Boca Juniors is best known as the most celebrated soccer team in Argentina, along with rival squad River Plate. Learn more about football in argentina.
Boca Juniors is best known as the most celebrated soccer team in Argentina, along with rival squad River Plate. With countless national and international trophies, the team has also amassed a global following that eagerly tunes in to watch Boca matches from around the world, most notably “superclassic” Boca, Riverplate derbies. Both teams are based in Buenos Aires, and have developed an intense rivalry that seems to go beyond scoreboard results. Many Boca Junior fans share an uncommon pride and loyalty, often admired by observers from other countries. The experience of watching a Boca Junior match in La Bombonera (Boca’s home stadium) forces many international spectators to reconsider their notion of sports passion. Many suddenly realize that their home teams not only definitely do not enjoy the most passionate fan support in the world, but that that support actually seems kind of wimpy in comparison.
Club Atlético Boca Juniors is the full name of the club, which also includes a number of other types of sports teams such as basketball and a variety of martial arts competitions. The club has been based in the Buenos Aires port neighborhood of La Boca since 1905, when five young residents of the working class neighborhood founded the club there. The first president of the club, Esteban Baglietto, was only 17 years old. They named the team after their neighborhood and added the word juniors. English railway workers introduced the game of soccer to Argentina and the use of English words to name teams was common in the country. Shortly after the team’s humble beginnings, they would enter Argentina’s first division league. Today they enjoy the distinction of having never been demoted to the minors in the team’s long history. By 1925, Boca Juniors were playing friendly matches against European teams.
Interestingly the team colors are based on the Swedish flag. Legend has it that club founders left the selection of their team colors to the whims of fate. In 1907, they decided to use the colors of the next ship to roll into port as their team colors. That ship happened to have come from Sweden, so they adopted the blue and gold colors of the Swedish flag.
The team’s curious nickname is la mitad mas uno alluding to the notion that just over half of all Argentines support the soccer team. Fans affectionately refer to Boca Junior’s stadium, inaugurated in 1940, as la bombonera, or the chocolate box. Boca fans have a variety of nicknames such as los Xeneizes, or Genovese, which reminds us of the Italian immigrants that lived in the La Boca neighborhood where the team was founded. Many Argentine soccer fans also make use of plenty of fun spirited, albeit childish name calling. The fans of rival soccer squads and sometimes even Boca fans themselves refer to Xeneizes as bosteros, which means manure handlers. River Plate fans are disrespectfully referred to as gallinas, or chickens.
There is something of a socio-politic element at play within the rivalry with River Plate; River plate fans are historically associated with wealthy supporters. Boca fans on the other hand, with their team based in the port neighborhood of La Boca are associated with lower economic classes. The insulting name “manure handlers” stems from the notion that that these fans work in the lowliest of professions. The name is not necessarily a source of shame for boca fans, as they see their team and themselves, with their winning record, as working class heroes.
Boca fans are known to tirelessly cheer and chant throughout the duration of matches. Teams playing against Boca in la bombonera find play there especially challenging due to the passionate spirit of the twelfth man, a nick name Boca fans proudly call themselves. The nickname suggests that their off field participation collectively affords the 11 footballer squad the advantage of the efforts of an extra player. Emotionally charged fans cry dramatic slogans that express their surprisingly intense loyalty, such as “even death can’t separate us, I will cheer you on from heaven”. It seems that many Xeneizes have taken the slogan quite literally, requesting that upon their death, their ashes be sprinkled over La Bombonera’s playing field. Growing numbers of fans would attend Boca matches accompanied by the remains of loved ones, awaiting the game’s end to scatter the ashes over the pitch, until attempts were made to control the practice. Ironically, an excessive build up of calcium based human ash on the grass began adversely affecting the playing conditions of the Boca Junior’s players these extremely loyal fans hoped to continue supporting from beyond the grave. Fortunately for the team and bosteros anxious to express their eternal love, the club has recently opened a Boca Juniors cemetery.
From humble beginnings to one of the world’s top soccer teams, Boca Juniors has a rich history and a fan base famous for taking sports enjoyment very seriously.