FOOTBALL IS THE ONLY SPORT ON WHICH COMMUNITIES CAN BE BUILT. There are other sports out there which can attract tens of thousands of fans, but none of these can bond ties between people.
Unfortunately, our first-world clubs are less interested in these communities than ever. They want individuals rather than groups with opinions. They want to see anyone – not just locals – who buy the ticket, the merchandise, sit down, shut up, go home then wait until the next game. In short, they want clients and customers. Thankfully, there are places where football is a whole different ball game.
Club Atlético Victoriano Arenas, known as CAVA, is a small neighbourhood side right on the border of Buenos Aires city and Greater Buenos Aires, which is separated by the Riachuelo, the river which embraces CAVA’s stadium.
On many occasions, the stadium has been chosen as one of the strangest grounds in the world. On the side of city, you can see the brick houses of the Zabaleta slum, whilst on the south of the river a narrow gravel road leads to the stadium.
The club was founded on 2 January 1928, in the Valentín Alsina district. They have spent most of their existence in the Primera D – the fifth tier of Argentine football – occasionally spending shorter spells in the C. Much like other clubs in the country, CAVA is also run by its socios – members, who pay the monthly fee of roughly USD$12. For that money everybody can have their say, can vote or be elected for a position in the club ,and can use the facilities.
In addition to the stadium, they have own headquarters with a sports hall. The club offers nine sports to participate in, which plays an extremely important role in the life of the youth in the neighbourhood. Since the government doesn’t support sport clubs, they must live off the money gained by the membership and small sponsorship from local businesses. To gain some extra pesos, every month they organise an asado (Argentine grill party), where the young and old gather for an all-you-can-eat dinner party.
As you can imagine, with a tight budget such as this, there are challenges to running this club. The income of the team is only just enough for the basics; for the shirts and travel to away games. At CAVA, no-one earns an income for their endeavours. Everyone, from the players to the coach and the president to the kit man, is there for the love of the game.
Players and others close to the team sacrifice a lot. Some take care of the pitch, while others wash the kit every week. All of them play for free, which is especially significant when the FA still force them to play midweek games that clash with their day jobs. This is passion; this is real football.
By Bett Moron. Bett is currently working on an exciting book about football culture in Argentina. You can check out more of his work on Instagram.