I’m not a sportswriter at all, but I can tell you this: I love World Cup fever.
Tonight there’s a heatwave here in Portland (that kind of fever I can do without, thank you). Little Lucie is asleep in our one air conditioned room while Ted and I lay low, devouring smoked salmon, drinking Pinot Grigio, and eating Oregon berry cobbler in effort to recover from a long week. I’m not going to admit that Jaws is also on TV. (Ted listened to a recent NPR interview with Richard Dreyfuss, and, well, here we are.)
What does any of this have to do with international sports?
Tomorrow’s the final World Cup match of 2014, and before the play between Germany and Argentina appears on the pitch, I wanted to (finally) post photos from the 2012 Racing vs. All Boys match we saw in Buenos Aires.
Two years late and somehow also the eleventh hour? Seems a fitting time. (Ha.)
During our month in Buenos Aires, Ted and I met up with Ande from Wander Argentina for a rooftop game of cribbage, and she kindly pointed us in the right direction when we asked about how to get tickets to a soccer game in Argentina.
Ted grew up in a soccer family. His dad coached, and he and his siblings played. He loves the game.
I shoved shin guards down my socks a time or two, too. (I have one glorious slow-motion memory of playing goalie as a 13 year old and blocking my future brother-in-law’s high speed strike.) But if we’re honest, I wasn’t really terrific, I just loved outrunning the boys on the co-ed team.
Also, I used to go watch Ted’s indoor league games when we were 17 and 19 and he had no idea I was madly in love (with him).
Anyway, Buenos Aires. Ten years later.
Ande pointed us in the direction of Dan’s Buenos Aires Football Tours. We sent an email and snatched three tickets: one for me, one for Ted, and one for our soccer-loving friend Kaylea who came all the way from Oregon to hang with us for a few weeks in Argentina.
We kicked off the match with a pre-game afternoon meal at The Gibraltar in San Telmo where dark wood paneling and soccer on TVs set the mood for the night’s adventure.
Five other fellows from England joined us, and together we fearlessly followed after Dan and Sam, the British expat duo leading soccer tours in Buenos Aires. We jumped the local bus to Avellaneda, a port city of greater Buenos Aires, and after a muggy, sweaty ride on that autumn March night, we stepped off the bus and joined the crowds walking through the white and blue neighborhood toward the stadium.
At the encouragement of our guides, we left the big Nikon camera safely behind and took our little old banged up Canon PowerShot to capture what we could.
The Racing Club’s home stadium “El Cilindro” opened in the 1950s and holds 50,000 (just 4,000 shy of the Oregon Ducks’ Autzen Stadium…and more than double the Portland Timbers’ 22,000 Providence Park).
This was no friendly football/soccer match, though.
Netting around the away-team fans section.
A moat around the field.
These communities are passionate about the game.
They teach them young to cheer for life.
As I recall, Ted and I didn’t have team-colored clothes, but we were warned what not to wear by our guides and settled on a safe bet of black and green.
Some things are the same the world over.
Hours of chanting and cheers. (See the video at the end of the post.)
Kaylea and me (and our guide Dan stoically watching on at the end of the row).
Celebrations for the winning home team: 3-0, Racing.
While we waited 15 minutes for the rival team’s entire fan section to be escorted from the stadium by guards (yes, you read that correctly), we three foreign spectators grabbed our photos and gabbed about the crazy differences between the sport in the U.S.A. and the sport in Latin America…
I can’t put my (non-sportswriting) finger on it, but the palpable excitement, the passionate loyalty, the camaraderie of fans, the skill and theatrics of players – the feverish intensity of those 90 minutes – they’ve got me hooked.
When I was going back through photos, I found these video clips that Ted took on the old camera. The scratchy sounds and jumpy frames take me right back to that night.
We’ll be watching tomorrow’s World Cup final match and rooting for Argentina.
Ted and I watched the 2006 World Cup Italy/France final on our honeymoon in British Columbia, Canada. In 2010, we watched the Spain/Netherlands World Cup final match on our fourth anniversary trip to…British Columbia. And this year, we’re just recently home from another July trip to B.C. (posts about that adventure coming soon!) where we watched several matches in the lead up to this last Germany/Argentina face off.
No doubt, this year’s edition of World Cup excitement and celebration will go down in our family history with all sorts of mental snapshots and emotional associations, like so many preceding moments of soccer and life.
Like that kid with braces (me!) playing on the field, distracted by the teenage referee (Ted).
Like that only-a-week-married and on the edge of our seats during Italy/France overtime and penalty kicks.
Like that test-run-for-round-the-world-travel trip and our fourth anniversary “welcome back to the Sticky Wicket Pub” in Victoria, B.C..
Like that month, laying in our air-conditioned apartment in Buenos Aires’ sweltering heat, watching random soccer matches on TV without a care in the world.
Like that night in March, heading for an Argentinian match a few thousand miles from home with our dear friend Kaylea.
Like last week, celebrating with true-hearted friends in Whistler, watching matches over communal meals and cups of coffee…and pushing our departure for the wedding ceremony until the last possible second just to see the Netherlands/Costa Rica results.
Like tonight, musing over the ways that I’ll always remember this first year with Lucie, watching games in Spanish on our free Univision channel at home, sing-songing “Olé, Olé, Olé” with her and trying to convince her little nine month old heart that our startling cheers are meant to induce smiles and not big, giant baby tears.
Like tomorrow, where ultimately come what may between to the two teams on the pitch, I’ll be celebrating the excitement of humanity all around the globe, unified for a month around a silly little ball you kick with your foot and hit with your head.
Kinda crazy. Like love. Like life.
They do call it a beautiful game, after all.
Thanks for the ride, World Cup. I’ll see you tomorrow, and I’ll see you again in 2018 for our standing date.
Related Notes About Soccer in Buenos Aires:
Ande from Wander Argentina:
Which Football Games to Go To
The Gibraltar & Co.
Peru 895 San Telmo