Ituzaingó is a district in Buenos Aires, only a 45 minutes train ride from the centre of the metropolis. Its team, Club Atlético Ituzaingó play in the Primera D, the lowest tier of football organised by the Argentine FA.
After a short walk from the local train station, I got to the Estadio Carlos Alberto Sacaan, their charming ground, where I was welcomed by dozens of mounted and riot police. Knowing for a fact that there are no visiting fans in the Argentine lower divisions, I was surprised by the number of police, but I was about to find out why they were there.
Just as surprised was the old guy by the turnstiles when he heard a foreigner was here to watch their game. He quickly finds the press officer who takes me to the clubhouse where I am welcomed and hugged by the chairman, who offers me food and drinks. After him, more people come to me for a chat and hugs and kisses on the cheek. It seemed the news about my arrival spread quickly.
After the warm welcoming rituals, we were ready for kick off. At the same time, I noticed that there were two different bands in the stadium, which means there are two sets of fans as well. Even though they are supporting the same team, they don’t like each other, hence the amount of police at the game. Obviously, the reason for their war is not football related – being the fans of the same team, after all – it’s rather for control of some shady businesses in the area.
It was weird to hear two sets of fans supporting the same team but singing different songs during the whole game; this mashup gave the game a unique feel. The match itself was enjoyable, and even though the quality of play not sky high, you know that the fans are here to see their local boys, who are not mercenaries, mostly just lads from the neighbourhood.
The home side were dominant throughout the 90 minutes, and not long before the final whistle, managed to score, which kept their promotion dreams alive. After the game, the police closed one half of the stadium for a good 20 minutes until one of the firms left the ground, before they let the others out. Keeping the peace is the priority in the hood.
In the middle of June, Ituzaingó won the Primera D and were promoted. A big thanks go to everyone involved at the remarkable club for their hospitality, passion and joy.
By Bett Moron. Bett is currently working on a book about football culture in Argentina. You can check out his work on Instagram.