Boca and River. Love, death and adventure in the City of Football
Tulio Guterman & Chris Gaffney

http://www.efdeportes.com/ Revista Digital - Buenos Aires - Año 8 - N° 47 - Abril de 2002

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    The occupation of space on the part of the barrabrava is both vertical and horizontal. They unroll enormous banners which cover the entierty of the stand, they jump to the rhythm of the songs, they stand balanced on the crush barriers encouraging and directing the crowd while at the same time reaffirming their control of space. For all of this, to arrive early to get a good space does not give one the right of occupancy. The barrabrava takes the space that it wants, when it wants, and how it wants it. Their right of occupancy is premeditated, prepaid, and preordained.

    There are only two exceptions to the regualtity of the colors of the stand. In the Boca section we saw an Argentine flag, an immovable vestige of national identity, which continually broke the continuity of blue and yellow. And in front of the River stand, in the lower stand, rose yellow and blue smoke from the Boca section which temporarily obscured the red and white space of the River stand.

    There is another category of fan which we cannot forget about: the virtual fan. 4 They are fans who participate in the spectacle via television, radio, or internet. They are participating through live transmissions from their homes, alone or in groups, or in bars, plazas or other public spaces.

    Even though they don't go to the stadium these fans dress in the shirts, hats, and scarves of their team. They participate with great concentration, wtching the game intently or leaning towards the radio. They celebrate the goals and the run of play with the same intensity as those at the stadium.

    It is impossible to know the numbers of fans that comprise this category. It is also difficult to know the ethnographic, demographic, geographic, and gender composition of the virtual fan group. But if we believe the numbers which FIFA has put forward for the 1998 World Cup, we are talkking about incredible numbers of virtual spectators.

We are more than last Sunday

    What happens inside the stadium is much more than we read in the newspapers or what we are shown on televisoin. At the end fo the day, it doesn't really matter what the manager said in the press conference or the explaination the captain gave after a loss. What the journalists write is almost complete fiction. They construct this reality to sell papers, to promote consumption, nothing more. They relate the parts of the spectacle which everyone understands from the time they are very young. We have shown that the reality of the stadium is not simple, natural, or obvious. The reality of the stadium is part of the reality of the country, but it is accelerated and compressed in time and space. It is a continual drama, complex and emotive, created and recreated for and by the protagonists in the stands.

    Players come and go but the hincha is always there. The ways in which the hincha uses space inside the stadium is a reflection of the dominant culture. The structure of space within the stadium gives it its spirit of place. The place in which the stadium is fixated within the space of the city determines to some degree who are the fans that occupy the home stand.

    From this particular perspective we can affirm the non-existence of the spectator of sport who goes to the stadium to enjoy an afternoon, who goes to politely applaud the players while consuming fast food. In Argentina, those who go to the stadium are the protagonists of the drama and their participation defines the final result. In Argentina, the experience of an event like Boca and River is as complex as the reality that envelops it. Football is a reflection of the country - one cannot be understood without the other.


  1. Diario Clarín, 23/01/02.

  2. Ver Bromberger, C. (1995) Le match de football. Editions de la Maison de sciences de l'homme, Paris.

  3. Más sobre el tema barrabravas. Moreira, M. (2001) Aguante y Honor: la visión nativa.

  4. Ver Bale, J. (1998) Virtual fandoms; futurescapes of football.

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