Outside Write contributor Matt McGinn continues his tour around Argentina’s football clubs. In his latest dispatch from Buenos Aires, Matt visits Huracán.
Before leaving for Argentina, I attended an event organised by the Manchester Football Writing Festival. Jonathan Wilson, smoothly compered by Rory Smith, discussed his recently-published history of Argentinian football, Angels with Dirty Faces. Wilson was predictably erudite and engrossing. As the floor opened for questions, I took the opportunity to ask him which club he would recommend to visit, excluding the ‘Big Five’ of Boca Juniors, River Plate, San Lorenzo, Avellenada-based neighbours Racing, and Independiente. He answered swiftly: Huracán.
I would have been imprudent at best, foolish at worst, to ignore Wilsonian advice on such matters.
The Estadio Tomás Adolfo Ducó is a striking, brutal bowl of concrete in the Parque Patricios area of Buenos Aires. It opened in 1947, with construction enabled by funding from the incumbent Peronist government. It has undergone minimal change since. Architecturally, it reflects the era of its construction. It is truly modernist. It is minimalist and functional, yet imposing. There are no distinguishing features apart from a tall spike that emerges from one of the plateas (a seated stand on the side of the pitch), which towered over me as I saw a 0-0 draw against Sarmiento.
I felt like I had been transported back to the 1930s, when fascist-built modernist stadiums in Italy and Germany were expressions of national strength, and the eleven players were eleven symbols of state.
The exterior is stunning. Its style is less brutal than the inside. It is a mass of brickwork cladding, separated by white vertical beams, and vast windows that would not look out of place on a Georgian terrace in London. At various junctures, ‘Hurucán’ is embossed on to the brickwork in white lettering, along with the club’s emblem: a hot air balloon. The Spanish translation of this inspired Huracán’s nickname. El Globo.
The method for obtaining tickets was as antiquated as the architecture. I went to the match with a Californian friend who, luckily, speaks far better Spanish than I do.
We wandered down Calle Colonia from the Caseros Subte stop (El Subte is the metro network in Buenos Aires) with the gentle flow of pedestrian traffic. Upon arriving at La Cancha (a word for ‘the ground’ that is more common in Argentina than El Estadio), it was obvious that we would be unable to buy tickets there. Stewards directed us back in the direction we had come from, with the vague instruction to buy tickets on Avenida Caseros.
We sought further clarification from anybody wearing Huracán clothing. After several suggestions that we should buy tickets from the stadium, we were eventually directed west along Avenida Caseros, to the general Club Atlético Hurucán, on the corner of Caseros and General Urquiza. The building incorporates a decaying gym, and the club shop, among other things. It had the feel of an asbestos-ridden secondary school sports hall; symbolic of the vast difference in financial resources between the English and Argentine first divisions. Nevertheless, we left with tickets in hand. The tickets cost 500 pesos each, about £25. This was rather expensive for the quality of football we were served, but it did get us seats on the halfway line.
We had one hurdle remaining: the identity check to enter the stadium. The Argentine police had recently imposed a rule whereby all match-goers in the city of Buenos Aires had to show their national identification in order to gain entry. As extranjeros (foreigners), we were taken to a separate gazebo where the police scanned our fingerprints and made a note of our driving license details. It reeked of the demonisation of football supporters, but at least it was well-organised and efficient.
We steamed down Calle Luna, following the glow of floodlights like the Three Wise Men followed the star. There were no further barriers between to a feast of mediocre football in a tremendous stadium. Luna is lined with warehouses, most of which display graffiti-painted evidence of their proximity to El Globo. As we were pressed for time at this point, I did not have the opportunity to take pictures. But if you are curious, a virtual stroll courtesy of Google Street View will suffice.
As we took our seats, the Tribuna (terrace) to the left was lively. It was in this section that the vast majority of the crowd were situated. The Huracán supporters gently increased the volume until it became a raucous cacophony as their team emerged. If the stadium had been full to its 48,000 capacity, the noise would have been immense.
In recent years, the stadium has only been full on the cinema screen, courtesy of computer-generated imagery. El Ducó was used for the filming of El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret in their Eyes), a 2009 Oscar-winning crime thriller by Juan José Campanella, based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri. The scene depicts a chase at a match in the mid-1970s. It is implied that it is between Huracán and Racing. You can watch it here and the ground features from two minutes in.
The terrace to my right was deserted, bar a handful of Sarmiento supporters. I was glad. The lettering on the concrete was in keeping with the rest of the stadium: commanding.
The match was relatively entertaining for a goalless draw. Huracán dominated possession but did not possess the creative cunning to convert that domination to clear chances. Sarmiento were dangerous on the counter attack.
Huracán’s defensive midfielder, Matias Fritzler, was the standout player, which is indicative of the nature of the match.
The Huracán team did not express themselves as their former manager, César Luis Menotti, would have liked. El Flaco (The Slim One) was a political and footballing intellectual; a man of the left who by winning the World Cup with Argentina in 1978, secured a victory for the right-wing military junta. He philosophised that ‘there’s a right-wing football and a left-wing football’. The former embodied mechanic organisation and collective strength, the latter: artistry. In 1974, Menotti’s Huracán won the league playing the latter. Those days seem distant. A stadium befitting of glory has mainly hosted mediocrity.
How to get to Huracán
The Estadio Tomás Adolfo Ducó is easily accessible by the Subte (Line H). Get off at Caseros for the stadium, or Parque Patricios to buy tickets from the general sports club.
See http://www.omnilineas.com.ar/buenos-aires/colectivos/ for your best bus route.
The stadium is within walking distance of ‘central’ areas of Buenos Aires, particularly San Telmo, but I can’t vouch for the safety of the route.