This is a guest blog written by our traveler David about the ultimate football bucket list experience: celebrating a Championship win at La Bombonera on the final day of the season.
Bonkers fans, a brilliantly odd ground, and a star-studded history. Boca Juniors were one of the main reasons we’d come to South America in the first place.
Boca’s list of 200,000 members makes even the biggest club look tiny – and this can cause a real squeeze for tickets. So if you want to make the pilgrimage to La Bombonera, you’ll almost certainly have to get your tickets through an agent.
We used Homefans and for £120 got our match ticket, a burger, beers, and our guide for the evening.
We met our guide and fellow groundhoppers at a great craft beer place near La Bombonera. And after a couple of pale ales and a sublime burger, we headed to the ground.
The noise erupted on the streets around us, as we all did the decent thing and bought bucket hats. The party atmosphere was crazy, and we even passed a couple of drunk Boca fans passed out on the street!
Getting into La Bombonera was interesting but surprisingly calm and organised. And after a full search, passport check, ticket check, and three different barriers to pass through, we arrived into a stadium already packed an hour before kickoff.
After all, it wasn’t just the last day of the season. The title was on the line.
It was the kind of scenario you dream of. The last day of the season. At La Bombonera. With Boca one point behind River Plate.
Needless to say, La Bombonera was buzzing for this game against Gimnasia. Who in a strange twist of fate were coached by someone you might have heard of. Yup, Diego Maradona.
This led to the strangest pre-match atmosphere I’ve ever seen.
Here we were just forty minutes before a title-decider, and the opposition’s coach is being paraded around the pitch for at least thirty of them.
Diego kissed the turf, was given a plaque, was given a shirt, was kissed on the lips by Carlos Tevez, had more of a walk around, waved to the fans some more, and kissed the pitch again.
“Maradon, Maradon, Maradon” echoed around the Chocolate Box.
Finally, the Maradona show ended and we were treated to what was probably the worst match we’d seen in South America. But was that a problem? God no, it was perfect.
The whole stadium would rise as one to bellow out songs and the atmosphere was utterly relentless.
We were opposite the famous Barra Brava section but you really couldn’t tell. The whole stadium was nuts. And around 20 minutes in, a roar ripped across the stadium. River Plate were 1-0 down and the title charge was on.
The crowd at our end of the stadium surged forward in celebration – something you have to be prepared for at Boca if you want to keep your ankles.
No questions about it – if there’s a missed chance or a goal, you’re off down the terrace. It’s absolutely bonkers.
Fifteen minutes later, River Plate equalised and a hush came over La Bombonera – for about three minutes, at which point the jumping started all over again.
But there was a problem. The game was dire and Boca really didn’t look like scoring. Until that is, the manager made a history-shaping substitution.
Boca brought on a big number 9 and suddenly became much more direct. They zipped ball after ball to the target man. And with Carlos Tevez buzzing around him, you felt a chance was coming. And with 72 minutes on the clock, it came.
Abila prodded the ball to Tevez, who struck it through the hands of the Gimnasia keeper into the roof of the net. On your toes boys, it’s surge time. La Bombonera exploded and I’ve never felt anything like it!
The 18-foot high fence was being scaled left, right and centre, shirts were off, hugging, chanting, bawling, the lot. Utterly insane, but there were still 18 minutes left.
Fans around me checked their phones again and again as the clock ticked down. Gimnasia duffed a free header – and still no news from River. It was agonising.
After five minutes of added time, it was all over. And what happened next was a health and safety manager’s worst nightmare. Fireworks boomed to the right of us. Ash and bits of metal fell on us from the sky. The floodlights flashed on and off, and men cried next to us. Campeones de Argentina.
This wasn’t just a 69th league title but a small piece of revenge for the Libertadores defeat to River a few days before. The outpouring of emotion was unreal. After an hour of celebrations, we decided to slip back to La Birreria for a celebratory drink.
And on the 20 minute walk there I saw fireworks, explosions, car horns, flags and too many drunk Boca fans to count. It was Day 2 in Argentina, and I’d already had the best football experience of my life.
This is a guest blog by our traveler David. David joined us for a Boca Juniors experience in Buenos Aires.