são ações ritualizadas em quase qualquer estádio-cultura. O estádio é um lugar de carnaval, um tempo fora de tempo em que a cotidiana esta suspendida e outras regras aplicam. Saciar os desejos mais insalubres e um dos prazeres do estádio.

Sentir

Porque o estádio e um campo limtado em muitos respeitos, têm a característica de exclusividade. O estádio não pode ser chamado publico tampouco privado. Entrar o estádio num dia de jogo e preciso ter um direto ao espaço. Alguns têm permissão recorrer quase todo o estádio. Outros só têm direito uma cadeira e as calcadas. Mais todos adentro sabem que estão “adentro”, e o resto do mundo fica “afora”, “não presente”. A cara sempre pode dizer “eu assisti”.

Não e uma surpresa então que comunidades e identidades se manifestam nos estádios mais que qualquer lugar da cidade. Entrar no estádio e entrar numa experiência coletiva. E preciso deixar parte de seu próprio ser para contribuir à comunidade de torcedores. De as arquibancadas para o campo, os torcedores diminuem-se para ampliar a coletivo. Espaço individual se vira espaço comunal a uma variedade de escalas.

Conclusão

In essência a experiência do estádio e definido de mil e um coisas. Adjetivos não faltam em explicar o estádio: pessoal e comunal, de instante e histórico, tenso de relaxado, privado e público, elite e de povo. Também temos um superávit de termas geográficas: modo de produção, forca de identidade, migração, classe, étnica, origem, gênero, arquitetura, escala, espaço e lugar. A “experiência do estádio” e uma parte formular das vidas de quase cada ser humano. Com certeza o estádio figura muito mais nas vidas dos homens que das mulheres, e das cosmopolitas que aos campesinos. Também e certo que a experiência do estádio e diferente entre tempos, culturas, espaços, e lugares.

A grandeza e complexidade do estádio-espaço têm seu próprio lógico. Os geógrafos, com nossa fundação em os relacionamentos entre espaço e cultura, estão bem posicionados entender esse lógico e examinar processos culturais além dele.

A experiência do estádio e particular. As 73,467 contas de a derrota famosa de Flamengo na final da Copa de Brasil seriam todas diferentes. [7] Os acontecimentos do estádio são emocionantes, definitivos, fortes, históricos, polêmicos. A influencia desse espaço particular na geografia geral de cultura e inestimável e merece ser explorado em mais detalhe.



[1] Uso a terma “mais moderno” em lugar de “pos-moderno” o qual e uma terma sobre usada e quase irrelevante. Ver Gaffney, Chris and Roberson, Geogre. “Most-modernism: Ramming the post home.” Unpublished paper. UMass-Amherst. 2002.

[2] Gentes frequentemente referem-se aos públicos mais amplos que tinham visto na Maracanã. Poe exemplo “Pegue mil setecentos cinco mil aqui nas 1982. Botafogo x Flamengo na campeonato estadual”


[4] Também isso fenômeno se estende por todo a planeta. O fato que a camisa mais popular na Tailândia e a de Manchester United significam conexões entre o Bangkok e Manchester. Quando turistas visitando um país levam sua camisa de time, não e precisa falar sobre onde esta a pessoa.

[5] Quero dizer estrutura ao espaço de experiência. A estrutura deve ser considerado ontologia, o uma estruturação de espaço e tempo.

[6] Para um bom relatório sobre as inter-relações dos estádios e os teatros, ver Bale, 1994.

[7] Também podemos falar sobre o espírito de lugar dos espaços particulares de estádio, em quanto podemos falar sobre o mesmo assunto para o estádio em geral.

10 April 2007

Love Death and Adventure in Buenos Aires, Part Three

Christopher Gaffney

Copyright 2007

July 2003.

La final

Boca Juniors took their two-nil victory in Buenos Aires to Colombia and turned it into a six-nil thrashing. This put them in the final of the Copa Libertadores against Santos of Brazil. The first leg of the final was played in Buenos Aires. Winter had hit the Southern Cone in the form of a winter gale. The temperature was in the mid-thirties, and rain lashed in from the South Atlantic. The kickoff was scheduled for 21:50. Nighttime in la Boca.

For those who know little of soccer, the names Pele and Maradona might strike a chord. The Brazilian Pele made Santos, Brazil, and the New York Cosmos famous, and Argentina’s Maradona, well, he made himself famous and brought Boca along with him. Thus, the rivalry between Santos and Boca is not only between two clubs, but between Brazil and Argentina, São Paulo and Buenos Aires, and between the legacy of the game’s two greatest players. Boca and Santos last met in the final of the Libertadores in 1963. Pelé scored two goals in the Bombonera to give Santos the title. So not only was this the most important soccer game in the Western hemisphere, with continental bragging rights at stake, but the winner would meet A.C. Milan in Japan to battle for World Club Champion. Millions of people all over the planet would be watching, and millions of Pesos, Reals, Euros, Yen, and Dollars would be won and lost.

Given all of this, it was obviously going to be difficult to get tickets. Two days before the game I made my way to the stadium to try to get a press pass. With no press credentials this was an exercise in futility. I was given a two syllable dismissal. The following day I tried to buy tickets. I was similarly rebuked. “No hay.” The following day I desperately tried to get someone, anyone, to go with me so as to have some strength in numbers. No takers. I didn’t blame them. It would be dangerous, expensive and difficult to get tickets. The weather was, as the Argentines say espantoso, insorportable; miserable, intolerable. High thirties, windy and wet. So, six hours before the match, I resigned myself to my fate, took the bus down to la Boca and began to walk towards the Bombonera.
As I walked through the neighborhood surrounding the stadium I became increasingly aware of how alone I was. Solitary people do not habitually walk these streets with a video camera slung over their shoulder. I desperately wanted to take some pictures of the houses and the Boca flags flying from every window. I stopped and tried to talk to some people gathered on a corner but was given no verbal response. I started walking faster, with each turn becoming more disorientated. There was no way, NO WAY, I was going to take out my notebook to write anything down, much less my camera. I would have been foolish to retrace my steps. I wandered for an hour before I found my way to the shadow of the stadium. I knew from the growing noise that I was close several blocks before I get there.

To my surprise there were hundreds of people queued up to get into the stadium four and a half hours before the game. Singing, jumping, chanting - all of the normal songs and rituals that go on inside the stadium were taking place I couldn’t believe it. The amount of energy that people were expending was matched by the level of their inebriation. Fans had been drinking for several days, probably weeks. After watching this for half an hour I decided to make my way to the general area of the ticket booths (the casa amarailla) to see how much I would have to cough up to get in.

As I started walking, I unconsciously started echoing the songs of the fans, and started to get the feeling of anticipation and excitement that always comes with a stadium experience. Still feeling very much alone, I made my way up to a group of five man-boys so as not to appear completely isolated from any one group. As I got closer, one of these pibes turned to me:

“Buscas entrada?” Are you looking for a ticket?

“Por su puesto.” Of course.

“Quantos tienes?” How much do you have? Son of a bitch. He was immediately sizing me up for cash. From that moment I became even more guarded, realizing that he would take me for all I was worth. This was not a friendly service he was providing.

“Cuarenta.” Forty pesos. I thought I would start low. I had 120 pesos (about US$40) in small bills in my pocket and was willing to spend most of it to get in.

“Deme el dinero.” He wanted the money. I balked.

“Como? Muestrame el boleto.” Show me the ticket. I was not in the mood for a chase.

“No lo tengo. Yo voy a comprarlos ahora.” Ah. They didn’t have tickets either. They were going to buy some from the barrabrava.

The Argentine barrabrava, in addition to creating one of the most spectacular sporting environments in the world, are in the business of receiving tickets from the club which they then sell on the streets before big games for a tidy profit. They are also given jobs in the director’s companies, run drugs, battle other barrabrava, and mark the city with grafitti. They are organized, professional fans, and this is their space. There were no police.

As we walked into this space behind the south side of the stadium, I was trying to figure out what was I was going to do. I still had my money, but did not want to be in the popular section, where I had seen the cascading bodies at the Boca-Cali game. The likelihood of my camera making it through was slim. I wanted to be in the platea, where there were seats and an older, more sedate crowd.

“No quiero sentarme en el popular,’ I told him.

“Como? Quieres platea? Es mucho mas caro.” More expensive.

We approached a barrabrava and my interlocutor (let’s call him Juan) began to negotiate with him for tickets for him and his friends. I saw the barrabrava (it’s used both singularly and in the plural) pull out a stack of more than one hundred tickets. One hundred tickets to the final! My stomach tightened at the sight of it. The barrabrava wasn’t very tall, but was very solid and smartly dressed in a track suit, new trainers, and a close fitting hat. He looked severe. He never looked at me, and only glanced up when Juan gave him one hundred pesos for four tickets. Juan had dropped some names in order to lower the price. As the barrabrava turned away, I saw a scar tracking the outline of his cheekbone from eye socket to lip. My stomach loosened. Fortunately my sphincter didn’t.

“Y la platea?” And my seat?

“Cuesta mas. Cien pesos. Deme la plata.” Again, he demanded my money. I told him that I was not going to give him my money without seeing the ticket first. He replied that he couldn’t get the ticket without giving the money to the barrabrava, which made sense. I gave him the money and we started walking deeper into the zone of the barrabrava.

Juan asked several barrabrava for tickets to the platea but no one seemed to have any. After the fifth try, I asked for my money back. He refused. I tried to explain to him that I felt more comfortable with my money in hand. He refused again. It was looking less and less likely that we were going to find a ticket and more and more likely that he was going to run. I demanded my money back and he grudgingly gave in. Suddenly a large group of people started following two barrabrava. Juan hurriedly asked for my money and said that all these people were going to get tickets. I gave him my money and we followed.

We found ourselves at a gate that was opened from the inside. Several dozen people were pushing to get in. Juan pushed me forward into the mass and I started going through. I looked back to see if he was following. He wasn’t. I fought against the human tide, reached over the heads of two people and grabbed Juan by the arm, and yanked him through the gate. “Hijo de puta,” I said. “Sos loco,” he replied, “sos loco.” I might have been crazy but I wasn’t letting this son of a bitch get away with my hundred pesos.

We were now inside the training ground of Boca Juniors hurrying down a sidewalk to yet another caged area. After some milling about, a Boca official told us that they were not going to release any more tickets for the game, thereby confirming the announcement in the papers, on the television, and on the street of a sell out. I demanded my money again, but then relented as all of a sudden Juan started running in the direction of a rather large barrabrava with a face full of scars, fifteen teeth and a limp Blackbeard would have admired.

Juan asked, “Cuanto por un puesto en la platea por un extranjero?” How much for a foreigner?

“Ochenta.” Eighty pesos.

Juan gave the barrabrava the money and we started walking-limping-running towards the stadium. I had no idea where we were going but saw that my money was now in the pocket of a gangster and had to follow at all speed and closeness to keep up with the conversation to try to figure out what was going on. As we were walking, Juan began to ask for more money.

“Deme veinte pesos mas,” he said.

“Como?! Ya te dije veinte! Yo escuche cuanto salio mi puesto.” I had heard their conversation and was content to give him twenty pesos and be into the stadium. What did he think, that “estoy hecho de dinero?” Asking him if he thought I was made of money because I was a foreigner probably wasn’t a wise provocation, but I hadn’t forgotten his attempt to run off with my money. He was irate. Our conversation was over.

We arrived at the edge of a large crowd that was pushing at a line of metal crowd barriers. A queue of people who had paid the barrabrava to enter were gathered together in a group, and I was stuck with them. It was now three hours before the game. I was hungry, frazzled, it was cold and wet, I was alone with a 400 dollar viedo camera (which summarily broke, hecho de mierda) and a foreigner dealing with gangsters on their turf.

As the group I was with began to move into the stadium, Juan yelled to the barrabrava, pointed at me and reminded him that I had paid. The barrabrava gave me a friendly nudge in the back and told me to go through. As we started filing towards the turnstiles I began to realize that I was going to get in. A different barrabrava stuck out his hand and asked for my ticket. I made a motion of giving him one, he made the motion of taking it, nodded, said “Gracias”, and waved me through. Just then, I heard a commotion behind me. I turned to see three barrabrava yanking a skinny, scraggly looking man from the line. He had tried to jump the barricade to get in with my group. He looked like he was in for a beating

The same barrabrava who had asked for my ticket, appeared at the turnstiles. As police and ushers looked on, he bent down, pushed a button on the turnstile and told each one of us, politely, to put our right leg forward and step through the turnstile. I clumsily put my left leg forward and only seconds later understood that I was inside the stadium for the final. I was alive, wiser, cold, hungry, wet and elated. There were still three hours before kickoff.

The Bombonera is a very tall stadium. The three tiers of stands are stacked precipitously on top of each other. When the fans on the bottom are jumping, the whole structure sways and shakes. My “ticket” had given me access to the uppermost tier of the middle section of the stadium. When I looked down, I felt as if I were flying above the field. More precisely, I felt like an Albatross in the middle of a South Atlantic gale.

The bone-numbing cold I had been exposed to for the previous three hours began to pervade my sub-conscious. Forty meters in the air, there was no hiding from the wind and stinging mist. For the first five minutes, I stood holding onto a railing and fancied myself a fine Ahab, or Odysseus, for having passed through the gates. With every gust of wind and rain, the cold bit deeper into my body and mind. I made a hasty retreat for the relative calm of the external walkways. Here, perhaps two hundred others who had also entered with the barrabrava were milling about, smoking cigarettes, chatting. I was too cold to socialize and began wakling from end to end, trying to warm up.

Every so often I would walk out into the stadium to watch what was happening in the popular section. All of the fans that I had seen waiting in the streets four and a half hours before the game were now inside. The second tier of the popular was full. There were between eight and ten thousand fans. Never sitting, never stopping a chant, always moving, waving, asserting themselves. The colder it became, the more rain that lashed down, the louder they sang. The louder they sang, the more people packed the stands.

The Santos players came onto the field two and a half hours before the game to take some photos of their historic setting. They were greeted with projectiles, whistles and a murderous roar. The chant was: “Maradona fucked Pele up the arse, up the arse.” They must have been impressed, if not terrified to see such a spectacle so many hours before the game in such miserable weather. This was definitely not the beach, nor even the stadiums of Brazil.

The hours passed and the stadium filled. Fifty people carried a flag into the popular. Fifty more carried another. The songs and chanting continued, the wind quieted down to listen. I tried to find a seat to claim as my own but was continually bumped out by legitimate ticket holders. As game-time approached, the only place I could find to sit was on the stairs, sitting in a puddle, squished between two others on each side, two in front and two in back. I continually had the press of bodies on me. If I moved, at least three others had to. The entire stadium was like this. The popular section resembled the wave action of a huge, heavy jelly fish that would occasionally swing up and down in unison, and rock the entire structure of the stadium. The platea was completely overstuffed. Every space on the stairs was taken and people were still coming in. The official capacity of the stadium is 54,000, but on this night they must have had at least 70,000.

Santos came out of their tunnel to a shower of sharpened coins, batteries, fireworks and the collective ill-wishes of Boca fans around the world. The three hundred Santos fans sitting in their cage jumped and sang and lit flares. The police calmly walked up, took the flares from their hands and extinguished them in puddles. I had a lesson in Argentine invective that comes in handy when I don’t want anyone to really understand how I feel or what I mean. Soon after, Boca were birthed onto the field and were welcomed to the world with rapture.

As the teams lined up for kickoff the sky opened up and soaked everything and everyone to the bone. If I had managed to remain dry until this point, my efforts would have been for naught. I was trying to remember why I had gone through so much trouble to put myself in this position. I felt like an ice sculpture carved in the fetal position. Just when I thought I was at my limit, both legs cramped up and I had to squirm and shuffle to relieve them, which caused freezing cold water to rush down my back and in my pants. The plastic poncho of the man squished on my right side shed his water down my right leg. The back side of my left knee was dry, and I imagined myself there.

The game was fast and tricky. The field was soaked but held up well. The conditions did not appear to have an adverse effect on the ability of the players. The tackles were not as fierce as the semi-final against America de Cali had been and both teams had several chances at goal in the first half hour. The stadium was saturated with tension, and the Boca fans insisted on a goal. The Santos fans took advantage of a momentary lull in the stadium’s noise to express themselves. They were given two seconds before seventy thousand whistles pierced their efforts. They were silenced even further in the thirty-third minute when Marcel Delgado, another “Flaco”, hammered a shot off the right post and into the back of the net. I don’t know how all the people in the stairway managed to stand at the same time, but there we were, jumping with our arms in the air, the warmth of the moment running through us. Sitting back down in my puddle was unwelcome.

The atmosphere of the Bombonera remained tense and expectant throughout the second half. Santos looked as if they were going to level the score on several occasions. A 1-1 score would have made things very difficult for Boca. I was under the impression that the Copa Libertadores follows a similar scoring system as UEFA’s Champions League where away goals effectively count twice. That is, a 1-1 tie in Buenos Aires, and a 0-0 tie in Sao Paolo would give Santos the title, whereas a 2-2 tie in Brazil would favor Boca. I later found out that this is not the case, and that the Libertadores operates solely on goal differential. Regardless, as the second half progressed, it became increasingly clear that Boca needed a second goal. Santos continued to press the attack. Boca defended uneasily, not ansting to give the Brasilian wonderkids Alex or Robinho freekicks near their goal. The noise increased. The wind whipped in from the sea, and the rain began again.

Tevez, the hero of the semi-finals, had been effectively marked out of the game. He was given no space to run, and when he found some, he was hacked down. The attention paid to Tevez was instrumental in freeing up Delgado, however, and he tormented the Santos defenders all night. It was Delgado’s bizarre free kick in the eighty third minute that precipitated the most extreme expression of emotion I have ever witnessed.

As the ball flew into the penalty area from the left, several Boca players jumped to meet it. All of them missed. The ball hit the ground three yards in front of goal, bounced wildly over the Santo’s keeper, and hit the roof of the net. The stadium was momentarily stunned. Chants stopped in mid throat. A collective breath was taken. We looked to the referee for confirmation. He started running towards midfield:

“Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll”

“Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll”

“Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll”

The ecstasy lasted for an hour. Long after the final whistle blew, the Boca fans stayed in the stadium, singing the praises of themselves and their team. They also threw in chants against River Plate, Santos, and the wind and rain.

As I was leaving the stadium, I had no idea of which way to turn to get to the main avenue to catch a bus. In my quest to get into the game I had become completely disoriented. Taxis were impossible, it was too far to walk, and buses just as unlikely as a taxi. It was well past midnight when I started walking in what I assumed was the right direction, or at least the safest. I soon found myself on a poorly lit street with few people and no cars. I had no idea how this was possible given the massive crowd that was spilling out of the stadium. I was tired and ready to get home. There was no one to ask, and if there had been, it might have been dangerous to do so.

I eventually turned onto a more crowded street that I assumed would be safer. As I was walking along, a young lad asked me for some money to take the bus. I told him that I only had enough for my own way home. As soon as I finished my sentence, he said,

“Oh. Sos extranejero!” Because I was a foreigner he began harassing me for money. I became indignant a bit too quickly, told him to get lost, in so many words, which quickly drew the attention of his brothers, cousins, and assorted gang of six or seven with whom he was walking. They all turned to look at me, but continued on their way. One of them tried chatting to me as I continued to walk warily forward. He continued to pester me for money, tried asking me where I was from, and eventually I had to stop dead in my tracks because I knew that if I followed them around the corner there would be problems. When I stopped, they stopped, looked at me, and started walking towards me. I crossed quickly in front of moving traffic, almost had my knees taken out by a car, and hit the other side of the road running, trying to figure out exactly where I was and where I was running. They weren’t following. They were probably having a good laugh, come to think of it. After a kilometer walkabout, I figured out where I was, walked another two and found a taxi to deposit me at my doorstep.

Boca won the return leg in Santos 3-1, with goals by Tevez, Delgado and Schiavi. They would go on to beat European champion A.C. Milan in the World Club Championship in Tokyo on penalties. The party at the obelisk following the victory in Brazil was eventually broken up by riot police after fans began to vandalize store fronts, stoplights, and roadways. Even though their fiercest rival, River Plate, won the Argentine league (apertura) last year, Boca could rightfully claim to be World Champions, which to their fans is a huge consolation in the face of continued economic, political, and social miseries.

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