A game in Argentina rises sky high above every other place where football takes place. The atmosphere and the passion for football is incomparable to anywhere else. And I’ve seen football games in pretty much every major country in the world.
Greater Buenos Aires has a population of 15 million and is commonly known as the football capital of the world. In the top five tiers of Argentinian football they are 74 teams from Greater BA, which means a day cannot go by without a game being played in the city and that title is well-deserved.
The simplest way to get tickets is to use specialist agencies who organise packages that include a match ticket, hotel transfer and a local guide. It’s quite expensive, but it's the simplest and safest way to get to a game. Most of these packages include tickets to the ‘Platea’ which is the reserved seating area along the touchlines. You will have the best view, but if you prefer more of an atmosphere, then you should go to the standing area (‘Popular`), behind the goals.
If you are feeling more adventurous, you can organise your own visit. You can use public transport to get to the five big stadiums, but be aware that matchdays around the stadium can be quite difficult and slow to get around. It's better to go in a taxi, and compared to taxi prices in Europe, it's still a very cheap way to get around.
When buying a ticket, it’s important to know that every club has members that pay a monthly fee that gives them the right to buy the tickets first and at a much cheaper price. Some clubs (like Huracan and Velez) even let the members in for free behind the goals.
As a non-member, you will pay much more for tickets and you will only able to buy for some parts of the grounds which are usually the expensive sections only.
For the big five, here’s how you can get tickets:
For Boca, tickets are for members only and since there are at least twice as many members than the stadium capacity it's not easy to get in. You can pay an agency a lot of money for a ticket or you can find someone around the Bombonera where you might able to pay cash for a someone else’s membership card and ticket to get you inside. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find another way. I once paid a guy who took me to a steward who told me to jump over the turnstile, where I was in the stadium in no time. But we didn’t tell you to break any rules, okay?
For River, its simple. You can buy a voucher on the club’s website then go to the ticket office to exchange the voucher. However, you cannot exchange your voucher on match days. You must go a day earlier to pick up the tickets. Other than that, however, it’s as easy as you like.
For San Lorenzo, Racing and Independiente, you will find that these clubs sell tickets in their shops in the city centre and at their stadiums on matchday as well. It's relatively easy to get in, but as usual non-members can only buy tickets to certain areas which again are usually expensive.
When I say expensive, ticket prices are available from £12 upwards at Velez, so it’s all relative if you’re traveling as a fan from the U.K. or Spain, for example.
Velez is the cheapest and easiest to obtain with Racing next at £14, Independiente at £22, San Lorenzo £25 and finally River at £25.
Then there’s Boca.
For a Boca game, it depends on who you meet in the street. The cheapest I’ve obtained a ticket for was £40, but you would usually pay around £75 for a small game where bigger games or the ‘Classicos’ will cost much, much more.
I’m often asked the question, “Is it dangerous to go to a football game in Argentina?” To be frank, yes, it can be dangerous at times, however, ever since they have banned visiting fans in the league, it has become much safer. Though, personally, I enjoyed the games more with two sets of fans present. That said, it’s still a brilliant experience.
Even though it's safer than before, don’t forget you are still in South America, which means s-- can happen anywhere, at any time. Around the stadiums, safety should be a big concern. For the five big ones, here are some stay safe tips.
Boca is safe from 2 hours before and until half an hour after the game. Do not walk around the area after dark. Take a taxi and leave the place after the game soon as you can.
River is in the upscale neighbourhood of Nunez. it's one of the safest areas of the capital and is quite safe to walk around. (Other stadiums located in similar safe areas are Tigre and Banfield.)
The stadiums of Racing and Independiente are located literally 100 yards away from each other. They are fierce enemies, so make sure you’re not wearing the opposite team colours! The stadiums are just outside of the city border and are easily accessible by train, bus or taxi and it’s relatively safe to travel around.
San Lorenzo was forced to leave their neighbourhood during the military regime. After years renting stadiums they settled in Bajo Flores right next door to one of the worst slums in the city called Villa 1-11-14. It’s not recommended that you travel there by public transport. Jump in a taxi and if possible organise a taxi to pick you up after the game, because waving down a cab is nearly impossible. Since the popularity of the club has risen in the last couple of years, local gangs now specialise in targeting tourists around the stadium.
Always stay safe by keeping a low profile, for example, don’t bother wearing your brand-new trainers and designer coats. Argentina is not a catwalk like many European football grounds. Simply, dress to blend in. It also helps if you speak Spanish but not to mingle, as the people from Greater BA will recognise you are not from there, it’s just handy to be able to communicate simply because of the chaotic atmosphere around the grounds.
It’s hard to know where exactly you are around the stadiums at times, because there are very few signs and it can be hard getting information from the locals, because they don’t know much more either . ( Which line of the queue is for non-members, at which gate to enter to a specific stand etc..)
For the clubs Banfield, Temperley, Velez and Tigre, in the Primera Division, you will find that they are very safe to attend. However, for the clubs Lanus, Arsenal, Huracan, a little more caution is needed.
For Quilmes and Défensa Y Justicia, I would not recommend that you go at all simply because the stadiums are surrounded by slums. It sounds harsh, I know, but it’s not like you’re stuck for choice. If you do go there, make sure you have a safe plan to get home and have great local knowledge with you. These clubs are in the deep south and there are no taxi companies there. The chances of you finding a cab on the street is very minimal, not forgetting that it’s a good 45 minute drive back to the city centre.
There are many lower league clubs that are worth a visit in the city itself such as Atlanta Argentinos Juniors, All Boys and Ferro Carril Oeste, to name but a few. Simply go to their ground and buy a ticket at the ticket office.
If you are really into proper old school football you should leave the city centre and visit these classic grounds with very passionate fans. Make sure you always check the ticket rules, because they are different from ground to ground.
Interestingly, there are some clubs that only play behind closed doors, such as Berazategui. Whilst some clubs only play for member,s such as Dock Sud, San Telmo and Laferrere. You will also find that some clubs only sell around 500 tickets, such as Almirante Brown, because they are controlled by the APREVIDE, a police department specialising in the safety of sporting events.
It would be a good idea to get the lowdown from a local in the neighbourhood of the club you are planning to visit. Be prepared though, if you mention some of these clubs, some will ask whether you are crazy, simply because many of the locals never go there and only hear bad stories about them.
Don’t let that discourage you. Yes, some places can be dangerous, but if you heed this advice, and use common sense you should be fine. By going, you will be able to experience some of the most magnificent and memorable moments of football you would ever likely experience in the beautiful game.
Written by Bett Moron and edited by IBWM Subculture Editor Paul Mortimer. Bett is a photojournalist currently working on a book about football culture in Argentina. View more of Bett’s images here or on his Instagram.
Header image credit goes fully to Bett Moron.