My Team & I: Boca Juniors

By Layla Carlsson

Twitter: @LaylaCarlsson

Why Boca Juniors?

It’s all Fernando Gago’s fault, really. Gago is a former Boca player who joined Real Madrid [my other big love] at the end of 2006, and I noticed in interviews how his eyes and face would light up whenever he spoke of Boca Juniors, which triggered my curiosity. What was it about this club that made this young man smile as if he was in love?

I had of course heard of them, but had always generally focused on European football. I actually had no idea how huge this club is. So I fiddled around a bit with Internet streams and watched a Boca match; I don’t even recall which one it was, but it was love at first sight. The atmosphere, the craziness, the combination of fast, technical play and streetwise roughness, the drama… I fell head over heels in love with them, and I soon understood the smile on Fernando’s face when he spoke of Boca. They are indeed special, and they have become a wonderful and sometimes heart-breaking addiction.

I’m a sucker for tradition in football, and the traditions surrounding Boca appeal to me; the rivalry with River Plate and the hilarious mocking of the rival – which goes back and forth but ours are of course always better and sharper. I love, sometimes perhaps foolish pride, the passion for the club and how being a Boca supporter is a way of life for so many of their fans.

These supporters deserve a special mention as well, as they welcomed me with open arms. One friend from Buenos Aires even sent me a Boca scarf and beanie, for which I am so grateful as it’s hard to come by the club merchandise here in Europe. Boca supporters have never given me the ‘I’ve been a fan my entire life and you’re not from here, so you can’t be a true fan’ nastiness. I once joined a fan forum, trying to get around with my rather bad Spanish, and received welcoming messages from people of both sexes and all ages. It doesn’t matter to them where you’re from, how long you’ve been a supporter, if you’re a guy or a girl; you love Boca and that is enough for them. Despite the language barrier, we understand each other perfectly.

Favourite Player?

It’s hard for me to choose between Martín Palermo and Juan Román Riquelme, both club icons and legendary in their own way. But I’m going to pick Martín because he is a bit of an anti-hero, which appeals to me. Palermo has had such an amazing career, with ups and downs both sportingly and in his personal life, and he always manages to resurface. He has had injuries that made it doubtful he’d be able to continue his career, but he bounced back anyway.

He’s the guy who missed three penalty kicks in one game; he’s also the guy who scored a header 35 metres from goal. Martín is Boca’s all time top goalscorer, and the oldest Argentinian to score at a World Cup. There have been moments when he shot on goal and it’s as if time just freezes; the opposing goalie and a handful of defenders staring at the ball in disbelief as it slowly rolls over the line.

In all honesty, I think Martín should no longer be in the Starting XI at the current squad, as his age seems to be finally catching up with him and he is being ridiculed for being too slow and getting in the way of the younger strikers. I would prefer him to play the role Raúl played at Real Madrid last season – twenty minutes per game as a substitute. As Palermo’s popularity with the fans is massive, it would take a lot of guts from the coach to change things around. The current Clausura is supposed to be his last, and I know the day he retires there will be tears. I am very thankful I have seen him play live.

Favourite Game?

The absolutely epic two legs against arch rival River Plate in 2004, semi finals for the Copa Libertadores. I wasn’t a fan yet back then, but this match was recently brought to my attention by Rupert Fryer, and I watched it breathlessly. Just watch the video, it says it all.

Favourite strip?

The dark blue and yellow, like the 2008 kit, is my absolute favourite. It’s so stylish. A friend of mine once said, “It’s the Chanel suit of Football kits.” Very true.

Worst thing about being a Boca Juniors fan?

Living on the other side of the globe, for one. It’s a long-distance relationship. When I watch matches, especially the home games at La Bombonera, I just long, no, ache to be there and experience the madness myself. Even when Boca are losing at home, the fans are still singing and supporting their team. Just amazing.

For me, there is also the language barrier when it comes to news and articles, although it’s a nice way to learn Spanish.

Funniest moment?

Meeting a group of Boca supporters in Munich in 2009, when Boca played two friendly matches at the Audi Cup. My friends and I – two of us wearing our lovely blue and yellow scarves – took the underground to the Allianz Arena on the first match day. Boca were playing the opening match against Manchester United.

As soon as the doors of the train opened, we heard singing. It came from a group of Boca fans that were in the same carriage; they were making tons of noise. We later found out they were from the fan-base in Valencia, Spain. At the stadium, they created a mini-Bombonera. They were on the opposite side from where we were seated, but we could hear them sing.

Anyway, on the train, three Man Utd fans were trying to out-sing them, but that was impossible. I could understand some of what the Boca fans were singing, and I guess the United fans had no idea just how much they were being insulted by these guys who were happily waving at them. It was also rather entertaining to observe the expressions on the faces of people who weren’t going to the football, which varied from horrified to annoyed to amused.

On the platform, the guys were going to take a group picture and invited me to join them, which I did. Two days later, at Munich airport – I was again wearing my scarf as I could not part with it – I was waiting in line at the gate for boarding, when I noticed a gentleman was staring at me. A few minutes later, he approached me with his camera and asked, “This is you, isn’t it?” Amazingly, on the display, he had a picture of that very group of Boca supporters and was pointing at some crazy blonde wearing big sunglasses and holding up a Boca scarf. Not only had he been on the same train, he had also taken photos of the Boca fans. It’s a small world, no?

Favourite moment?

At the Audi Cup, Boca played against AC Milan for third place. It’s my favourite moment because I was there. We were about to lose 1-0, but Lucas Viatri equalised late in the game. We were seated close to a corner flag and he scored at our end. I’ve been a bit of a Viatri fan ever since he gave us a win over River, and to see him do it against Milan was fantastic. While Viatri was doing a dorky dance to celebrate, I had jumped up and was cheering like some madwoman, holding up my scarf. I could feel the stares of the Bayern fans all around me, who probably thought “calm down, woman”. I know it was only a friendly, but in a sense of pride it mattered so much to me that we equalised, also because we were definitely the team that had showed up to play football.

A penalty shootout followed, which Boca won. It was really cool to watch Juan Román take his penalty kick, and to see how passionate he was about us winning this thing. Román was a bundle of nerves during the shootout. At one point he even peeked through his fingers. I just love that kind of dedication.


2 Responses to “My Team & I: Boca Juniors”

  1. The point about friendliness to outsiders is a good one. I once posted on an Inter (Milan) messageboard and got a few nasty comments which didn’t warm me to them much.

  2. this woman is actually the ultimate devotee ever

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