Prior to studying abroad in Argentina, I would never be found voluntarily attending a soccer game. But, attending a fútbol match is on the list of things I heard you ought to do when studying abroad in Argentina, and I figured when am I going to get another chance to do this?
On September 5, I went to watch the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (better known as FIFA) qualifier match between Venezuela and Argentina’s national teams. When my friend and I picked our seats, we had no real understanding of what the different sections were. We knew we didn’t want to sit in the “populares” section, because that was the “nosebleeds” and had a reputation for getting crazy (picture masses of people jumping up and down, arms flailing, screaming jeers about “tu madre”—your mother).
As we approached the exterior of the stadium, donning our Argentina jerseys, we saw fireworks going off and were surrounded by people running towards the entrance. We felt our excitement rising—their energy was contagious—and soon we found ourselves running as well. We got inside as people were singing the national anthem and discovered that we picked really good seats in the 15th row, centered behind the goal that Venezuela was guarding for the first half of the game. Though, I didn’t sit in my seat the entire game. I stood on it; I perched on the back, but I didn’t sit in it.
Even though I didn’t understand everything that was happening, I found myself getting caught up in the crowd’s energy. I was cheering and booing with them and clapping along to the chants and songs. I spent just as much effort trying to capture the game with my phone as I did actually watching. Sure I held my breath with every Argentinian goal attempt and groaned with every block from the Venezuelan goalie, but it wasn’t until about 30 minutes into the first half that I was doing so because I actually cared. I became part of the crowd of fans, not just a stranger mimicking their mannerisms to blend in.
When Venezuela scored the first goal of the game, I was furious. It happened right in front of me, 15 rows away, and my spirits dropped along with the rest of the crowd’s. The fans were encouraging of their team, cheering for every successful steal of the ball, giving consolation applause for attempted goals, and when Argentina scored, they exploded. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, leading to a nail-biting five minutes of overtime that amounted in nothing. Venezuela didn’t win, but neither did Argentina. In my no-way-expert opinion, Argentina’s national team played a great game, and I was thrilled that I got to see them score (because scoring is apparently not a given in soccer).
I’m not sure that I would call myself a “fan” of fútbol, but I loved being part of the crowd of onlookers. The energy and unitedness of the crowd is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the United States. I’m glad studying abroad with Champlain gave me this opportunity to stretch my comfort zone a little, and now I’m looking into trying to see more matches.
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Quinn Kanner is a junior and Professional Writing major, who is currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Quinn is also a Student Ambassador for Champlain’s Admissions team and works as a Student Writer in Champlain’s Marketing Department.