Monday, September 12, 2011

Boca Juniors en mi corazón.

Sunday night marks one of the craziest, out of control (but in a good way… mostly) nights of my life. Normally with a night like this, I would say it was straight out of the movies – this time you can take that in the most literal way possible. So it was Sunday afternoon, and with a little extra time on our hands, two amigos; Ben and Noah, and I thought, “What better way to spend our Sunday evening than watching a Boca Juniors fútbol game?!?” Boca Juniors are a well- known professional soccer team and are EXTREMELY popular in Buenos Aires. Sure, there are other games coming up, but why let this perfectly good opportunity pass? So we didn’t. Un problema: We didn’t have tickets. Or access to tickets. Or any idea how/when/ where/ from who to get them. After talking with some of our academic directors – we still did not have any clue about how to get them. But, in my mind, this was only a small problem that we could solve as soon as we got to the field. Ha.
So after the three of us met on the steps of the Catédral, we followed some locals decked out in Boca Juniors gear onto a bus that brought us over to the field. You could feel the energy in the air. As we walked towards the stadium, we decided that the best person to get our information from was the police officer on his horse. When we asked where we could get tickets, he told us that there were ticket windows open right outside the stadium. Sounded great! So we were swept into the crowd filing towards the field, when we realized we were passing right by all the ticket windows the police man was talking about, and they were all closed. After talking to a few locals, we quickly realized there were no tickets windows open… in fact, ticket windows are never open before the games… the only way to get a ticket is to be a member of the Boca Juniors athletic/social club or buy the really expensive tourist packages. OR, test your luck, and find a trustworthy person who is selling tickets outside the stadium. At this point, testing our luck was our only option. On our way back towards the streets, we asked a police officer if the ticket sellers would be trustworthy… he replied, “Somos Argentines; por supuesto!” (We’re Argentines, of course.” We decided to be cautious in who we bought tickets from, so as not to be scammed into buying false tickets. But if we found the right person, we figured it could work. We talked to a few people who were selling their tickets for, 200, 300 pesos. We only brought 150 pesos each. Then, this legit-looking guy, named Walter came over and asked us if we wanted to buy his tickets for 150 pesos. He had exactly three. He showed us his official social member card, we asked him a few questions about the tickets and how they worked. It all seemed reasonable and he was nice. He even gave us of each a bro-handshake. I was sold on the bro-handshake. (Never again) We paid for the tickets with all the money we had with us. After paying Walter we had a total of 15 pesos (3.5 U.S. dollars) left and our subway cards to get back. Living on the edge. Walter then escorted us towards the stadium - he was talking and waving with everyone as we walked up to the entrance, he was the real deal. The excitement was really starting to build, my first international soccer game – and its BOCA JUNIORS! I couldn’t believe what was happening, it all seemed too good to be true. was. The tickets he sold us stopped being the real deal when he sent us over to a different entrance from his own.
As soon as we walked up to the entrance and showed the gate managers our tickets, we were turned away! The tickets we had just paid 150 pesos for were only good for kids under the age of 6, las niñas, menores. They weren’t false, but they did us no good. That terrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach came on strong. Wow. How had we just managed to let that happen.? Walter, we trusted you. Completely beside ourselves, we didn’t know what to do. But we couldn’t just give up and leave. But what to do, how to get in with tickets that wouldn't work?! We talked to quite a few groups of people, did our best to make connections and get advice from other people. There was a female worker who told us it would be impossible to get into the game with the tickets we had. Then, there was also this really cool, chill guy with dreads who told us that we should try again just to see what would happen. He was totally rooting for us. So we tried again, but accidentally went to the same security guy. Bad move - stopped in our tracks. After waiting another 5-10 minutes, asking around, and talking to several different people, we tried a different line. I was really nervous to try this again, I didn’t want to get in trouble, because some people were obviously recognizing us at this point. We went through the neighboring line and the security group didn’t notice the MENOR (minor) label on our tickets and we were let through. Another adrenaline rush… I couldn’t believe it, I was ecstatic!!!…until I turned the corner. Checkpoint #2. Noooo!!!!. Not another one. Now there were turnstiles, and we found that our tickets wouldn’t scan unless we had a social club member with us, letting us in. Cool, Walter, real cool.
We talked to this official looking guy with a clipboard, and we explained our entire situation. He told us, that we could maybe go up to security at gate 18 and tell them there was a problem with our ticket and they might let us in just see the field and then come back. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but we did what we were told. As if things were not ridiculous enough, they only got crazier at gate 18. As we were waiting in line this camera crew, with a huge camera and one of those jumbo microphones came up to us and asked us if we spoke in Spanish, and then if we would be willing to be interviewed for their documentary on the culture of fútbol in Brazil and Argentina. What the heck. So, despite all of our frustration, we put on happy faces and told them about the importance of soccer in Argentina and that our passion for Boca Juniors runs deep ;). They were eating it up. After the put the camera down, we said, “Pero, tenemos un problema!” (But, we have a problem.) Wait, wait, wait they said… this was exactly the kind of thing they were hoping to film…. So we explained our entire problem on camera right outside the stadium. The crew then decided to follow us as we attempted to get in. So, as we talked to the guy at gate 18, the camera guy was right in the middle of the whole discussion. Gate 18 guy then told to go to the line farthest to the left. (this was getting a little old) So we went to the first lane with extra large camera and microphone alongside… he saw that our tickets were for MENORES and told us there was nothing we could do. We told him we had come all the way from the U.S. and all we wanted to do was see a Boca Juniors game, we were all out BEGGING him. I was hard -core working the puppy dog eyes. It seemed as if he wanted to help, but couldn’t…technically. He left his post at the turnstile and huddled us up to continue talking…when out of the blue showed up these two Spaniards who had the same MENORES tickets as us…. They somehow knew the guy we were talking to. What happened in the next 5 minutes took us the rest of the game to piece together, we truly DID NOT know what was going on. The only thing I saw was 200 pesos go from the Spaniards’ pocket into the hands of the security guy and as soon as this happened 5 or 6 police officers SURROUNDED the 5 of us… Ben, Noah, Me and the 2 Spaniards. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that if I was in trouble I could play dumb, because that was absolutely the case. At this point the camera crew decided to go through the first gate to film from the other side and hopefully catch us getting into the game. They police officers kept pushing us together into one little group, and soon after this very official yet sketchy looking guy came up out of nowhere and swiped the 5 of us through, 2 of us in a turnstile at once. (The camera crew caught this on film!) He walked with us to the second check -point and swiped the 5 of us in again. Why he did this for us, I cannot be sure. The three of us did not pay him a thing. He must of thought we were with the Spaniards. Nonetheless, we were home free!!! WE MADE IT IN!!! Finally!! I absolutely could not believe it. My stomach was completely in knots, my heart was beating a million miles per hour… we could not stop freaking out. We raced up the stairs faster than ever… the feeling was unreal. Moments I can never replicate. The past hour outside the stadium seemed like a bad dream, such a roller coaster of emotions. We made it into the stadium 3 minutes before kick-off.
The game was straight up AMAZING. The level of soccer was unbelievable, Boca Juniors blew my mind. The stadium was incredible; we found seats up top, with a great view of everything….the game…the city… the moon. The stadium is well known for shaking and rocking when everyone gets their jump in synch and man could we feel it shake way up top, it was SOOO COOL! And, oh yeah, They won!! 1-0 Cherry on top! The goal was brilliant! The crowd went completely nuts. Our neighbors hugged us in complete excitement. I loved every minute of it.
Over the course of the game, we did our best to figure out how we actually got in. As far as we can tell, it was a combination of corrupt deals (which we did not purposefully take any part in or support in any way) and right time, right place. I think the camera crew was also a crucial support group... just a little extra attention to make things happen. While we learned many lessons from this experience, certain aspects of the predicament were unavoidable. We did our best to be smart and safe the whole time, but one thing I can say for sure is that perseverance served us well this time around. It was an unforgettable night.