There are two main football clubs in Buenos Aires. Boca Juniors and River Plate. Having already survived a walk around San Telmo to tick off a bucket list visit to La Bombonera, we headed to the north of the city to have a look at El Monumental, home of River Plate.
El Monumental is a stadium situated in Belgrano, a much more upmarket area of town in comparison to the rugged and quite frankly dangerous San Telmo. A quick subte ride from our base in Palermo took us to Congreso de Tucuman station, a 30 minute walk from the ground.
The stadium was gearing up to host the final of the Argentine Primera Division between San Lorenzo and Lanus, the game that would decide the champions of Argentina. Sadly we couldn’t get tickets for the game but instead settled on having a guided tour of this famous stadium used often by the Argentina National Team.
When you first set eyes on the stadium it really does bring to life all of those pictures seen in my youth. Before, I could have only ever dreamed of coming this far around the world to visit a stadium with such stature and significance. Now, I was here. To get tickets for the tour, we headed to the museum which is situated by gate I.
The staff do speak English which is very helpful and the tickets cost $260 ARS (£5.47) and like the Boca tour it begins in the museum. The museum is a superb place to browse while you wait for the tour to begin, even if you are not a football fan, the history is captivating.
After gazing at trophies, shirts, boots and even a replica of the stadium in model form, we began our tour. Our guide spoke predominantly in Spanish but gave us broken English translations at the end of each section of information.
The tour begins by walking through a training area that is also home to River Plate’s basketball team. Trophies are also on show for every sport that both teams have won. The area did feel a bit like a community sports centre, not the confines of one of the world’s most prestigious sports teams.
Things get a lot more exciting when you walk out onto the pitch area. The ground didn’t feel as large as Boca’s strangely but in terms of capacity El Monumental is actually the larger of the two at 66,266.
We then sat in the stands and were given the experience of a goal celebration at River Plate by shouting ‘Gol!’ together on the count of three. It didn’t quite live up to expectations and felt a little awkward in a small group. The seats are the kind you might expect on a pier with metal backs and benches, not the most comfortable.
The views from the stands are something else though. A faultless view of this majestic arena can be had from every angle. Whoever had tickets for the cup final was going to have an experience to remember, that’s for sure.
The tour fizzled out with a sit down in the dugouts where you could view the pitch as the coach or substitutes would. The tour guide came over to chat to us and ask about where we were from which was nice. Incredibly, this was the end of the tour.
I’m really glad to have finally ticked off a milestone stadium in my collection but this tour wasn’t all that memorable. The actual stadium is quite an old one having been opened in the late 30’s. That said, a match here would be incredible as River Plate fans are known to create an incredible atmosphere. One good reason to return.
Nearest Subte: Congreso de Tucuman