Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Independiente v Racing November 2006

For an englishman Avellaneda , in Buenos Aires, is not easy to pronounce ('abeshaneda' maybe) & though it is a station on the line from Constitution when you get there don't expect it to have that name on the platform - it actually says Dario y Maxi.

But i'm sure the two sets of fans had no problem getting to the stadium as this couldn't be much more of a local 'derby' - their respective stadia are about 150 metres apart.
Not that they would go to the game together (this being Argentina) - the two groups are channelled through specific streets & entrances with diagrams in the morning sports paper.

50,000 attended this last clasico at the Independiente stadium before it is re-built, many arriving 3 hours or so before the kick-off & for some it was not a comfortable experience & for all it finished early.
The stadium is partly covered , very unusual in Argentina, & it resembles a European ground albeit from 20 years ago. The packed terraces also bring back memories but the noise, smoke, balloons, streamers & passion are pure Argentina.
The afternoon (it was a c.5pm kick-off) became quite hot especially when you were exposed to the unrelenting sun - in the shade it was pleasant enough.
But some Racing fans did have the chance to cool down later on as the water cannon was wheeled out. Before that they had been shot at with rubber bullets & had tear gas to inhale - presumably in reaction to missiles being thrown at the police (I was in the home area)
Action that eventually resulted in the referee having to abandon the game.

The contest itself - almost incidental - lasting around 65 minutes was a triumph for Independiente with Montenegro scoring through a penalty (following a rather inexplicable handball) & from a nicely chipped second.

The atmosphere & build up made this an awesome spectacle that somehow couldn't contain the passion generated without degenerating into (partial) mayhem & ultimate suspension of play.
Not a unique occurrence in Argentina.
You couldn't help thinking that unless the atmosphere it is kept within reasonable (i.e non-violent) boundaries the risk is that these clasicos might go the way of many European derbies where there are often few (or sometimes none at all) away fans present.

Subsequently I understand the AFA (Argentinian FA) did disallow visiting fans from attending games for the remainder of the season - then rescinded the restriction.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Rosario Clasico October 2006

Rosario Central v Newells Old Boys - the Rosario Clasico

Take the bus (comfortable but slow) from Buenos Aires & 4 hours or so later you can be in Rosario.
Arrive about 2hrs before kick off & you may get the chance to walk to the ground with the Newells hinchas (fans)
Surrounded by police & led by motor bikes they present an awesome sight as they march from the centre to the Central stadium.
There are then something like 6/7 sets of security before you reach an entrance gate - for me to be in the lower tier of the 'main stand' side.
This is one of the top derbies in Argentina with a significant local focus - Central in particular having mainly Rosario players - Paolo Wanchope , who played a starring role, being one of the exceptions.
The stats are :- a 42000 crowd , 1450 police (a record for this game) with the away team (Newells) having both tiers behind the goal (c. 10000)
The presence of a very large (and needless to say noisy) away following plus the intimacy of the Gigante stadium makes this derby one of the best you will experience.
The build up starts well over an hour before kick off with chants, balloons, smoke & flags.
As always there is a 'dialogue' between the fans often referring back to previous events (eg the Central fans don't sing, the 'penguins' - Newells fans - are freezing)

Not many Argentian clasicos are dull & this one certainly had plenty of action - goals (4-1 to Central) ,drama (2 Newells players sent off) & trouble (after missiles being thrown the police fired rubber bullets at the Newells hinchas). Despite the stoppage during the police action the game did restart and finish (unlike my subsequent clasico - Independiente v Racing). As usual the locals (including myself) had to wait whilst the away fans departed - helped along by the odd baton or bullet.

For me the action hadn't quite finished as on the bus back to the bus terminal the locals smash the rear windows - but we shake off the glass & carry on regardless.

After all its just another normal football derby day in Argentina.