‘El superclásico’ | Sound and fury masks struggle of greater significance

Clarí­n lays out the proper routes of approach for Boca and River supporters. “[T]he roads are closed off so rival fans can’t confront each other before and after the match,” writes Gregory Sica.

Buenos Aires | After the third player was red-carded Sunday, Fox Soccer Channel commentator Thomas Rongen said simply, “It’s the superclásico.” Down to nine players, Boca Juniors scored on a late penalty and escaped with a 1–1 result against River Plate. Newell’s Old Boys slipped past them both, at least temporarily, to lead the Clausura standings through 11 match days.

More interesting even than the game passions and the crushes of shirtless supporters in La Bombonera, some boosting themselves precariously on stanchion bases, the political context lent the end-of-summer derby a compelling backdrop. English-language commentators did not appear to appreciate the significance of River Plate’s XI holding a white banner, reading “Nunca Más,” at the introductions, nor did they mention the reason for the pre-game moment of silence, interrupted by chanting Boca fans at Estadio Dr Camilo Cichero, the official name of the historic Boca club’s home ground.

The clubs in fact found themselves smaller players in the national drama that has seen President Néstor Kirchner declare 24 March—the day in 1976 of a coup that led to seven gruesome years of military rule—a national holiday and speak out on behalf of those tortured and murdered at the military’s hands and on behalf of their surviving relatives. “Nunca más” (Never again) has become the rallying cry of this mission as well as having served as the title of the 1984 report of the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, summarizing more than 50,000 pages of testimony detailing abduction, disappearance, torture and executions.

Members of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, in 2008, acknowledge the 25th anniversary of the election of Raúl Alfonsín. (EFE)

The silence before Boca and River reprised their own hostilities Sunday intended to recognize the up to 30,000 who died. Two days beforehand, on the 30th anniversary of the coup, tens of thousands had packed the streets of Buenos Aires as well as Plaza de Mayo, the square outside Government House where courageous women had demonstrated weekly—gaining notoriety during the 1978 World Cup finals—for answers to the fates of los desaparecidos.

The debates over amnesty for the human-rights violators as well as the place of media, church and ordinary citizens in the evils of the “dirty war” reflect a divided society. Some feel the events have not been sufficiently exposed, while others say that the volatility at the time of the coup, as rule by the charismatic Perons ended, goes underappreciated. Retired bank employee Fabio Tejeria, 77, tells the Chicago Tribune:

The people absorb without analysis any rumor rolled their way, stimulated by the media that forget the facts that are registered in their own archives in order to stoke fantastic tales. Average people think more about their daily problems, especially in this time of joblessness and insecurity. They don’t worry too much about politics.

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