Maradona hasn’t been to the Bombonera since the bosteros roundly came out in support of Riquelme in February last year. Now that Juan Román has been just as roundly attacked for Boca’s current situation, Maradona announced on the radio this morning that he would be back in his box for the first time in 386 days. He also took the opportunity to remind people that River finished last not so long ago (in 2008). Class. Nonetheless, this is a superclásico and the Boca fans, for all their misgivings in recent times (no wins in seven games), came out once more to back Riquelme: “Riiiqueeeeeeeeeelme, par’ la Selecióóóóóóóóóóóóóóóóóóón” (Riqueeeelme! For Argentina!).
After having been suspended on Sunday due to a torrential downpour, the game was further delayed when the blowermen charged with removing the thousands of papers thrown into the penalty areas struggled farcically with the breeze. Just like Sunday, ten minutes went by until the referee, Baldassi, standing in the centre circle and now knee-deep in fluttering pieces of paper, called a halt to proceedings but this time to get the game underway.
Under clear skies as piercing and blue as a stormtrooper’s in a Nazi porno, Boca started better and had most of the early possession. In the sunlight the little pieces of paper looked like glitter, so that every pass, no matter how misplaced or worthy of admission to a health centre, seemed sprinkled with star dust. Indeed, strange superclásico-ey things were happening: Palermo did a Cruyff turn that would have made Messi look like one of Giapetto’s failed early prototypes; while Riquelme looked like Riquelme again as he took the ball down and curled it to the back post where big Palermo threw himself in the air in a gravity-defying chilena. His will was not enough to suspend the laws of physics for longer than exactly one moment, however, and the ball scuttered wide.
River were playing with two holding midfielders but this was smartly, if a little simply, countered by Boca who played down the wings – well, almost exclusively the left wing. Riquelme refused to be drawn into what would have been a crowded midfield. And, indeed, it was from the left – after just 13 minutes – that a real chileno appeared, in the form of Gary Medel, converting from close range after Riquelme sent in a low free kick from the edge of the box.
River had little to say for themselves. El muñeco Gallardo was the only one who offered anything in the way of invention or passion. Such was the poverty of River’s attack – about as searing as that silly knight who guards the Grail in Indiana Jones – indeed, that Luis Alberto, Boca’s much maligned Brazilian centre back, so awful lately and victim – along with Bonilla – of much of the casual racism that marrs even further a dodgy press (their partnership in the Boca defence inspired the regrettable headline: “Black Hole”), actually looked quite comfortable.
After the heart-warming announcements at half time informing us of all the good work the government is doing for us, such as new roads and an extension to the subway in Buenos Aires, the game got under way again. And it was the same old story: after barely five minutes Boca once more broke down the left and Medel scored again. This time it was Monzón, a talented left back who flopped in Germany and is now finding his feet again, who showed great pace and skill to cut the ball back from the byline. Gaitán dummied and the ball broke for the Chilean who slammed it home. The attack was good and it was smart play and a great finish by a player who doesn’t score much but was clearly too pumpled up to stay out on the right where the ball journeyed but frequently. The defending, however, was awful by River, as if they were imitating the Boca defence of late.
River abandoned their two-man midfield in favour of another attacker but it was too late; the pattern of the game had been set. They couldn’t get the ball off Roman, who grew in stature. Strangely enough, River’s lack of heart/balls meant that this superclásico wasn’t even a particularly dirty affair for the most part. There were some inevitbale fisticuffs, however. Gallardo, River’s playmaker, has priors as regards Bombonera bust-ups (brilliant video, by the way), but this lententime he was more sinned against than sinner. The fired-up Chilean Olé have since dubbed el Pitbull, Gary Medel, didn’t think anything could go wrong for him today. He grabbed Gallardo’s cheek and even slapped him in the face as they exchanged oaths. He got a nibble on his finger for his troubles from the gallina before being sent off shortly afterwards for a second bookable offence committed on another River player.
Since the second half was only going to be 39 minutes long (the first was 40′) and River didn’t look like doing much, a Boca victory at this stage seemed assured. So Román began milking it as if another stand-off between the government and the state had led to a severe yoghurt shortage in Gran Buenos Aires. Waving his arms in the air like a triumphant Captain Ahab, he beckoned to his faithful and they duly responded with a noise that made the directors give thanks to the Lord that the oft-mooted roof has not been constructed yet. When the final whistle did peep, all cameras turned to the exultant Boca hooligans, La Doce, who unveiled huge cards spelling out “Chau Riber”, taking pride in their superior spelling ability amd mocking los millionarios’ [faint] relelgation fears.
The White Whale in his box was in a charitable mood, however, and had the good grace to praise Riquelme, who had raised his game one again for the clásico and been the best player on the pitch, after the match. “Riquelme played a stormer,” he said as he was chased down a narrow corridor in a morass of microphones and micro-floozies.
Boca’s current number 10, for his part, sealed the love in and made up with his erstwhile foe, wishing Maradona “all the best at the World Cup” and hoping he was pleased with the result. “All the Boca fans are happy today, and I hope he is, too, just as we are. Now we just want to celebrate. Three days ago everyone wanted to kill us. Now they want to know how far we can go.”
Winning the derby is clearly an important part of Boca’s year. If they had lost the match, the consequences would have been huge. For their part, River remain adrift in the sea of cuckolds. Once the triumphal, post-match smoke is extinguished, however, the emptiness and fear will inevitably return: Boca still have a lot of work to do both on the pitch and at an institutional level. This is important, as whatever you think about the superclásico, Argieball needs institutions like Boca and River to be strong if there is to be any hope in wresting power away from Grondona and reforming this league, and country, so that its genius can really come forth: