With the Torneo Clausura getting underway on Friday evening, and the 2011 Copa Libertadores about to get serious, I thought I’d write a post outlining something which, if you’re a HEGS reader, is absolutely certain to be of interest to you. It’s all very well reading about Argentine football, after all, but for many, mere words won’t be enough. How do you go about watching it? Whether you’re wondering about planning a trip to Buenos Aires, or watching from the comfort of your own home, I hope to be able to provide something of an answer here.
First of all, a disclaimer, in light of some recent developments you’ll be familiar with if you already use some of the sites I’m going to mention below. Watching Argentine football from your own home, if you don’t live in a country with TV rights, is by necessity going to involve some digging around on the internet. As such, in this post I’ll only be suggesting sites you might find matches at. Some of these may be legally dubious in some territories. I won’t be linking to them, only providing names, and would like to remind readers that depending on the country you’re in, using them may be illegal (albeit it’d be all but impossible for anyone to find out you were breaking any hypothetical laws).
Now, with that caveat, let us continue. I’ll split this post into two parts: Watching in Argentina, and Watching elsewhere in the world. If you don’t plan on visiting Argentina any time soon, you’re probably going to be best served by scrolling down until you come to the second subheading.
Watching in Argentina
Of course, watching the Argentine league in the country itself is the best way to do it, if you get the chance. Every match in the Primera División is televised live via the country’s state TV network, and whilst finding out which exact channel a game is on can often involve just waiting until kick off time and then flipping at random between a few of them, it’s one of the undeniable plus points of Cristina Kirchner’s vote-grabbing Fútbol Para Todos policy that anyone with a television – at least in Buenos Aires and the other major metropolitan areas of Argentina – can catch whatever top flight game they fancy.
Watching continental matches requires cable TV access, because the rights for the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana are held by Fox Sports Latin America. If you’re staying in a hotel, though, you’ll probably have this access. If not – or, indeed, if you just prefer to watch with the locals – it isn’t hard to find bars and cafes in central Buenos Aires showing the match.
The really enticing option if you’re spending time in the country, of course, is to venture off the well-trodden tourist trail for a few hours, and go to a game yourself. You’ve heard about the passion of Argentina’s crowds, and you might even have been made to believe that attending is one of the things you really must do before you die. So why not see for yourself?
If you want to go to a match in Argentina, I’ll be happy to help however I can. Since I moved to Buenos Aires in April 2010 I’ve been emailed numerous times by readers and people who’ve come across HEGS looking for information on going to games (hence part of the inspiration for this post), and numerous people have ended up tagging along with me and, from time to time, other journalists to attend matches at Independiente, Tigre, Vélez Sarsfield, River Plate, All Boys, Huracán and – in the case of long-time HEGS commenter Johnny, who also lives in Buenos Aires – some of the above plus an unforgettable afternoon out at Argentinos Juniors last May.
Myself and Australian Dan, my Hand Of Pod co-star – who runs the superb website Argentina Football World – have fielded so many of these emails that we’re considering charging for our services at some point this year. Rest assured though that if we do this – and it’s by no means definite – we’ll remain a lot cheaper than the tour packages your hostel or hotel will try and push on you, which can see you paying anywhere up to five times the face value of your ticket (for comparison, we’re thinking of asking for half the cost of the ticket again). Until you hear otherwise on HEGS, though, our services will remain free, although as mentioned on the About page, if you’d like to contribute to my collection of football scarves from around the world, or buy us a pint or a steak afterwards, we won’t refuse. We only ask that you trust our judgement in where in the stadium to go.
One ground it’s all but impossible to get decently-priced tickets at, sadly, is the one most visitors to Buenos Aires are told they simply must go to; Boca Juniors’ legendary Bombonera. Boca’s ticketing system is tightly controlled by their barra brava, La Doce, and advance notice of when tickets are to go on sale is often impossible to find on their website. As such, the only option is to either swallow the bill and go with one of the aforementioned hotel tour options, or (and I wouldn’t recommend this course of action unless you’re supremely confident in your Spanish, and know exactly where you want to go in the stadium and how much you’re prepared to pay) to head to the stadium before the game and buy from a tout. Dan and I are unlikely to take people to La Bombonera, mainly due to the difficulty of being able to guarantee tickets. I’m still happy to offer advice to anyone who contacts me regarding a match there during their time in Buenos Aires, though.
If you do head down there under your own steam, bear in mind that La Bombonera isn’t in the most pleasant area of Buenos Aires. A small corner of La Boca – including the stadium – is overrun with tourists during the day, but when a match is on – and especially at night – it’s a very different place. Be confident, and don’t flash your valuables about. These are standard rules for going to any game in Argentina, but they’re especially important to remember if you’re heading to see the Xeneize.
Aside from La Bombonera, most Primera División grounds won’t feel as intimidating to visit as you might expect, although getting through the police checks can sometimes feel like being involved in a prison break film. San Lorenzo’s Nuevo Gasómetro is probably an exception; it’s right next to one of Buenos Aires’ biggest slums, and an area of town that the police warn anyone who is visibly a foreigner against travelling to. As one such person – I’m six feet tall with blond hair and blue eyes, so don’t exactly blend into a crowd easily in Latin America – I’ve never been to San Lorenzo. That being said, I’ve also been told by other foreigners here that I’m a wimp for not having given it a try, so it’s very much down to what you’re comfortable with.
The good news for those wanting to see one of the capital’s famous sides is that River Plate’s ground is at the opposite end of the spectrum. In Núñez, a leafy residential area, it’s about as pleasant an approach to the stadium as you’ll get in BA, and thanks to the capacity, it’s nearly always possible to buy tickets on the gate prior to the game. The exception, of course, is the superclásico with Boca, when – as with La Bombonera – all bets are off as to how you’ll get hold of a ticket.
The two Avellaneda giants, Racing and Independiente, have stadia just a couple of hundred metres from each other, and although Avellaneda is outside the city limits, it’s very easily reachable by bus from the city centre, followed by a walk with other fans down Avenida Adolfo Alsina.
Prices at all stadia during the 2010 Torneo Apertura (which aren’t likely to change for the 2011 Torneo Clausura) are roughly similar. [NOTE: At the time of writing, US$1 is equal to AR$4] AR$40 is the fixed price for the popular, the stand behind the home goal where the barra brava and the other noisy fans congregate. If you go in here it can be a lot of fun, but stay away from the middle of the stand – it’s reserved for the barra – and be ten times more vigilant about your personal possessions than you would be anywhere else in the ground. If you actually want to see the match, you’re better off spending around AR$90 on a platea, from where you’ll most likely be alongside the pitch, and have a better view of everything going on.
If you’re going to River, be aware that the platea known as the Centenario (the cheapest one) is actually behind the goal opposite the popular, and the view isn’t great to say the least. AR$150 will get you a seat in the San Martín Alta, from where you get a fine view of the pitch, the fans jumping up and down in the popular (and you can still join in, if you want) and, if River are playing really badly, you can look skywards and watch the planes coming in to land at Aeroparque Jorge Newberry, the city centre domestic airport, which is about a mile or so behind the stand. Other plateas at stadia with more than one tier might also be behind the goal rather than alongside the pitch – it’s a good idea to check first to make sure you know where you’ll be.
You’ll also see stands referred to as Tribunas. This includes both populares (also called generales) and plateas – it’s simply the Spanish for ‘stand’ or ‘tier’.
If you think it’s a good idea to get tickets the day before the game, then ticket office opening hours can normally (except at Boca, as mentioned above) be found on the club website. Treat the excursion as a chance to familiarise yourself with the area around the ground and the transport situation for the following day – there’s every chance you’ll be coming back from the game in darkness, after all. Of course, if you end up going to a match with me, I’ll do my best to pick the tickets up myself, so you’ll be saved that little bit of hassle.
Watching elsewhere in the world
This, I imagine, will be the reason most of you are reading this post. Before I begin to list those potentially illegal sites, I’ll start by saying that there are legal ways to watch Argentine football. In the UK, Premier Sports TV recently announced that they’ve secured the UK rights to televise the Argentine Primera División, as well as the Copa Libertadores. What their exact schedule will be I’ve no idea (I’m only reporting this having discovered it via Twitter a few days ago; Premier Sports have nothing to do with either me or HEGS).
In other countries, depending on your TV provider, there may also be a broadcaster screening either the Argentine league or the Libertadores. Especially in the United States, it’s worth checking any of the providers/broadcasters catering for the domestic latino audience.
If television isn’t an option, there are even legal ways to watch via the internet. Bet365 and other betting websites frequently offer live streams – especially of the Copa Libertadores (and other events like the Copa América, Sudamericano Sub 20 etc). These are often in small screen format without an option to expand the display, but by first using your browser’s zoom function, and then refreshing the page, you can get a picture that’s a decent size. For Bet365 you’ll need an account. If you start to create one, and then simply close the browser/tab at the stage where you’re asked for your credit card details, you’ll find you can then visit the site and log in with the username you’ve already set up – so if you don’t fancy a gambling site having your bank details, there’s no need to give them to them!
From Argentina, TV Pública’s Canal 7, the main channel in the government-owned domestic football monopoly, stream live to the world 24 hours a day. Simply go to their website and, in the menu near the top of the page, click ‘Vivo’. Through the season, if I notice a match is on Canal 7 (and if I’m in front of the computer whilst watching it), I’ll try and remember to re-post this link on Twitter – so if you’re not already following me, you might want to do so. Other public broadcast channels include Canal 9, whose website is currently undergoing a redevelopment. If the new site includes a live stream, naturally you’ll find that information in my Twitter as well.
If the match isn’t on Canal 7, you might still be in luck. Huracán, for instance, stream all their matches live on their website. Even when they’re not playing, you can see the option on the entry page of their website – simply visit and, when there’s a game on, click ‘Vea el partido en vivo’. As far as I’m aware, Huracán are the only Primera División club to offer this service, but if I come across any more, I’ll try and make readers aware of them.
Beyond these options, of course, there are the tried and tested plethora of streaming sites to dip into. The most reliable of these, Rojadirecta, has been taken offline by the United States government Department of Homeland Security, apparently on the understanding that if you can watch football for free anywhere in the world, the terrorists have won. Another site that was taken down – but is now back up at a different address – is Atdhe. To get there, stick a .net after the site name in your browser. Another site – which as far as I know isn’t at as much risk of being taken offline (one would think that if it was, this would’ve happened to them when the DHS siezed the other two a few days ago) is Justin TV, which you’ll find by putting a dot between ‘Justin’ and ‘tv’.
Therein ends the Hasta El Gol Siempre Guide To Watching Argentine Football. I hope you’ve found it useful. If so, please feel free to share it with your friends. And if you’ve got any further questions, please get in touch.
Note: For the same reason that I’ve not linked directly to them above, any comments linking to streaming sites that might be in breach of any laws, anywhere – i.e. that I might get into trouble for directly linking to – won’t be allowed either on this post or on any others on HEGS. If any legal people read this, I’d like to make clear I only name certain sites here in order that people can studiously avoid them in their browsing. All the sites linked to from this page are perfectly legal and official sources of televised football.
You can follow the ins and outs during the build up to the 2011 Torneo Clausura, as well Argentina’s performances in the Sudamericano Sub 20, the country’s vast foreign legion and the latest news from the selección during the 2010-2011 season direct from Buenos Aires with HEGS on Twitter. If you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here. You can also join the official HEGS Facebook group, to keep up to date with the latest posts on the blog and discuss things with other fans. You’ll find it here. Also remember to bookmark Hand Of Pod, our home to a brand new Argentine football podcast (or subscribe to it on iTunes here)
Photo by me on Flickr