There is nothing like attending a football game in South America. That’s soccer to us Yankees, by the way. In
the States we have a saying “…and the crowd goes wild”! In South American crowds there is no going wild. The
crowd IS wild. They are wild before the game, wild during the game and wild after the game. It makes for one
extremely entertaining event.

      Jarrod and I attended a Boca Juniors game in Buenos Aires. Boca Juniors are the most prestigious and
successful football franchise in Argentina. Every little boy in the country dreams of growing up and playing for this
club. At least it seemed this way judging by the number of boys running around in Boca Jr. jerseys in the parks of
Buenos Aires. The stadium, named Bombonera, is in a rough section of Buenos Aires. In fact, the first time we
attempted to attend a game one of our friends who was visiting us in Buenos Aires from San Francisco had to fend
off a mugger. He went for her throat, where a simple silver necklace hung. As he grabbed for her neck she
screamed and ducked. This spooked him enough to decide against a second attempt and he quickly ran away. We
were unable to find tickets to this game, but Jarrod and I returned later in the week to what would be a very
memorable experience.
      Walking up the ramp into the stadium we heard a
thunderous roar and felt the ground shake. This roar
was coming from the small visitors section, already
lively and boisterous more than one hour before kickoff.
Boca’s opponent tonight was Colo Colo, the #1 team
from Chile. Their fans occupied the uppermost section
behind one of the goals. The whole section was hazy
from all the flare guns being shot off and all of the fans
jumped, bounced and danced to the beat of massive
drums being played.

As the stadium began to fill up we noticed that one
section of seats remained empty. There were no
security guards or even ropes marking off this section,
rather it seemed everyone just knew these seats were
off limits. As we approached ten and then five minutes
to kickoff these seats remained unoccupied despite the
fact that almost every other seat in the stadium was
filled. I then heard the steady beat of a drum that
seemed to be increasing in volume. Along with the
drumbeat came a melodious chant, also increasing in
volume. Turning to this section of unoccupied seats I
witnessed the arrival of “La Doce” or the “The Twelfth”.
This is a group of zealous fans that devote their life to
supporting Boca Juniors. Think of them as a sort of
soccer mafia. Without a doubt, they bring unparalleled
levels of enthusiasm and energy to the stadium. They
arrive seconds before kickoff to whip the entire stadium
into a delirious frenzy by chanting, singing, shooting off
fireworks, beating drums, waving giant flags and
releasing balloons. Their arrival is like a shot of pure
to the rest of the fans. And they continue
Riot police outside the stadium
Tubes to protect the referees and visiting team from the crowd
this level of energy throughout the game. For example, when the other team has the ball the air is filled with an
unbearable high-pitch whistle or screech, emanating from La Doce and designed to break the other teams’
concentration. We saw it work a few times as Colo Colo would made a bad pass out of bounds or miss a trap
when a ball was served their way. The screech is that intimidating. When Colo Colo scored I expected La Doce to
quiet down for a few minutes, maybe contemplating that they might lose and experience a moment of sadness or
disappointment. Quite the contrary. As soon as the ball hit the back of Boca’s net, La Doce kicked their support up
into overdrive. They wanted to make it clear that they believed in their team and had their back. It was quite the
sight to see.
       Without getting into too much detail,
I have to point out that La Doce isn’t all
love and innocent devotion to the Boca
Juniors club. This group of fans is
notorious for its criminal activity. Within
the club family they extort large sums of
money from coaches, directors and
players. They have the power to
influence who is hired and fired. Outside
the club, they regularly involve
themselves in violence. This goes beyond
a skirmish in the stands. In 1994 the
leader of La Doce was found guilty of
murdering two fans of River Plate, a cross
town rival team in Buenos Aires.

      But back to the game. To let you in
on how intense the fans are, it is
necessary to roll out giant plastic tubes
that extend from the visiting teams’
locker rooms and the referee locker room
to the middle of the field. These tubes
Boca fans singing their hearts out to their team
provide protection as they emerge from the locker rooms and are within throwing distance of the crowds. This
saves them from being beaned in the head with a glass bottle or rock.

      Jarrod and I had as much fun watching the incredible soccer as we did witnessing the absolute love and
devotion that Boca fans display for their team. They stand and wave their arms like an evangelical preacher and
their eyes fill with total dedication and affection. It is like
they are singing their hearts out to the love of their life who
is on her deathbed, and they have only these 90 minutes to
express the depth of their adoration. Before we knew it, the
game was over. There wasn’t a jumbotron or even a
gameclock in the stadium. We only knew the end of the
game was approaching by the increased fervor of the crowd.
As the final seconds ticked away, and Boca emerged
victorious 4-3, we were treated to one final unforgettable
scene from the Boca fans. Almost in unison, the Boca fans
turned to the upper bleachers where the Colo Colo fans
were seated, and gave them the universal “f*%@ you” sign
over and over.
Erin inside "Bombonera" stadium
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Football Frenzy
Visitor's Section at Bombonera