The Newells Old Boys match
Trip Start Apr 23, 2012
18Trip End May 30, 2012
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What I did
Newells Old Boys
Being from Illinois, I know what it means to live in a place that truly loves their sports teams. In a way, the fans are almost more important than the team. I was fortunate enough, and even perhaps spoiled, to have had the opportunity to go to the original Chicago stadium and see the Blackhawks and Bulls play. I will never forget the energy when the announcer screamed out “and now the starting lineup for your Chicago Bulls!!!” and shortly after Jordan, Pippen and the rest of that unstoppable bulls team came charging out
That energy was unforgettable and some times makes me question if it was real or if my memory had exaggerated it. All it took was a trip to Rosario Argentina and to spend an afternoon with Newells Old Boys to make me realize that energy like I remembered is possible and still very much alive.
What I know about football (soccer) pretty much comes from playing FIFA on the playstation. I never played while growing up and my only experience seeing it professionally was a single Seattle Sounders game. I have always known about the enthusiasm for the sport world wide but didn’t understand it. I think it is fair to say that after a single game in Argentina I get it.
There are two tournaments per year, no season like in American sports. Each tournament has 19 games. At the end of the tournament the team in first wins. Next year the rules will change and the top team from each tournament will play to be the single champion of the year. There is so much at stake with two tournaments, to have only one winner per year will be, just, crazy...
The other thing to mention is the teams professional status. It is not like in American sports where once a team is pro it is always pro. That is not the case here. If your team does poorly the entire team can get demoted to a lesser league. That is what happened to Rosario Central. They were pushed down a level and no longer are considered professional. After you consider that you can be demoted and that once the tournament is done it is done there is no time for a team to take a day off or be complacent. Can you imagine what would happen in Chicago if the Cubs were demoted down to AAA? You have to fight every game to keep that position so that you win and that you keep your status. And if you don't, the fans let you know. Newells Old Boys are in first place and with last Saturdays win (3-1) they took an even bigger lead into first place. Go Newells!
The last thing I want to talk about is being in the club - not just a fan. You can buy a single game ticket or you can become a club member. A club does not consist of the single professional team. It contains different skill levels and different sports. Check this page out to see all of Newels teams: http://www.newellsoldboys.com.ar/. When you become a club member you get access to all games (in certain zones) and also use of the grounds. There are bbq pits outside where people have asados
The only thing I knew going into the game was to not wear blue. As I approached the stadium the autumn colors turned to red and black. Vendors lined the park selling non official jerseys and flags. Chorizo vendors grilled sausage and that delicious aroma filled the error. Riot police in full gear on foot and horseback held back fans until it was the proper time to enter. Long before the game started I heard the team songs being chanted and the drums, which would not stop for hours, beating.
There are 4 main areas in the stadium. The south end zone is where the energy is insanely high. I think if you choose this section you are signing up for a day of chanting, screaming, waving and having flags tossed over you. The west side and part of the north end zone is general seating. The seats are a little more expensive. I believe you are assigned a row number, but everyone sits where ever they want (well, you stand). And even dogs are invited to the game! The east side is for club members. And then a tiny little section in the north end zone is reserved for the other teams fans. There are large empty sections that separate that area from the other fans
The singing and drumming did not stop for the entire game. A team logo is a picture of a speaker with a line through it, meaning, they do not amplify the noise. The fans make the game. Each goal that scored resulted in an explosion of sound. Even when the other team scored our fans screamed in order to drown out the other teams celebration. Smart!
I smiled for almost the entire game and at times I got a little teary because of how incredible it was to see this many people participating in something so intensely and so lovingly. I finally understood why the rest of the world loves this game.
The game ended and Newells won 3-1 and kept their position in first place. An announcer states when you can exit the stadium; a period of time is reserved for the other teams fans to exit.
We got outside and were walking back to the car when Sebastian noticed people running and he said, we should wait, running is not good. I ignorantly kept going and tried to get him to help me buy a team jersey and flag from the outside vendors but could tell Sebastian was uneasy, he was clearly baby sitting and I was the baby
Sebastian told me to hurry and to watch the sky for rocks, which would probably start coming down. That got my attention and so we hurried back to the car, which was just parked on the street. He shared stories of other times he was in rock storms and informed me that the “fireworks” were gun shots. Now fully alert and happy that I wore a completely neutral color I stood by the car trying to look confident and unassociated. Finally our friends showed up, we got in the car and drove off.
I later learned that one of our fans was shot by a fan of the opposing team. I send my deepest condolences to the family of the victim. Energy is an amazing thing but unfortunately some people can not control it, take it to far and make something fun into something terrible. I consider myself fortunate that even with my ignorance I made it out unharmed. I also realized that my ignorance may have put my friends in harm, so for that I am a little regretful. This experience will live on forever in my memory and I will remember it for the love and passion. Thanks to Sebastian and his family for putting up with me and giving me one incredible memory!