Independiente, Estadio Libertadores de América

Independiente, Los Diablos Rojos, Rey de Copas, The Red Devils, King of Cups are The Copa Libertadores most successful club with seven titles. Based in Avellaneda in the South of Buenos Aires, Independiente’s stadium is right next door to fierce rivals Racing. Think Dundee and Dundee United but slightly bigger and more successful. Independiente’s formation was down to a split in a club, shoe shop workers formed a club called Maipu FC, the younger staff could watch them team but weren’t allowed to play. These staff popped to a bar one night and decided to start their own club, an Independent club and Independiente were formed. Continental success has dried up though with only two Copa Sudamericana wins since their last Libertadores win in 1986, despite producing players like Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan.

We got an Uber from San Lorenzo to Independiente, although the route went one way the driver used simple hand gestures to let us know that there was people with guns there. We were completely happy not to go through that barrio, whipped past Huracan’s ground before being dropped off at a roadblock around a 10 minute walk from the ground. When we arrived at the stadium I collared a chap wearing a hi-vis vest and bellowed out the soon to be catchphrase “Entradas?”. We were pointed to “the tennis club”, when we arrived we were greeted by a group of men “Entradas?” I asked again, a man top to toe in Independiente gear (including flip flops) took us round a corner to a toilet block where he revealed a pile of tickets. Then followed a game of charades where he seemed to ask us if we wanted to sit or stand. We went for sit, spent about a tenner and then he guided us to our turnstiles. I think he was a member of the Barra Brava but, my he was helpful and polite. Like most other games, tickets were easy but you should check the fixture prior and as this was Cordoba this was easy.

We made our way into the ground, it was by far the most modern stadium we’d been to being completed just over a decade ago in 2009. The ground had a very Spanish feel to it and had odd what I assumed was executive seating in each corner. As per usual there was plenty terracing behind each goal and steep-ish stands close to the pitch. Again the atmosphere was brilliant but, we were kind of getting used to that. For me, this was the first game we had got used to the normal. The first half was dire, really rubbish, Cordoba offered very little and Independiente the same. The good news was it was frankly quite relaxing after the previous night.

The second half came to life, Argentine football was back! A clever cut in and drive across goal to the back post, a 25 yard own goal and a back post diving header gave The Todo Rojo a 3-0 lead. It wasn’t deserved, but Cordoba had offered absolutely nothing. The game wouldn’t live long in a memory, those odd corner stands will though, oh and the fantastic own goal. It was outstanding. So very good. I should really do a whole blog about it. Dad seemed more interested in trying to get a photo of the full moon on his phone, his camera wasn’t up to the job. The final whistle blew, we made our way out of the ground and I got a cone of chips. We may have been on the other side of the Atlantic but that did give it a British feel walking out.

We made our way back to where we were picked up, there was a delicious hustle and bustle around the ground. Beers being sold on the street, BBQ’s burning in peoples porches and a lovely buzz. As our uber turned up what followed was one of the most impressive pieces of through traffic driving you’ll ever see, weaving like Maradona did through the England team in 1986 our driver did an unreal job. Once we were back at our Airbnb we settled down for a couple of empanadas and Quilmes after another long day. Argentina is bloody brilliant.

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