The endless battle of Boca Juniors against the neighbors to expand their stadium | The USA Print

Streets surrounding the Boca Juniors stadium in Buenos Aires, on March 9.ENRIQUE GARCIA MEDINA

About 15 meters separate the oldest houses of Buenos Aires that was born in the ports and the most euphoric stadium of Argentine soccer. The myth that La Bombonera, the Boca Juniors stadium, beats when its stands are full has been proven by a seismograph: a few years ago the breath of its fans measured more than six points on the Richter scale. The rest is engineering. The stadium was built with reinforced concrete and supports the weight of the fans despite the cracks. But a few weeks ago, a viral video of a crack between the fans’ feet ended with the judicial disqualification of one of the trays that the brava bar usually occupies. the fury of 1 o’clock2 then moved to the neighbors:

– Sell the house, the whore that gave birth to you!

The chant from the stands went against the residents of Calle Iberlucea, two blocks that were stuck to the side of the stadium when it was inaugurated in 1940. La Bombonera, built among the tenements and low houses in the heart of the La Boca neighborhood, In the popular south of Buenos Aires, it was born incomplete: in a narrow space, it remained like a horseshoe with three trays and a low gallery open to the neighborhood. Its expansion is a discussion that has been going on for decades, and these weeks, while its eternal rival, River Plate, reopened its stadium with 83,000 seats, it has returned to the agenda. Mouth has more than 300,000 members and a stadium that can barely receive 54,000. Most of the neighbors say they are ready to sell, but a lifetime of family neighborhood is not given any price. And they haven’t listened to offers for years.

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“The club never made the decision to make a specific offer,” says Pablo Abbatángelo, architect and partner of Boca Juniors. Secretary of the city’s professional real estate association, former director of works for the club and grandson of the team president who ordered the construction of the stadium almost 80 years ago, Abbatángelo was also in charge of the last serious survey carried out among the residents in 2017. His survey counted 129 “functional units”, houses, apartments and businesses for which the purchase should be negotiated. “From this survey it emerges that 65% of the owners were in a position to sell now, another 20% have some totally rectifiable paper problem, such as an unfinished succession, and the remaining 15% have a certain speculative desire,” he says. According to the calculations at that time, Boca Juniors had to pay some 19.6 million dollars to get the two apples it needs for the expansion. “Although the real estate market suffered a decline in recent years,” says the architect, “we understand that today the value is around 15 million dollars.”

A neighbor watches the Boca Juniors stadium from his rooftop in Buenos Aires.
A neighbor watches the Boca Juniors stadium from his rooftop in Buenos Aires.ENRIQUE GARCIA MEDINA

La Boca is a neighborhood with such a deep identity that it calls itself a republic. The Genoese immigrants who brought color to their tin houses in the late 19th century also wanted to form a nation to pledge allegiance to Umberto I of Savoy, Italy’s penultimate king. Diluted the Italian heritage in a century, it remains the identification with Boca Juniors, the ties between its neighbors and the stigma of being one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city.

It is enough to visit him while he is awake to think otherwise. On a Thursday at eight in the morning, Calle Iberlucea rises up little by little among the neighbors who take out the garbage, walk their dogs or go to work. Most of them were left in fear by the threats from the bar that came from the stands, but none refused to speak.

Rubén says that he has lived in the neighborhood for 52 years and that he would sell, but he thinks that leaving his four-room house, with no expenses and a terrace for what is paid per square meter in the neighborhood would be suicide. With that money he couldn’t buy something similar in another area of ​​the city. “If only they offered us an audience in exchange for what we are going to spend on expenses,” he laments.

María del Carmen has lived in the neighborhood for 58 years. She is a fan of Independiente, another powerful team from Buenos Aires, but she understands that it is important for Boca and the neighborhood that the stadium expand. “If they pay me what I want, I sell,” she says. “They say we don’t want to sell and it’s a lie, they do it so that the club members get angry with us.” Ezequiel, 34, lived his entire life in the neighborhood. From the terrace of the building where he lives he has a luxurious view over the entire stadium.

Alejandro Santucco, a 57-year-old former taxi driver, says that he grew up in La Boca and that he came back to take care of his mother, who is past eighty. Before the administration of the former president of the team and the country, Mauricio Macri, built luxury boxes in the stalls where the expansion was planned, from his balcony you could see the field. “When Maradona came to play for the club in 1982, the fans offered me coins to go up to watch the game from my house,” he recalls. “I couldn’t imagine a life outside the neighborhood.” Santucco also sums up the thoughts of many of his neighbors: “If they think of buying only for what the square meter of the neighborhood costs, the answer is a resounding no.”

Old houses next to the stadium.
Old houses next to the stadium.ENRIQUE GARCIA MEDINA

“If you have a Fiat 600 and with its sale you want to buy the latest Mercedes Benz, surely the equation is not going to work for you”, replies the architect Abbatángelo. “But I understand it, I was born in the neighborhood and I want this to be a negotiation where both parties benefit. It has already gone on for 25 years and should have a solution.”

Abbatángelo, who chairs a party organization for the club called La Bombonera, affirms that the great “cultural” battle that his group has wanted to wage has already been won: after decades of plans to expand the stadium, a majority voice is clear that Boca cannot be go from the neighborhood The two projects that are being handled now include acquiring the two blocks and closing the stadium or buying only the plots that overlook Iberlucea street to expand the current grandstand. A neighbor, Rubén Lopresti, 53, affirms that together with 67 neighbors of those plots they are ready to negotiate. “We are all fans of the team or are fond of it,” he says. “But the neighbors have lived here for so long that they should be paid more. The only thing we receive are threats that they will come with bulldozers.”

A few weeks ago, the architect Alejandro Csome told in a Twitter thread that in 1938, when the stadium was commissioned, the building codes had such a high safety factor that the stadium used much more steel than it needed. Enough to support 10 people of 75 kilos for each square meter. The years will pass, players will pass, there will be fewer neighbors left and La Bombonera, still cracked, will be there.

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