In June, an historic event occurred that changed the character of Argentine soccer, or fútbol. River Plate, one of Argentina’s premier teams, lost the opportunity to remain in the “A” division of Argentine soccer, falling to the “B” group for the first time in its 110 year history. River has traditionally been one of the strongest teams, claiming a record of 33 national victories, but in recent years the soccer club has faltered. In order to maintain its standing and to solidify itself in the nation’s top league, River would have had to win its match (also its last match in the season) against Belgrano, a soccer club from Córdoba, by at least two points. Unfortunately, River tied with Belgrano and lost their place in the premiere division.
Movement among the divisions in Argentine soccer isn’t especially rare: all but 2 of the teams in the Primera División have dropped from “A” to “B” at some point in their histories. One of the teams that has never fallen is Boca Juniors, River’s rival. Traditionally, River and Boca meet once a year in the Superclásico, a match up that draws the attention of the entire city. A large majority of Argentine soccer fan claim allegiance to one of these two teams and this game determines who gets bragging rights for the remainder of the year or until the next match-up.
The River-Belgrano game that ultimately resulted in River’s fall from glory received a great deal of press coverage by the Argentine media, although it was essentially overlooked by the rest of the world. Nearly every channel on Argentine television aired the game and the aftermath of the catastrophic loss. As the game ended, cameras panned the tearful faces of River players and fans and showed angry mobs of River loyalists destroying property and harassing the Belgrano team and its supporters. To an outsider, the grief and desperation that they displayed may have seemed disproportionate to the event, but for many Argentines, allegiance to a particular team begins in early childhood and only builds in fervor over a lifetime.
A few weeks after the game, River fans had begun to recover from the loss, but some of the evidence of the game’s effects still remained visible. Although the match itself received little, if any, international news coverage, a hilarious YouTube video of an Argentine grandfather furiously reacting to the game went viral and was circulated worldwide on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. In the video, the abuelo screams at the television screen in angry, vulgar Argentine lunfardo, or slang. Although you probably shouldn’t repeat anything you hear in the video, listening to this man’s wild ranting is a good way to practice your comprehension of Argentine Spanish!