San Lorenzo – Olimpo in Buenos Aires

Previously in Buenos Aires I had visited matches of River Plate and Boca Juniors, the two most famous teams of the country. While these were nice experiences, especially River Plate (I don’t like Boca!), I wanted to have a more local experience this time. San Lorenzo was the chosen one…

Just weeks before this match there had been some riots between San Lorenzo and Boca Juniors and two people got killed. When I went to Avenida de Mayo in the center of Buenos Aires to buy my ticket for the game I found out that because of these riots the stadium was closed to ordinary people. Only “socios” could visit the first couple of matches. A socio is a registered fan, a member of the club. Because this membership was priced at an affordable 195 Argentine pesos (around 20 euros with the Blue exchange rate) I decided to become a socio of San Lorenzo!

All this was told to me by Mariano Jordan, nicknamed “El Gordo Ventilador” (the fat fan). He started talking to me and simply never stopped doing so. He was so excited about San Lorenzo and the fact that I, from Holanda, wanted to become a socio. He seemed to have ADHD to say the least…

During matches he sits on the fence acting as a fan by using his shirt (which, together with his appearance, gave him his nickname), check out this video:


The nice but hyperactive fan (yes, that has a double meaning here!) finally left when I met another socio who came from Cordoba to visit the match. His name was Patricio and we decided to visit the match together. He told me we didn’t have to pay as long as we went to the so-called popular section which is the stand behind the goal where the fanatics are located. As a socio I could visit all the matches of this season, now you probably understand why the 195 pesos is pretty cheap.

San Lorenzo belongs to the so-called “cinco grandes”, the five big teams in Argentina: River Plate, Boca Juniors, Racing, Independiente and San Lorenzo. As I mentioned earlier, River and Boca are the most famous teams and attract a lot of people, tourists as well. Racing and Independiente are located in Avellaneda, a city just outside the capital, so San Lorenzo is the best chance to visit a local team when you’re in Buenos Aires. It’s a team without the international fame and without a fancy stadium but with a very loyal fanbase!

It is still a big team with a lot of history. For example, San Lorenzo was the first Argentine football club to win two league titles in the same year (1972, in Argentina they play two leagues (Apertura and Clausura) in the same year) and it was the first undefeated champion (1968), it was the first club to win the Copa Sudamericana (equivalent of the Europa Cup since 2002) and it is the only Argentine club to win the Copa Mercosur (equivalent of the Europa Cup between 1998 and 2001). One of their biggest fans, “Papa” Francisco, is quite famous nowadays…

enjoying the atmosphere in the popular section

enjoying the atmosphere in the popular section

The opponent, Olimpo, is a small team from Bahia Blanca. It is one of those teams that relegate one year and find their way back to the premier league the next before relegating again…

On Sunday the 4rd of August Patricio and I met at the Callao subway station which was close to Avenida Cordoba where we had to catch bus 132 towards Bajo Flores, the area where the stadium of San Lorenzo is located. San Lorenzo was based in a neighbourhood called Boedo but during the military government in 1979 San Lorenzo was forced to sell the stadium for a small amount of money, and a few years later the supermarket chain Carrefour bought it. After 14 years of renting the stadium, San Lorenzo, with the help of fans, inaugurated a new stadium in another neighbourhood, Flores. When leaving the bus we had to cross a slum known as “Villa 1-11-14”. For a moment I was walking in a combination of Argentina, Bolivia and India…

that's me inside the stadium of San Lorenzo, Estadio Pedro Bidegain

that’s me inside the stadium of San Lorenzo, Estadio Pedro Bidegain

Once we entered the stadium there were two choices of stands, as with all stadiums in Argentina, namely: popular and platea. Popular is free for socios and works as a “first come, first serve basis” whereas platea has a price tag which will give you a designated seat. Popular sections are located behind the goal, one for the home – and the other one for the away fans. Because of the riots there were no away fans this time. We chose the popular section of the regular home fans, amongst the fanatics. These fanatics have several nicknames: los Gauchos de Boedo (because many players used to be from the countryside), los Santos (the Saints), los Cuervos (the Crows), El Ciclón (the Cyclone), los Azulgrana (the Blue and Red), los Matadores (the Killers) and finally the one they like to use themselves: la Gloriosa (the Glorious).

The stadium was great in my opinion. No skyboxes, no business units, no roof, no cinema, no fancy shops, no entertainment, no scoreboard, nothing, only a football stadium with the occasional hotdog stand. It sounds weird nowadays but shouldn’t it be like this? I know it’s not commercially optimized but I don’t care. This is a true football-experience!

The platea section has seats, the popular section consist of concrete steps. When the match is about to get started everybody stands up and remains standing till the final whistle. Patricio knew all the songs and enthusiastically joined la Gloriosa by singing during almost the whole match. Everytime I heard “San Lorenzo” or “Matadores” or something else familiar I tried to contribute as much as I could. Soon the score was opened by Martin Cauteruccio, a 26-years old striker. The crowd got wild and the stadium was literally shaking, what a sensation! That must be something you can only experience in an old, traditional stadium. In a modern European Arena everything is too solid…

San Lorenzo dominated the first 20 to 30 minutes before they started making to many mistakes which led Olimpo back into the match. Before half time the visitors made the equalizer. Patrizio lost confidence in a good result. The majority of la Glorioso however had no clue about the score, they were facing the crowd and singing as loud as they could…

After a quiet break (there is no entertainment whatsoever during the break) we starting singing again when the players got back onto the pitch. San Lorenzo started attacking from the start, looking for a second goal. Every now and then Olimpo got out of their defensive mode by a counter which led to some frightening moments. When we were all about to lose our last bit of hope Cauteruccio gave San Lorenzo a second advantage just before the final whistle. A few minutes later victory was celebrated!

Check out the following video to get an impression of the atmosphere in the popular section in the San Lorenzo stadium:

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