Global Soccer, Global NYC

Soccer in NYC Reimagined Through the Rivalries, Identity, Migration, and Politics of the World's Game in the Preeminent Global City

El Superclásico. Boca Juniors 2 - River Plate 2

28 October 2012, 2:30 pm. Boca Juniors Steakhouse, Elmhurst Queens

As a result of River Plate’s relegation last year, it had been 530 days since the last superclásico, Latin America’s biggest match, took place. This time away was an eternity for the Porteños of Buenos Aires and the Argentinian diaspora community in Elmhurst, Queens.

At the undisputed, however partisan, mecca of Argentinian soccer in the NYC area, Boca Juniors Steakhouse on Queens Boulevard, fans began filing in more than an hour before kickoff with the hopes of scoring seats for what constitutes one of the very best soccer watching experiences in the city.

The Elmhurst/Jackson Heights area of Queens has been the center of the NYC Argentinian migrant community since the mid-1960’s, however these migration flows accelerated during the dirty war in the 1970’s and the continued inflation and economic crises in the 80’s and 90’s. Today, over 22,000 Argentinians live in the NYC metro area, with more than a quarter of those residing in Queens.

The steakhouse itself is a veritable Boca Juniors theme restaurant entirely covered from floor to ceiling in Boca and La Albiceleste regalia. Life-sized, signed posters of past and present Boca heroes such as Maradona, Tevez, Palermo, Riquelme, and others share space with flags, scarfs, autographed balls, and framed pictures of the establishment’s owner with the Boca elite (players and coaches, but seemingly Barra Brava royalty as well).

Before the match even began the waiters, dressed in full Boca and River strips, danced around the restaurant with Boca colored umbrellas taking steak and empanada orders while leading patrons in a variety of highly orchestrated Boca songs that each had their own call and response lyrics and accompanied combative arm gestures.

The match itself proved just as exciting. After going down 1-0 after only the second minute, Boca dug themselves even deeper after Rodrigo Mora’s neat finish put River up 2-0 in the 70th minute. Boca got one back in the 74th after menacing Uruguayan striker Santiago ‘El Tanque’ Silva's cool penalty kick. Then, deep into stoppage time, Walter Erviti redirected an errant El Tanque header to help Boca salvage a dramatic point and send the crowd in Queens into an absolute frenzy. Fans jumped on tables and removed their shirts. Elderly women started to cry tears of joy. The cooks emerged from the back of the kitchen waving a giant Boca flag. The yellow and blue umbrellas came out again and the entire restaurant turned into spontaneous, vocal dance party.             

While perhaps not as exciting as being in Buenos Aires and marching thousands-deep through the city’s main highway into River territory, for the NYC-based Boca fans present in Elmhurst for the match, Boca Juniors Steakhouse offers a little slice of superclásico mad home that simply has to be experienced to be believed. 

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