A South American fiesta of football

Our latest football traveler is Lee Barnett who has literally just stepped off a plane from South America where he had by the sounds of it a fantastic three week adventure in Brazil and Argentina. Below is his travel diary.

Thursday 22nd October 2009
British Airways flight BA249 14:00 departure arrived in Rio de Janeiro at 22:30
Taxi to hotel in Santa Teresa area of Rio. Santa Teresa is fairly central and makes most things in the huge city accessible. We were staying at a British owned small hotel called Um Meira Tres. The nearest metro station to the hotel was called Gloria – nice and easy to remember!

Friday 23rd October 2009
We were disappointed to find out that the Vasco da Gama match we had planned to take in later that night had been put back to Saturday and changed from the San Januario to the Maracana stadium. We also decided to secure our tickets early for Sunday’s game at Botafogo and so we had to go to their stadium to buy them. Afterwards we headed off to one of the hundreds of Favelas that have sprung up around the city with an English Ex-pat who was our guide. It was a fantastic if humbling experience as to how life can continue in such conditions.

Saturday 24th October 2009
Amazingly, after so many years at the top table in Brazil (and only a decade after playing in the World Club Championship), Vasco de Gama were in the 2nd tier of Brazilian football, the Serie B. We took the metro to the Maracana stop, which is conveniently next to the stadium. Over 52,000 fans saw Vasco da Gama beat Bahia 2-1. After the match there were plenty of taxi’s available to take us back into town as most fans used the metro which was heaving to say the least.

Sunday 25th October 2009
Serie A was the highlight of the day as Botafogo lost 1-0 at home to Flamengo with Adriano scoring the only goal. The attendance was a decent 25,192 at the Engenhao stadium which is reached via metro to the stop named ‘Del Castilho’ then a short taxi ride. Around the stadium the local residents utilise their gardens as makeshift bars and barbeques giving the whole area a real character and some wonderful smells! There are a couple of more traditional bars close to the ground which are perfectly safe for us foreigners to use! The stadium is new and modern and had some of the comforts from home. After the game it was dark and the area is not the best or the safest looking and it took us a while to find a taxi. Land in this area is cheap and this was the reason why Botafogo relocated here.

Monday 26th October 2009
Our visit to Rio was at an end for a week or so as we boarded our flight to Buenos Aires. We armed ourselves a ‘monedero’, which is the Argentinean version of the Oyster card. The difference is it will only charge a flat rate fare each time you use as opposed to an oyster card where you have to swipe in and out. Each metro journey is ridiculously cheap and this card makes excellent sense and won our “travel tip of the day”. We checked into a fantastic hostel paying just £27 per night. It ticked all the right boxes – Staff very friendly, beer, soft drinks and snacks available and free computer use. Our game of the day was at the brilliantly named Deportivo Moron, which must be up there with Deportivo Wanka. To reach the home of the Morons, take metro line B as far as it goes then get a taxi ride to the stadium. It’s just outside the city limits and is in an ok area with a conference style ground. Open terracing at both ends and a very old main stand. The opposite side consisted of huge advertising hoardings only. The game ended Deportivo Moron 3-1Deportivo Espanol with an attendance of just under 2,500. Within five minutes of the final whistle we were at the railway station close to the stadium and on our way to “Once” main terminus. Despite such a small crowd for this third tier game the police presence was quite high.

Tuesday 27th October 2009
A trip overseas today as we were off across the River Plate to Uruguay. A metro journey to the port of Buenos Aires where we boarded the ferry. On the other side of the river a coach then takes you from the ferry port to the centre of Montevideo. Travel Tip of the day – when the coach drops you at the bus station/shopping mall buy your return ticket from the office situated here. You have a choice of taking the coach journey back to Colonia for the ferry or taking the direct speedy crossing direct from Montevideo to Buenos Aries. This speedy crossing is the better choice in my opinion. All bookable with a company called Buquebus.

We were in Uruguay for the game between Penarol Rampla Juniors which ended in an easy 3-0 win for the home team. The attendance was around the 10,000 mark but as the Estadio Centanario, venue for the first ever World Cup Final in 1930 holds over 70,000 they did look a little lost. But they made up for their small numbers with lots of noise. The stadium was where Argentina had just qualified for South Africa a week or so earlier by beating Urugauy with a late Martin Palermo goal. The stadium is close enough to the city centre to be walkable, and is in a safe region of the attractive city. After the match there were plenty of taxi’s to take us back to the port.

Wednesday 28th October 2009
After our high speed crossing back from Montevideo to Buenos Aires we had a choice of games but chose to head off to the San Lorenzo de Almagro v Arsenal Sarandi match. After a short taxi to the nearest subte (metro) we headed off on line E to the last stop ‘Plaza de Los Virreyes’. Then we took a tram, getting off at the second stop where there is a huge roundabout with has five exits. Here is travel tip of the day – walk down the second exit. Do not take the first exit as you may not make it out of Buenos Aires with your possessions. The area is home to dozens of people sleeping in makeshift tents and it just doesn’t feel safe. On arrival at the stadium the ticket offices were the hole in the wall type. We bought the best available ticket which turned out to be in the Main Stand but also included entry to the Press Area, trophy room and museum. What was quite unusual about this game is that the main event was preceeded by a game between the reserve teams of both clubs. A crowd of around 16,000 watched both games with San Lorenzo running out 3-2 winners in the main game. Overall I would certainly think twice about going again to San Lorenzo simply because of the area

Immediately after the game finished I took a cab to Huracan for their game against Rosario Central. The journey was short and the fare very cheap. The cancha (ground)at Huracan is close to the pitch but open all round. Again as with most grounds in Argentina it is in need of updating and restoration. The game finished Huracan 1Rosario Central 0 in front of around 18,000 supporters. Huracan cancha is in an OK area and there are plenty of taxi’s available within a short five minute walk from the main road. Alternatively if the game is an afternoon kick off you can get the metro to ‘Caseros’, although the Metro stations close at about ten o’clock.

Thursday 29th October 2009
The highlight of the day was our trip to Boca Juniors. A metro trip to ‘Constitution’ station and then a cab to Boca is the simplest way to reach the stadium. Boca is a bit dodgy in terms of the surrounding areas and the cab driver advised on not wearing my watch! The stadium sits in a complex of other sports venues as do most of Argentina’s football stadiums. The Boca stadium looked from the outside in a good state of repair unlike most in Buenos Aires. When we reached the ground we found out that because the game later in the day against Chacarita Juniors was high risk there would be no tickets on sale today! I Couldn’t believe it – to have come so far and be so close to the highlight of the trip. My story quickly passed around the ground and we did manage to buy tickets from a steward after he made a few phone calls. The ticket were delivered to me by a policeman! Only in Buenos Aires! Inside the ground there was a fantastic atmosphere. This was only going to be a small game in terms of attendances but you got the urge to come back for a bigger game. The views from the the third tier where our seats were were fantactis. When it gets really going the whole stadium literally shakes with the noise and energy from the supporters. The final score was Boca Juniors 3 Chacarita Juniors 0 and the official attendance was close to 30,000. After the excitement of seeing a game at the great Boca stadium it was off to a lower key game.

Game number two of the day was All Boys versus Gimnasia Jujuy. All Boys stadium is named the ‘Estadio Los Islas Malvinas’ – The Falklands Island Stadium. I took a taxi from San Telmo to the ground but there I was unable to get a ticket for the mainstand (platea) so instead took my chances with a place in the popular side. The ground had three sides of terracing and a platea of two tier seating. The ground is well kept though the crowd was only 2,000 to watch a 0-0 draw. Just round the corner from the ground I caught a bus that ran back to the city centre although cabs are also available from the main road.

Friday 30th October 2009
Travel tip of the day – “Always buy the ‘Ole’ newspaper to confirm venues and kick off times as they can change at quite short notice”. If you can read Spanish then the paper is a great read. Today I was off to the River Plate stadium to get a ticket for the game on Sunday versus Lanus. I wanted to make sure I got a ticket in the shade as Argentina can get very hot at this time of the year. To get to River Plate you need to take the metro to ‘Conresso de Tucuman’ station. Then it’s about a twenty minutes walk in a straight line down Avenida Calbido. The stadium is in the upmarket Nunez area of the city amongst shops including the ‘Rivermania’ store. Not that big a store by UK football grounds standards, but it stocked some good football gear. I picked up my ticket for the River game on Sunday and then headed off to Platense a five minute cab ride away. Platense is like an old fourth division ground going back to the early eighties. Three sides are terraced and the fourth, the platea had almost antique seating. All areas are open to the elements with no cover at all. I managed to blag a free press pass here to gain entry to the press box from which I had a great view of the game while being fed sandwiches and cakes. Marvellous I thought until I realised that the policeman that searched me on the way in had stolen my credit card! What comes around goes around in these parts! It was a poor game for a second division match and the final score was Platense 0 Ferro Carril Oeste 2 in front of an attendance of 3,000. Immediately after the game a bizarre series of events unfolded. Initially I saw a supporter run across the pitch towards the players tunnel, with in hot persuit three policeman, batons waving, trying desperatly to keep up with the invader. Then to everyones astonishment the players prevented the supporter from taking a beating from the police by ushering him up and over a very high fence that surrounded the pitch. Then there was a commotion in the tunnel. I decided to walk down the internal staircase of the platea only to be confronted with press guys frantically coming back back up towards me holding their noses and covering their mouths from tear gas let off by the police in the tunnel area! Never a dull moment in Buenos Aires I can tell you! After the match a cab to ‘Congresso de Tucuman’ metro station was my reward for an interesting afternoon of football.

Saturday 31st October 2009
Another two match day. First up was a game at Atlanta. The ground is situated very centrally in the city. It was a third division match. so I did not expect a big crowd. A metro ride to ‘Dorrego’ then a walk down to the level crossing, turning right into Humbolt. The ground is on the right. All together it is about six or seven minutes from the metro station. Again the ground is fully open to the elements. It had recently been revamped with new large terracing at each end. The main stand is large and crumbling but has the old seating from Boca Juniors repainted. The opposite side has no stand, only advertising hoardings and fences. From the club shop an old piece of bleacher mounted on a plinth can be purchased for thirty peso’s (about five pounds sterling I calculated). I thought about buying one for Simon Inglis who seemed to have a fascination for bleachers having read his book about Argentinian football. The final score was Atlanta 1 Los Andes 3 in front of no more than 400 people. A poor crowd may have been a result of the torrential rain that fell all day. Porteno’s fans do not like getting wet especially in an open ground in the third division. After the game a short walk back to the main road was all it took to get a cab to Velez Sarsfield. At Velez Sarsfield ticket office I had a bit of trouble with the language. My Spanish is not what it used to be and so I ended up with a ticket in a standing area behind the goal. That was fine except the rain by now was incessant. I took the metro to ‘Carabobo’ on the A line then hailed a cab. Its not far from the metro but the rain was still falling and the cabs were dirt cheap. The final score was Velez Sarsfield 2 Gogoy Cruz 0 and they should be fortunate that as many as 13,000 turned up on such a poor night.

Sunday 1st November
Another couple of games on the agenda for sunday. First up was Chacarita Juniors versus Argentinos Juniors, being played at the latters stadium, although I still had no idea why. I took the metro to ‘Carabobo’ on line A, then a short cab ride. The ground is small for the first division. It has a two tier seated main stand where tourists like me could gain entry. In front of the stand is a small paddock of standing. The opposite side is a large stand, two thirds of which is terracing with the remainding third open seating. The home end is a small open terracing. There is no stand at the other end, just advertising hoardings and green tarpaulins to stop outsiders peering in. Despite it being a bit rudimentary a good atmosphere was generated in the ground by the supporters – Everyone sang here. I left the ground early to get a cab to River Plate for the big game with the score nicely poised at 2-2 (which eventually was the final score). The cab from Argentinos Juniors to River Plate was fifty peso’s – a bargain for the trip through the traffic. After arriving at River Plate I got into the ground, and found my seat with ten minutes to spare before kick off. The River Plate stadium is a big open mostly seated two tier stadium with an athletics track and a moat. The result River Plate 0 Lanus 1 which was a surprise and most of the 18,000 in attendance ended a miserable afternoon soaking wet as the rain continued to fall. In Argentina after the match is finished the home supporters are kept in the stadium for fifteen minutes to allow the away supporters to get away – the complete opposite to what we see in Europe. During this period no home supporters are allowed to leave the ground. This is stringently enforced by the police. If you need to leave early to ensure you get a cab this could potentially be a problem. If you do need to leave early to go to another game or get a cab ensure you get a ticket for the main stand. This will give you a better chance of getting away ealier if you need to. Behind the goals forget it.

Monday 2nd November 2009
Back to the airport for the flight to Sao Paolo. Apart from a trip up to Portuguesa’s stadium to buy a ticket for the Tuesday night it was a day of relaxing.

Tuesday 3rd November 2009
The game of the day today was at Portuguesa. A metro ride to Tiete/Portuguesa then five minutes in a cab or fifteen minutes walk gets you to the ground. The stadium is a crumbling mess. It is in desperate need of being pulled down and a replacement built. I hate to say that about any ground but its in a terrible state. The floodlights are on massive concrete stanchions set back behind the stadium. There is a seated area of about four thousand seats. The remainder of the ground is terracing with seated markings on them in a shallow open bowl. Only two floddlights are lit until two minutes before kick off to save money. The home supporters (around 6,000) were clearly not happy with the club and displayed their banners upside down for the duration of the match although they did go home happy as Portuguesa won 2-1.

Wednesday 4th November 2009
A coach trip from Sao Paulo to Paraty today. I had originally planned to stay in the city for Corinthians match but it had been put back to the weekend so headed to Paraty instead and spent a couple of days here.

Saturday 7th November 2009
A coach trip early in the morning from Paraty to Rio de Janeiro and straight away a metro to ‘maracana’ station for Vasco da Gama versus Juventude. If Vasco won they would be guaranteed promotion back to Serie A. The ticket office stopped selling tickets while I was queuing (and had been for an hour and a half). I went back to the ‘Maracana’ metro station where the touts were. They only had tickets in the cheap Geral but I figured that any ticket is better than no ticket. They charged triple the price but that still doesn’t amount to much as the ticket was only seven reals to start with. The match atmosphere was fantastic with Vasco da Gama’s 2-1 in front of 81,906 enough to see them promoted.

Sunday 8th November 2009
So for the final game of the trip – Fluminense. Another metro trip to the ‘maracana’ station, a walk across the walkway and hey presto – one of the world’s biggest stadiums is right there. I Decided to posh it up for this game and bought a ticket next to the dirtectors box. The Cost of ticket was 120 reals , about £45. There was a great atmosphere as relegation threatened Fluminense were playing top of the table Palmeiras/ Fred scored the only goal of the game for the home side in front of 66,884.

So that was the end of an amazing trip. Games in three countries and countless memories. I had a couple of days of sightseeing to do the more cultural stuff before I headed back to London overnight on Tuesday.

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2 thoughts on “A South American fiesta of football

  1. Hey, people in Argentina are crazy about soccer. Last year when I was there, I went to see a soccer match and now I understand the reason for the passion. it is a very interesting game and going to the stadium makes you feel unveliebably good. I had rented an apartment in buenos aires near La Boca, and every Sunday, when Boca Juniors played there, everybody just went mad.
    It was one of the best experiences of my life.
    Tiffany

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