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Official Review by Marcello Arrambide, Guest Reviewer
I would like to introduce you to the Alberto J. Armando stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Otherwise known as the Bombonera (chocolate box) due to its design, it holds up to 49,000 people at full capacity. The stadium is home to one of the fiercest rivalries in sports. The game pits La Boca Juniors and River Plate, and is known as the superclasico. This is the reason that going to a Boca game is one of the most popular Argentina tourist attractions. River Plate and Boca Juniors are two of the most popular teams in Argentina and are known the world over for their violent matches.
The actual stadium itself owes its unique design to the actual property that it lays on. The size of the soccer field is the minimum required by FIFA and due to a shortage of property they had to build one side of the stadium completely vertical. Due to the complex design, sounds and movement in the stadium are magnified which is one of the unique parts of watching a Boca Juniors game.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The only food available in the stadium is very cheap hot dogs and hamburgers. There are no special items to eat other than your typical stadium fare. Sodas also are available as well as beer inside of the stadium. Due to increased security you may or may not be allowed to take liquids into the stadium. When I attended a soccer game at the stadium they allowed me to bring in a liquid but took away the bottle of water a gentlemen was carrying behind me. Locals also bring their own food as many of the fans are below the poverty line.
Watching a game at La Bombonera is one of the most unique experiences a person could have. When everyone cheers, the entire stadium trembles. You have no idea the sensation that you feel when you feel the stadium about to fall apart and you see nothing but an entire sea of people jumping and chanting. The Boca Juniors soccer matches are known for having some of the most passionate fans in the world. Before entering the stadium during a game, fans are funneled into individual security lines because it can be so dangerous. The fans of the club are so dedicated that they have created a cemetery on site to bury the most diehard fans. They hang over balconies, climb fences, and throw an endless amount of garbage everywhere. I would highly recommend sitting under one the upper levels instead of in front of them.
The Boca area is one of the most interesting areas to visit in all of Buenos Aires. At night it can get dangerous, but visiting the area for a good steak and cafe con leche (coffee with milk) is extremely popular. A short walk from the stadium is El Caminito (the cute walkway) where you can find a combination of street cafes, tango music, and vibrantly colored restaurants where you can spend a nice afternoon.
El Paraiso is a good option when choosing among the many restaurants. Decent prices and good food.
La Glorieta De Quique is also a good option that is very close to the stadium.
During the entire course of a game the fans of La Boca Juniors are chanting and yelling. Only before the match is it actually quiet. If you are lucky enough to watch the Boca Juniors lose a match you will see the chaos that ensues afterward. The Boca Juniors and River Plate rivalry is so intense that it makes the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry looks like a children's fight. You will feel the magnitude of intensity in the air when the game starts. When a goal is scored the place erupts into such a high level that you will feel very intimidated. Fortunately for you it doesn't stop there, the fans have songs that have been sung in the stadium for years! Jump and fist pump and try to sing along. The fans are generally very friendly unless you are cheering for the opposition.
Getting into and out of the stadium is a huge hassle. The neighborhood of La Boca during the evening is already a dangerous part of the city and when people are entering the stadium there are several layers of security to go through. You get patted down at least twice and seeing the Argentine SWAT team is not unusual. Getting out of the stadium is equally as difficult since sections are blocked off and not allowed to exit until a certain time after the game. You could be waiting over an hour to leave the stadium if you are sitting in the poor section of the stadium. Most people walk to the stadium after taking the bus or metro. Bathrooms are readily available on several levels of the stadium.
Due to the worldwide popularity of Boca matches, many tourists want to see the games. Tickets can get as high as $400 and there isn't any way to get the same prices as locals. Most tickets are sold well before the games so trying to find a ticket is equally as difficult. Some tourists try to find tickets to the games on the street and they are often fakes. Be prepared to pay $120 - $200 for tickets to a regular match.
I can try to describe how chaotic the games are but you wouldn't believe me if I tried. Very far off from the comfortable stadiums we are used to in western society, there is still a sense of significant awe when you attend one of these games. I have been to soccer games in South America, football games in North America, baseball and basketball games in the United States, and even tennis matches in Europe. There is no experience like a Boca Juniors Soccer match.
It's dangerous, tickets are hard to find, and extremely cramped when watching a game. But even this doesn't stop tourists from seeing one of the best things to do in Buenos Aires. After you watch a Boca Juniors match you will die to go to another one. It's that incredible.
*Marcello is a travel blogger that is currently traveling around the world and shares his experiences on his site Wandering Trader's Travels.
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