El Monumental, River Plate StadiumWe changed our flights, sped round the south of Argentina at the speed of light and managed to get to Buenos Aires in time for the weekend and the footy – River Plate playing Olimpio on the Saturday night, a lad in our hostel was going with a girl from Buenos Aires and we were in. Excellent. We walked through the cobbled streets of San Telmo, past the old men in berets with handlebar moustaches sipping red wine on the Plaza and took the bus up to El Monumental, home of Los Millonerios, aka River Plate.
As we walked up 90 mins before kickoff, the air was already full of the crack and boom of fireworks, the police poised on their horses, but not too many fans about to tell the truth. This wasn’t a big game and with the Boca River derby only a week away, people were saving their energies. So us men paid our 10 pesos (2quid/400 yen), the ladies their 5 and we were off into the “Populare” end of El Monumental, the peoples end where apparently under no circumstances should you show any sign of wealth or of being a tourist. Ooh er. After 5 body searches and the confiscation of my lighter (only me, everyone else got frisked once, bloody typical) we got in, greeted by the irresistible rhythm of the drums from inside the ground and the 4ft baton toting policemen on the perimeter. Up the stairs we went (lambs to the slaughter? I was beginning to wonder), greeted by a man with blood covered hands crouched over another in a pool of his own blood, not the best of omens.
And then we were in, “Vamos Vamos Vamos Millonarios, Vamos Vamos Vamos River Plate”, …