Monday, November 16, 2009

River Plate vs Tucuman

I am becoming increasingly concerned that I may run out of goals for my time in South America. Already I feel as though I have accomplished so much.

Surely, the biggest goal (to speak Spanish comfortably) remains a daunting task, but I feel as though I am growing in the language (both in my oral skills and in my ability to differentiate the Argentine dialect).

Most importantly I have added, "¿Donde esta la cancha por aqui?"

Meaning: Where is the soccer field around here?

Not only does this sentence roll off the tongue without much work - it is an essential phrase for my intentions over the next five months.

In fact, it would have come in mighty handy when Mikk and I were trying desperately to find a pick-up soccer match. Speaking of which...

Yesterday, I accomplished two of my main goals for this trip.

1) To play with Argentines (I did this in La Boca the other day, but only for a few minutes and they were but teenagers)
2) To attend a professional soccer match

Early in the day Mikk and I left for Palermo to purchase tickets for the River Plate / Tucuman match. It took about an hour to ride the subte to the end of the line and then walk the 7-10 blocks to River´s stadium.

With tickets purchased (thirty pesos/about $8 for a killer seat) the goal now was for Mikk and I to find a pick-up match. It was surprisingly difficult as we found out that most people in Palermo belong to clubs which have private fields.

Though after an hour of frustrating attempts in broken spanish to find anywhere to play - we found a caged in astroturf field where teams were playing. Again, we attempted to ask to play and eventually found out that one team was short two players and that we could substitute for them.

I could write an entire entry about the experience of playing TWO competitive matches with those guys. Suffice it to say, we held our own (we both scored) and represented our respective countries well - perhaps improving the reputation of the US and Canada as memebers of the global football community. That is just my humble dream.

After playing two matches in a row - we realized it was time to get back to the hostel so we could disperse the tickets we had bought, take showers, and then get back on the subte so we could make it to the match in time.

Despite some lagging Aussies, we made it to the stadium with about twenty minutes to spare. Enough time to catch the fanaticos pre-game concert on the balcony outside the top tier. Blocks away from the stadium you can hear the deep thud of the drums, but that only hightens your senses...only to be blown away when you step through the gate and see the thousands of men jumping, swaying, singing in full voice, one arm pumping the air with the rhythm, bleary borrachos, all clad in white with red stripes.

It is hard to distinguish between the game on the field and the game in the stands. Each group of supporters takes turns attacking each other with their voices and drums..meanwhile each team takes turns creating a breathtaking run that gets the regular fans off their feet with arms in the air - meanwhile the fanaticos only intensify their rage.

As for the game itself, Tucuman scored in the third minute after the referee allowed play to continue - although there were legit cries for a penalty. The goal consisted of a precise cross just outside of the six yard box to find Emanuel Gigliotti´s head for a reaction flick into the far side. Despite the early goal, River had numerous clear cut chances and were unlucky to be ruled offsides on multiple occasions.

The second half was a completely different story. The River supporters somehow found the reserve energy to gradually increase their intensity - meanwhile the team on the field came ever closer to an equalizer - producing several efforts that were well saved by the Tucuman keeper.

Sure enough, in the 69th minute Marcelo Gallardo leveled the match sending the stands into absolute pandamonium. Never have I witnessed such a correlation between the efforts of the fans and the efforts of the players. The goal, of course, only incensed the fans even more and sent the atmosphere into levels of hysteria that made me feel - as a foreigner in a see of locals - that I too, could will the team to victory by the mere fact of my presence and enthusiasm.

And that is exactly what happened... five minutes later Diego Buonanotte slotted home the game winner - followed shortly by substitute Daniel Villalbe to put the match beyond doubt in the seventy-sixth minute.

What more can I say... it was incredible - the first of many if I have any say in it.

That is all for now... I feel as though I am inundating this blog with posts, but I am very much so taken by this city. I will perhaps become more concise as the weeks wear on, but for now I am revelling in each new experience.

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