Independiente – River Plate in Buenos Aires

In Argentina football is religion they say. It is not only the number one sport but people live it. When travelling around, it soon becomes clear everybody supports a team. The majority support River Plate and Boca Juniors, the two most successful teams of the last decades. There are a couple of other major teams located in the capital like San Lorenzo and Velez Sarsfield. However, if you’re looking for a team with a lot of history, Independiente is the one to visit…

Club Atlético Independiente, as the club is fully known, won a record of seven Copa Libertadores (the South American equivalent of the Champions League) with four in a row between 1972 and 1975. They have also won two Intercontinental Cups, in 1973 and 1974, after losing the year before to Ajax Amsterdam. Clearly this team carries a lot of history. The stadium, Estadio Libertadores de América, is located in a neighbourhood called Avellaneda, just outside the city center. Since I had visited the previously mentioned four teams during other visits to Argentina, Independiente was top of the list this time…

Before visiting Buenos Aires I spent quite some time in Las Leñas. Time on the way up, mainly in the Marte chairlift, is usually spent chatting and more often than not the main topic of conversation is football. Mid September, while enjoying a fantastic powder day in Las Leñas, I met Juan Pablo from Buenos Aires. When talking about football I mentioned I would be in Buenos Aires on October 4 when a huge game was scheduled in the likes of Independiente versus River Plate. Juan Pablo turned out to be a socio of Independiente, sharing a couple of season tickets between some friends. He assured me that he would have a ticket for me, so my next football adventure was arranged. Sometimes it’s this easy!

the fanatics of Independiente, in fact everybody is a fanatic here...

the fanatics of Independiente, in fact everybody is a fanatic here…

We kept in touch and the last Sunday before I flew back home, I met the group of friends in El Quartito, the best pizzeria of Buenos Aires according to Juan Pablo. I felt very welcome immediately, as long as I promised to support Independiente of course. Beers and pizza were already ordered and the atmosphere was good. El Quartito is decorated with football memorabilia from teams all over the country. Signed shirts, scarves, photos etc. made this restaurant the perfect warm up for a football match. A couple of slices and pints later, we left this little gem and made our way towards the stadium. But not before ‘my driver’ enjoyed some weed…

Having had a couple of pints minutes ago and with a joint in his hand, he drove four of us on Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world and really crowded on a Sunday evening. It’s all part of the adventure, one must keep thinking… He had clearly done this before and we safely arrived in Avellaneda. First we passed the huge stadium of Racing, the biggest rivals of Independiente, before arriving at our destination just a couple blocks later. This season no away fans are allowed at most of the matches. Luckily there were no bored Racing fans – Racing played away from home – outside the stadium either. The atmosphere therefore wasn’t violent at all, but still very lively and good. People were simply excited to see how their team would perform against the current holders of the Copa Libertadores. They hadn’t beaten River for a very long time…

Independiente full on the attack against River Plate

Independiente full on the attack against River Plate

The stadium was sold out and everybody was good to go. My friends for the evening had told me “Cebolla” Rodriguez was the man to watch. Cristian Gabriel Rodríguez Barotti is a typical number 10 and enjoys his nickname “El cebolla” (The onion) because his fancy feet made defenders cry back in his Peñarol days. From the first whistle of the referee we were shouting for “The onion”… Soon (5th minute) the first goal was scored which made for an even better atmosphere. When the goalkeeper converted a penalty to double the score and a red card was given to River Plate just before half-time, people went nuts. During the break we went for a drink outside the stadium. No fancy shops or restaurants here, just one stand with hotdogs and drinks. I have heard people talking about fans of a particular team are like family. I have been to quite a few teams all over the world, but the fans of Independiente truly made it feel like one big family. It might be this one occasion where the score was cooperating, still the good ambience amongst the fans was noticeable. When our thirst was quenched, we went back into the stadium where the party continued. Just before the final whistle a third goal secured victory. After the players of River Plate were treated to some nice songs, time had come to leave the stadium and go back to the center of Buenos Aires. A great evening had come to an end!

My visit to the stadium of Independiente is one to remember. Visiting a team where hardly any tourists go with a bunch of local guys was a great experience. There is a lot of discussion in the Netherlands about the visiting away fans. I was surprised to see how good the atmosphere was during this match without any away fans. Of course, Independiente – River Plate is a huge match which might make a difference. During this match I felt everybody was still very intense but without any violence whatsoever. I the past I have visited other teams as well, (click here to read reports about my visits to other teams in Argentina: River Plate and San Lorenzo) but this one was the best experience. River Plate was very nice because it’s a very successful team with an historic stadium and San Lorenzo was great because I had a seat in the fanatic stand which added to the experience. The atmosphere at Independiente however, was my favourite since the whole stadium was really involved instead of the fanatics only. Visiting a match with a bunch of very warm and welcoming Argentines was a bonus too!

Check out the video I made of the fanatics of Independiente:

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