Greetings from the Paris of the South.
Buenos Aires, that is. I landed here yesterday morning and though I’ve been on the ground right at 24 hours, I’ve already fallen in love with the place.
I was told this would be the case, but like any futile love, I resisted for as long as I could hold out but just didn’t have the willpower to resist.
I’m not here on vacation, but I did come in a day early to make the inevitable breakup that much harder.
As is my custom in cities I’ve never visited before, I went for a long walk to help fend off sleeplessness from the plane and jet lag, and found myself yesterday afternoon at the huge Sunday flea market on Defensa, a street right near my hotel.
Though not much of a shopper, the scenery on Defensa on a Sunday is not unlike that which you would see Washington Square Park on a weekend, only it’s on a street instead of a square.
I even saw a man without a head who apparently made his living having his picture taken with turistas like myself.
My real order of business for day one of my new love affair was to attend my first ever South American soccer (futbol) match.
I knew the joke was on me the moment I met my new friend, Tony, on the circus tour bus which almost didn’t get us to the game.
Tony, who hails from London, is a lifelong Arsenal (the one from the Premiere League) ticketholder, and who himself played in an amateur Sunday league until he was 38:
“What’s an American doing going to a soccer match?” he asked incredulously.
Ha ha ha.
Well, Tony, there are a few of we U.S. Americans hho graduate from soccer mom-dom to become actual fans of the beautiful game.
Describing the Buenos Aires game experience itself requires a whole other post to do it total justice (including the getting to the game, which is half the story).
Me, I was just worried about wearing the wrong colors and already trying to figure out in advance how to explain to my mom that she would need to contact the American embassy to get me out of jail for choosing the wrong color shirt.
But as fate would have it, I ended up wearing pretty neutral colors, until I found myself in the home stand (separated by glass and steel barriers from the “away” side…that, and concertina wire), in which case my side was chosen for me: Arsenal all the way, baby.
I have to go get some work done in advance of my meetings, but to whet your appetite for a more descriptive post about my first foreign futbol experience (other than the telly), let me just include the quick video byte below.
Hint: Focus on the sound. This was before the game had even started, as the riot police made their way onto the field (a purely offensive play on their part).
After this experience, I’ll just say this: American sports fans have no clue what real fandom is.
This small stadium of probably no more than 20K fans made more noise, more continuously, with more passion and enthusiasm, than all the American sporting events I’ve attended in my lifetime.
I’ve definitely fallen in love.