Being born to a xeneize family, I don’t recall ever having a choice about football: we like football but we love Boca. And that is that. Never have I wished it to be otherwise, except for a couple of slippery seconds during the Boca - River, River - Boca semifinals of the Libertadores Cup 2004.
I found myself doing what most football fans do at extreme distress, I tried to persuade myself that everything was alright and no matter what fate had in store for us, it didn’t matter anyway because it was just a game.
Actually, two games, and a 1 - 0 win at home is a small advantage. Nevertheless, there I was, bouncing at the rhythm of drums, trumpets and chants such as ‘Boca is the people, the carnival, Boca I carry you in my soul and every day I love you more’.
After a week of shy exchange of mockery with some gallina friends, I was ready for the second leg. From River, ex footballer, by then Astrada’s assistant, Hernán Díaz, less cautiously stated “we will win 3 - 0”. From Boca, Bianchi answered with his silence “We’ll see”.
Authorities had decided that only local audience would be allowed so we all sat at our preestablished seats at home, the same we’ve used for other glorious victories. A neutral Racing fan is well received but not another certain person. Not that we believe in magic, amulets or anything like that, but it’s no time to tempt fortune either.
I’m determined not to celebrate before it’s over. River wins 1 - 0 but has one player sent off for insulting the referee. Hernán Díaz, conspicuously nervous, is sent off too. And in the 88th minute Carlos Tevez, also a congenital bostero, scores not only a nice and what we thought to be a defining goal, but also gets two yellow cards straight on. Taking off the shirt + aping a chicken (gallina) = early exit to the changing room. But we shout anyway and we hug in a fete noisy enough to irk some neighbors.
I have not told you but I live in a gallina crowded area. Especially during the summer, when most windows are open, you can tell with no need of a census what kind football fans surround you. It’s quite an easy thing to establish because all of them are just as loud. In my case, I’m stuck between River fans, they celebrate River goals as loudly as they celebrate the ones that Boca´s opposition scores. Forget about the radio (or meditating), you’ll find out the scores whether you want or not.
The thing is, with still some insults echoing in between the buildings, Nasutti scores for River. A packed to the rim Monumental explodes in a tempestuous joy and so do my neighbors.
Penalty shootouts it is.
Now I’m determined to stay calm, Abbondanzieri is an expert and, besides, I’m sticking with that of it being just a game.
River goes first. Chilean Marcelo Salas scores. Lucho Gonzalez, Montenegro and Cavenaghi score for River. In a fearless move, Bianchi sends two juvenile debutants (Ledesma and Alvarez) to shoot. That is fearless for him because I’m having trouble getting the necessary oxygen. They both score. The same, Burdisso and Schiavi.
We are 4 - 4. I stand up for having a numb foot but the condemning looks of my clan make me take sit again. It’s Maxi Lopez’s turn and Abbondanzieri lives up to his fame. Villarreal seals the victory scoring the fifth penalty.
Boca’s players seem to celebrate in the cone of silence.
I giggle, partly because I’m happy and partly because my body, set on the alert mode, refuses to believe it’s over.
All of a sudden, the dark blue sky is scribbled with fireworks, proving the existence of another island of bosteros. It makes absolutely no logical sense but the feeling is of supreme completeness.
The following day, Buenos Aires would be wallpapered with taunting posters. Again, you could easily tell who was on what side, only this time by the look in their faces. We, Boca’s fans, walked along with a sentiment of pride, as if our input had been decisive, as if it was our merit. River fans were mostly left without words, assuming within the defeat.
Before I forget to tell you, the Libertadores Cup 2004 was finally won by Once Caldas from Colombia. But that was really just a game.