After a mammoth day of travel (with four flights Brisbane-Sydney-Auckland-Santiago-Buenos Aires and except for Auckland, I had only about 20 minutes between flights with delays and had to run to make my connections, which I did – just), I arrived in Buenos Aires. It was late evening on Saturday 24 June and the 2006 Soccer World Cup Soccer was getting down to the business end of the tournament.
As my plane landed, Argentina were fighting Mexico in their Round of 16 match for a place in the quarter-finals. It was just after half time and passing through the duty free area, I was amazed to see people sitting around on the floor, watching the game on the plasma screens that were for sale. It had been a close game, with the score at 1-1 only ten minutes into the match. No one seemed to be in a hurry to pass through customs and head home.
With such an important game on, my then boyfriend, whom I was meeting up with on this trip, had a tough time getting a taxi to bring him to the airport, let alone back again, so he had the driver wait until I had made it through customs. As we drove into town the streets were deserted! Everyone was crammed into cafes, restaurants and bars to watch the game on any TV they could find. Football is definitely a religion here.
Needless to say the game was still 1-1 at fulltime. We arrived at the hotel just as extra time started. Half the staff and the front desk people were all watching the game on a little tv in the foyer – very distracted as they tried to check me into the hotel, especially when Argentina scored. Everyone went bananas!
After dumping my bags in the room, we walked into the city centre. Like ants to honey, everyone was heading to the giant obelisk located in the Plaza de la República which is the focal point of the main drag (Avenida 9 de Julio). Thousands gathered screaming, cheering, jumping and blowing those football horns. It was crazy. All 14+ lanes of traffic were almost at a standstill. There were well over ten thousand people gathered there. What a great atmosphere.
If I had to miss being at the tournament in Germany, then this was definitely the next best thing for someone who grew up in a football mad household. I have only been in South America for an hour and already I loved it!