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Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 2: San Lorenzo

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Going to a soccer match in a city filled to the brim with quality teams shouldn’t be a difficult task. But finding a ticket for one of the top two clubs, River Plate and Boca Juniors, can be a miserable affair. We’ve already written about our frustrating experience at a Boca Juniors match, and now continue with the much better time we had at San Lorenzo.

San Lorenzo Soccer Stadium
April 16th: San Lorenzo 1 – 1 Lanús

The Tickets
Informed by the experience of getting Boca tickets, I showed up to the San Lorenzo office on Avenida de Mayo plenty early and fully pessimistic. But I needn’t have worried. The line was small, and I soon found myself deep in conversation with the guy ahead of me. A lifelong San Lorenzo fan, he took me under his wing, explaining the history of the club and insisting we sit next to him and his son (whom he wanted me to speak English with). The tickets, in the seated section, nineteen rows up and directly in the middle of the field, were 90 pesos — exactly four times cheaper than what we had paid for the “popular” section in the Bombonera. Incredible.

San Lorenzo Amigos

Pregame
Again, such a difference from Boca Juniors, where we had no taste of the pre-match atmosphere. There, we’d been part of a tourist group kept separate from “normal” fans, deposited in a garage for crap-tastic pizza and beer, then brought to our seats 90 minutes before the game even started.

We were blessedly on our own for the San Lorenzo match, and in fact didn’t see any other tourists the entire day. Arriving at the team’s Nuevo Gasómetro stadium in Flores, we went straight to the club restaurant which was packed with fans clad in red and blue — hoping to blend in, I bought a ball cap, and we sat down for a US-style meal of hamburgers and Coca-Cola. As is the case throughout Argentina, no alcohol is sold during or before games. Given the already-fiery state of the fans, that’s probably a good thing.

Bellies full, we entered the stadium and found our seats next to the guy I’d met the day before. His kid was way too shy to speak English with us, but we all had a good time. Sitting with real fans in the seated section (the platea) was sooooo much better than with a bunch of fellow tourists in the fan curve (the popular). At Boca, I’d spent the match listening to an Australian brag about running with the bulls in Pamplona. Here, we were with a porteño explaining the lyrics of the songs that the hinchadas were singing, introducing the various players (the team’s best man has the awesome nick-name of Pipi), and telling us about the stadium.

San Lorenzo Fans

The Stadium & Atmosphere
If I had a complaint about our trip to San Lorenzo, it would be that the stadium is too new, and wasn’t filled to capacity. And it’s found in a nasty area of Buenos Aires. San Lorenzo plays in Flores, but identifies itself strongly with the more central neighborhood of Bodeo. The team’s old stadium, the Gasómetro, was located there until 1979 when it was forced to close by the military dictatorship. A true shame — the old stadium had a capacity of 75,000, tons of history and was known as “The Wembeley of Buenos Aires”. A grass-roots movement is currently advocating the club’s return to Bodeo, under the Law of Historical Reparations: an attempt to rectify some of the wrongs perpetrated upon the city’s people by the military junta.

We wish them luck! The club deserves to play in its own neighborhood. Although the Nuevo Gasómetro wasn’t completely full during the early afternoon game we attended, the fan curve definitely was. And it was every bit as wild as Boca Juniors’. From the Platea, we had a great view of the hinchadas, who filled the stadium with their songs, swaying, jumping, confetti and flags. One fat guy, who our friend referred to as El Gordo Ventilador danced and swung his shirt in a circle over his head for the whole 90 minutes. An impressive display of stamina — he features prominently in our video, below.

The game was great, as well, though the fans were disappointed to see San Lorenzo’s 1-0 lead disappear shortly before the end. Still, I’ll not soon forget the collective insanity which gripped the stadium after that first goal. Pipi has been struggling with injury this season, and only entered the game in the second half. Almost immediately upon touching the pitch, he assisted on the goal … the crowd went nuts. I looked over worriedly at our new friend, who’d ripped his shirt off and was screaming at the top of his lungs, red-faced.

Soccer Dude

Overall…
… our trip to San Lorenzo was leagues more fun than Boca. This has mainly to do with the fact that we had booked one of the tourist-oriented packages for Boca Juniors, so it’s not an entirely fair comparison. If it had been possible to buy normal tickets to Boca, we would certainly have had a much better time — but the point is that it wasn’t possible.

At San Lorenzo, we were a real part of the scene. We paid about US $20 for incredible seats in the middle of the field and had the opportunity to meet lifelong fans. So many people only consider River Plate or Boca as options when they’re visiting Buenos Aires, but it definitely pays to broaden the selection. Besides San Lorenzo, you could go to a match at Huracán, whose art-deco stadium is supposed to be incredible, or Racing Club in Avellaneda, known for the fierce loyalty of its hinchada.

Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 1: Boca Juniors
Location of the San Lorenzo Ticket Office
Location of the Nueva Gasómetro
Soccer.com

Biggest Soccer Fan
Soccer Smile Face
Slum Soccer
Old Soccer Fan
Confetti Striptease
Goalie
San Lorenzo Player
Lorenzo Soccer
Happy Goal
Tired Fan
San Lorenzo Tattoo
Soccer Buenos Aires
Soccer Betting Buenos Aires
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April 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm Comments (12)

Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 1: Boca Juniors

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Maradona’s Golden Days

River Plate, Veléz, Racing, Boca Juniors, Argentinos Juniors, Independiente, San Lorenzo, Tigre, Huracán, All Boys… if you want to check out a soccer match in Buenos Aires, there are more than enough opportunities. Foreigners typically flock to the Bombonera to watch Boca Juniors, or the Monumental: home of River Plate. These are by far the two biggest teams in terms of success and support and clashes between them, known as superclásicos, are the stuff of legend.

I’m a huge soccer fan, so it was a given that I’d drag Jürgen along to at least one match. And in fact, we went to two. First to Boca Juniors, then San Lorenzo. Both were interesting experiences, though I wish I would been armed with the knowledge I now possess. Here’s Part One of our Buenos Aires Fútbol Odyssey. Check out Part Two, here.

Boca Juniors Tickets
March 20th: Boca Juniors 0 – 2 Olimpo

The Tickets
Boca Juniors are hugely popular, and normal tickets have become impossible to purchase. I waited in a line for two hours with a few hundred other people, before we were told that no tickets would be sold to the general public. The outrage among the group of mostly Argentinian fans was understandable — why did they make us wait so long, just to tell us that? Later, I would learn from reading online forums, that this has been the pattern since at least the beginning of the year.

The thing is … there are tickets available, and plenty of them. Boca has learned that any tickets which don’t go to their club members can be sold for much, much more money through hotels and tour operators. So, normal Argentines at the stadium booths are out of luck: all the tickets have been sold to package operators who jack up the price obscenely.

The upside of this scheme is, if you’re willing to shell out, it’s easy to get a ticket. The tour operators are a dime a dozen and, even the day of the game, you can find tickets. The downside is, the prices are exorbitant.

Not willing to miss out on the “Boca Experience”, we gritted our teeth and chose one of the tour operators. The offer was “Free Beer and Pizza” before the game, plus transport to and from the stadium. The tickets were in the Popular Section, and at 360 pesos, were nine times face value. The price seemed to be standard across all the tour operators we found, and at least we would be getting our money’s worth… right?!

Boca Juniors Player

Pregame
Along with about 20 other foreigners, we were bused to the stadium three hours before game time. Our guides grouped us together like schoolchildren, cut past the line of “normal” fans, and dumped us in a garage for the pizza and beer. There were two pizzas for the entire group. Not everyone even got a slice, and it was the cheapest, most disgusting pizza I’d ever tried to ingest. Fake plastic cheese, and the beer was a joke, too.

Anyway, we weren’t there for pizza. We were ushered into the stadium 90 minutes before kickoff and then just sat there waiting. Apparently, it was “too dangerous” to have us enter with the regular fans. What nonsense. By the time the game actually started, everyone was already tired and annoyed. I’m so sick of this attitude that tourists have to be afraid of regular porteños. It’s a falsehood promoted by charlatans, who can wring even more money out of foreigners by “protecting” them. “You’ll have to be bused in and out with special guards! You won’t be safe! Book with us, or you’ll be mugged in an alley! These people are animals!” Give me a break.

Crazy Boca Juniors Fans

The Stadium & Atmosphere
Regardless, the Bombonera is incredible. Even though Boca played atrociously and limped off the field after a well-deserved defeat, the atmosphere in the stadium was constantly upbeat. Singing, chanting, crazy fans (hinchadas) climbing up scaffolding, flags, confetti, etc.

So, during the game, I was really happy. But before we were able to leave the stadium, we had to wait until the opposing team’s fans had cleared out. Then our group had to wait until the normal fans in the popular section had also cleared out. Because we were helpless, silly children that needed protection from regular people. God forbid we leave the stadium with them. Sigh, it meant another hour of sitting around.

How To Watch Boca Juniors

Overall…
… the game was fun, but it was a terrible evening. We got back home with the full knowledge that we had been ripped off; that we had paid tons of money, and weren’t even able to experience the true joy of attending a match … sitting around a pub before the game begins, meeting local fans or being a part of the action. If I had it to do over, I would skip Boca entirely.

And if I absolutely had to go to the Bombonera again, I would buy tickets from a scalper. That’s a terrible thing to suggest, so I’m not suggesting you do this. But, shit. I would. I would pick the cleanest, nicest looking scalper, and buy a ticket from him.

The Bombonera on our Buenos Aires Map
Soccer.com

Magic Fall
Fan Sandwich
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April 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm Comments (5)
Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 2: San Lorenzo
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