To jump or not to jump, isn’t really the question. In the more sedate part of the River Plate stadium where Argentina comfortably beat Bolivia on Saturday, despite the chants, most people didn’t do much jumping and there weren’t many Englishmen among them as far as I could tell.
What did trigger some debate with friends after the match was whether such albeit mild doses of xenophobia are at all offensive. I offered a feeble defense of the crowd’s light hearted banter, but the thing is, particularly at club level, football in Argentina is often a seriously violent affair and, while poking fun at the English might not be anything to trouble over, some see it as another symptom of a deeper problem.
Hooliganism takes a very different form in Argentina. The barrabravas, as they are known, are organised and powerful racketeers. The local politicians that aren’t actually linked with these groups in some way, rarely dare to try and undermine them. It’s understandable then that not everyone is exactly enamored of the country’s national sport or the culture that surrounds it.
As for the game, after a predominantly dull first half, Argentina came to life after the first goal and could probably have ended up winning by an even bigger margin than the final 3-0 scoreline. Watching Lionel Messi on form is worth the entrance fee alone, not to mention Tevez, Riquelme, et al. The goals are on youtube. Riquelme’s second after a blistering run by Messi is exquisite.
*[ “El que no salta es un Inglés”: There are many variants on this theme. At Boca Juniors the one not jumping is a chicken (“Gallina” is the nickname for fans of River Plate). Demonstrators will jump in order not to be identified as “Militares”, which I guess must date back to the dictatorship, as does another international version, “El que no salta es un Holandés”, who Argentina beat to win a decidedly tainted World Cup in 1978. ]