Thursday, May 17, 2007

Roma v Lazio 29th April 2007

Historic surroundings abound in Rome and the Olympic Stadium evokes special memories for me having seen Liverpool win the European Cup in 1977 & 1984 & the, less famous ,World Cup final of 1990. The stadium curvature & sightlines are somewhat similar to the old Wembley (which again has many memories for this writer - not least a certain World Cup final in 1966)

The game itself eventually drifted towards a goalless draw perhaps predictable given their league positions. Roma star Totti wasn't able to produce (much) and was substituted.

In the context of the events during the Italian season (i.e in Catania) it was inevitable that some of the atmosphere would be dampened down for this derby. The Roma song was loud enough but there were no large banners or flares.

But it's certainly a derby to see again not least because there is a large representation from both sets of fans in a historic arena in the Eternal City.

Copa Libertadores group games April 2007

The Parque Central stadium in Montevideo was the venue for the first ever World Cup finals game in 1930 (between USA and Belgium)
It is small (15,000), intimate & far from the standards of modern European stadia though when Nacional played Argentinians Velez Sarsfield the locals certainly generated an excellent atmosphere. No shortage of fireworks, flares & flags. The support no doubt helped the home team secure a 2-0 win and they continue to progress in the competition.
In contrast the game between Audax Italiano and Nexaca of Mexico was played before maybe 4,000 in the 45,000 capacity estadio Monumental in Santiago (home of Colo Colo) in a much more subdued atmosphere. Nevertheless Audax won (2-1) in an entertaining game with Rodolfo Moya starring up front.

Gimnasia v Estudiantes The La Plata Derby

Good but not great. Played in the La Plata City stadium on the edge of town ,this derby lacked some of the intimacy & intensity of the best Argentinian clasicos. Maybe the previous result (7-0 to Estudiantes) and their recent title success (winning the Apertura) gave Estudiantes too much superiority over their rivals.
Even though they had a player sent off very early on the team in red & white still won reasonably convincingly (2-1)
Veron continued to enjoy a renaissance of form in his home country but it was double goalscorer Pavone who was the match winner.

As the Gimnasia fans complained about their lack of quality players & some (minor for Argentina) disturbances broke out in the surrounding streets I was in a taxi making my way back to the bus station for my return to Buenos Aires.

Boca v River April 15th 2007

No longer the best Derby in the World ?
As I strolled back after the game to the centre of Buenos Aires via the markets & antique shops of San Telmo I happened to see two fans amicably chatting outside a bar, perhaps discussing the match. In a perverse way it reinforced my sense of disappointment at what went before as one wore a Boca shirt , the other a River shirt.
Too much of tourist attraction - do the stadium tour , visit the museum & go to the superclasico with Carl Lewis & other celebrities. By further limiting the numbers of away fans , selling tickets only to socios (i.e mainly middle class fans) & reducing the overall capacity adds up to less intensity ,passion & less noise than expected.
Thats what has happened to Boca v River at the Bombonera. Tourists can buy tickets at inflated prices , though still low compared to European equivalents they are out of reach for most locals, via sources in the city.
Continuing controversy over the role of the barra brava (ultras) has meant their numbers have been reduced (seemingly to zero for River) Though no reasonable person would condone the unsavoury & violent aspects associated with them the sense of theatre & spectacle is certainly diminished.
Yes its still Boca v River but , to this correspondent , that sense of commercialisation & europeanisation if you like (following the trend of many european derby games) has meant it is definitely not the most intense, visceral football derby experience in the world anymore.

There are other derby games in Buenos Aires that surpass it in that regard.

Even the game itself ended equitably (1-1) though Boca should have been in control after the chances they had in the first half.