Things To Do
U.S. Travel Guides
New York City
All U.S. Destinations
World Travel Guides
New York City
Best of IgoUgo
U GO! Awards
Member Hall of Fame
Things To Do
Estadio Monumental de Nunez (River Plate Stadium, El Monumental)
You Are Here:
Things To Do
Things To Do
View Full Interactive Map »
Avg. User Rating:
Intersection of Figueroa Alcorta and Udaondo, Belgrano District, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Show More Info
Add Your Photo
Buenos Aires, Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina
November 25, 2010
Best of IgoUgo
MY most vivid memory of Argentine football goes back to the 1978 World Cup finals (I’m ignoring those long-haired moustachioed players from the ’74 tournament) and all that paper being thrown by fans like confetti. I’d never seen anything like ...
MY most vivid memory of Argentine football goes back to the 1978 World Cup finals (I’m ignoring those long-haired moustachioed players from the ’74 tournament) and all that paper being thrown by fans like confetti. I’d never seen anything like it.
Never did I believe that 32 years later I’d be sitting in the same ‘Monumental’ stadium as those finals, where Argentina triumphed over Holland 3-1.
Little has changed. The supporters are as passionate as I remember watching them on television. The River Plate-Boca Juniors clash, known as ‘Superclassico’, was nothing short of a carnival.
River won 1-0 with a headed goal early in the second half, but what happened on the pitch – for this neutral at least – was almost a side-show to the hysteria and colourful display of support that surrounded it.
Although there are six teams in Argentina’s capital city – and several more from the suburbs – River and Boca is, by a long stretch, the greatest rivalry of all.
River are nicknamed "The Millionaires" and Boca, from the rough part of town known as La Boca and a team founded in 1904 by five Italian immigrants, the "Manure Handlers". As you probably gathered, River Plate, formed in 1901, is considered upper class and Boca the poor relations.
Both sides are struggling right now, though. But their history is deep. Each side has achieved massive success. Blue and yellow Boca once had Diego Maradona, Carlos Tevez and Gabriel Batistuta. The great Alfredo Di Stefano, Hernan Crespo, Daniel Passarella, Mario Kempes and Batistuta all plied their trade for the red and white of River (football buffs will be familiar with these names).
There’s a lot of pride at stake and, traditionally, the winners cover the city in banners the next day to revel in their victory. Sometimes these games end in riots (though, thankfully, not on this occasion).
As a matter of precaution, however, after the match we were detained - locked in, actually - in the stadium by police for nearly an hour while the Boca fans went home (this is usual practice, where the away side leave first).
Although the game was far from scintillating, I could see why on The Observer website in a list of the top 50 sporting events you should see before dying, a River-Boca derby came out on top - above a Wimbledon tennis final, World Cup final, world heavyweight boxing championship fight and the men’s Olympic 100m final.
So when the opportunity came my way, I couldn’t possibly resist.
Originally, the match was set for November 7. But when the former Argentine president died shortly before that date, the game was postponed from a Sunday afternoon to a Tuesday evening.
But even though the midweek fixture made it more difficult for fans to attend, the stadium was practically full (65,000 capacity), the only empty seats being in the Boca section which, compared to the allocation for the home fans, was tiny.
I sat with the River supporters. Seats were like wooden park benches (painted white) – no luxury. Getting there, though, required me going through about five security stops.
But it seemed that those being frisked weren’t the ones who posed any threat. The notorious hooligan elements from each side were kept at opposite ends of the stadium, in standing ‘cages’. Barbed wire decorated the fenced areas in front of them.
After River took the lead, Boca fans launched fireworks, flares and hurled smoke bombs (at one point I couldn’t see anything as a mist covered the stadium). When the game ended, they tossed plastic seat covers like frisbees. Riot police with shields and firemen were on hand.
The stadium was rocking, though. River fans sang, banged drums and jumped all night long. The noise levels were close to deafening. The atmosphere was pulsating even if the football wasn’t.
My favourite moment was watching a colossal banner in the River section being lowered and raised before the start, at half time and when the match ended. It was so enormous it filled almost one end of the stadium and, with fans holding and moving it, the shimmering banner seemed to take on a life of its own.
River were deserving winners and celebrated like they’d won the World Cup. Unfortunately, during the match players fell to the floor too easily, as they do almost everywhere, but the referees took a firm line, often dishing out yellow cards for ‘simulation’.
No-one stood out like a young Maradona. To have seen him, as a teenager, in this match would have been something to cherish.
I wasn’t expecting that much, though. To have been a part of this historical fixture was enough.
I booked my seat through the company Tangol.com. They purchase and supply the tickets, collect you from and return you to your residence and escort you to the stadium. You pay extra – quite a bit extra, actually – for the service. But for a hassle-free night it’s probably worth it. However, if I were to go again – and I’m considering it – I think I’d buy at the stadium on the day.
Is it safe enough to take children? I didn’t take my four-year-old because of the hour and I didn’t know what to expect. But if the chance came to see this fixture again, I’d take him along. It was safe with the home fans and there were many other children around. I wouldn’t have to worry about shielding his ears from abusive language, because he doesn’t speak Spanish. I witnessed nothing out of hand in my section, anyhow.
Everyone seemed pleasant and in good spirits. Alcohol is banned in the stadium (as it is in Britain). I didn’t see anyone acting drunk (which I can seldom say back home).
It was well worth the expense, but you can’t really put a price on an experience like this.