In his second guest post from Buenos Aires, Matt McGinn checks in on All Boys versus Juventud in the second division of Argentine football, La Primera B Nacional.
I travelled to Floresta with a sense of slight trepidation. The upbeat tango music played by the bus driver was not in keeping with my mood. I wondered whether the Estadio Islas Malvinas (Falklands Islands Stadium) would be the cauldron of anti-British fervour that its name might suggest. I need not have worried. I will remember All Boys in a positive light, and associate the club with fine cuisine and endearing pyromania.
The Estadio Islas Malvinas, home of Club Atlético All Boys, is nestled in the residential suburb of Floresta, in the west of the city. A mix of high-rise apartment blocks and squat terraced houses surround it. As the match against Juventud Unida was played on a Wednesday evening, I could see the glow of the floodlights from a few blocks away. It is a glow that never fails to generate a sense of familiarity and excitement.
I arrived one hour before kick off against Juventud Unida, and went straight to the Boletarías (ticket windows) beneath the Tribuna de los Presidentes on Calle Mercedes. I paid 250 pesos (£12.76) for a ticket on the opposite side of the pitch, the Tribuna Chivilcoy, a steep standing terrace that runs the length of the pitch. As I bought the ticket, the club’s barras were getting festive in the adjacent street. Drums and brass were in full flow, and a crowd of men clad in black and white danced and sang in the middle of the road. Intimidating, it was not.
As I circumnavigated the stadium to reach the Tribuna Chivilcoy, I passed the general All Boys sports club. As with the vast majority of Argentine football teams, football is just one of many sports and social benefits offered by the club. A spinning class was in full swing, accompanied by a shouty instructor and booming drum ‘n’ bass music. Ahead of me, a young boy wearing a Karategi, the traditional Karate uniform, was walking hand-in-hand with his mother.
My proximity to all that exercise had increased my appetite. A stocky, dark red building on the corner of Chivilcoy and Álvarez Jonte with a sign that read ‘Parrilla’ (a traditional Argentine open grill) was a welcome sight. Through a take-away window that opened on to the street, I could see and smell succulent meat cooking above hot coals – an asado. I am as enthusiastic an advocate for Pukka Pies as the next man. But this pre-match tuck was different gravy. I opted for a choripán, a chorizo sausage baguette, which cost 35 pesos (£1.79).
Sufficiently nourished, I made my way in to the ground, pausing to look at the impressive mural on the exterior of the stand. The atmosphere at the top of the terrace was rather serene. To my left, the barras were busy fixing their black and white display to the stand. To my right, lights twinkled from the apartment blocks that made up the view to the north. It was necessary to stand at the top of the terrace, in order to see over the fencing that separates stand from pitch.
As an aside, I stood behind a man who bore a striking resemblance to David Baddiel. At the time, it seemed ironic the co-architect of ‘Three Lions’, an expression of British footballing nationalism, was in a stadium nationalistically named after the islands that Argentina and Britain had fought for. I snapped out of my muse when I remembered that it wasn’t actually David Baddiel.
Anyhow, as the teams returned to the dressing room after the warm up, those who had been beating drums in the street while I was buying a ticket bounced in to the ground. It was show time.
All Boys started strongly. They took the lead through Juan Vazquez, the rangy number seven, who found space on the edge of the box and curled a sumptuous effort in to the top corner with the outside of his right foot. Overall though, the game was not high quality. There were heavy touched and misplaced passes galore. But that made for enthralling entertainment.
The activity of the fans, who call themselves ‘La Peste Blanca’ (The White Plague) was similarly engrossing. For about five minutes during the first half, a firework display took place directly behind the Tribuna Chivilcoy. From the other side of the pitch, the combination of the fans’ display and the fireworks would have been a rousing sight. A lone dog trotting around the terrace seemed less appreciative.
The dynamic of the game changed shortly after half time, as Juventud had a man sent off for a professional foul. All Boys soon doubled their lead, but a goalkeeping clanger allowed Juventud to pull one back. The All Boys faithful were unimpressed and unforgiving. They hurled insults at their goalkeeper, most of which questioned the previous employment and promiscuity of his mother. Yet he kept Juventud at bay for the remainder, and All Boys stumbled to an unconvincing victory.
The relief in the Chivilcoy was palpable. The All Boys supporters had sung all match. Not at an ear-bleeding decibel, but consistently. As the final whistle blew, and the small collection of Juventud fans scuttled out disconsolately, the volume went up several notches.
How to get to All Boys
The Estadio Islas Malvinas is best accessed by bus. The 106 and 109 both pass within a few blocks and take about 30 minutes from Palermo, and slightly longer from Recoleta and Centro. As ever, http://www.omnilineas.com.ar/buenos-aires/colectivos/ is the tool to use.