San Lorenzo in Boedo

Going to watch a local San Lorenzo game is a hypnotic experience in which the stands dance as if they were waves and rumble as if they were thunder. The Buttler lights the fuse and the New Gasometer explodes. There are many stadiums in Argentina with similar environments, but this one has something special, it is more carnival and there is a mantra, an idea, which is repeated continuously in its endless melodies, in its banners, on its t-shirts: Back to Boedo.

After more than three decades of forced exile, the San Lorenzo de Almagro Athletic Club will return home to the popular Boedo neighborhood south of the capital, populated by middle-class workers and with a strong identity of popular Buenos Aires culture. The Barça club has its current stadium in Bajo Flores, in front of one of the most depressed villas-misery in Buenos Aires and four kilometers away from the neighborhood that saw him born and breastfed him until 1979 when the old Gasometer was closed after sixty years of existence With capacity for 76,000 spectators, it was the largest stadium in the country until its demolition, and with it, they demolished the place where the kids in the neighborhood played sports and where retirees played chess, a large library, spaces for cultural events and even something common In Argentina, a school. There are neighborhoods in this country that revolve around a football club and this was one of them.

With more than a century of history, the Cyclone spent its best years between 1968 and 1974, accumulating titles with a team that everyone still remembers. It was the time of “Los Matadores”. But, as of 1975, everything was twisted. They were losing prominence progressively, while ineffective directives accumulated problems and debts. When it seemed that they had already hit bottom, something even worse came. Videla’s dictatorship began and, in his attempt to use mass sport in his favor, he benefited other clubs, but ignored San Lorenzo and eventually forced him to sell his historic stadium. There were protests, but they were severely repressed and the president who sold, years later, would confess that he received threats from the Military Government. The excuse was an urban planning plan that was never developed, and the lands of Avenida de la Plata ended up in the hands of a ghost society. The stadium was there, empty, for years. A temple of passion turned into a pile of scrap metal collecting dust, perfectly exemplifying the moment the country was going through. Sometime later, the multinational Carrefour bought the land paying nine times more than what the club received for him, to put his first hypermarket in Argentina.

The following years were hard for the fan of San Lorenzo renting the fields of River, Vélez and Huracán, the eternal rival. The situation continued to degenerate until, in 1982, they lost the category involved in a serious identity crisis. For the first time, a team “of the greats” went down to B. They were very difficult moments, but the fans did not let the club die. Despite the decline and playing rented away from home, they were the country team with the highest collection of tickets that year and won the championship, returning to First. During the next decade, fans paid with each entry an extra supplement, until, in 1994, they were able to build the New Gasometer, their second court, in a remote area of Boedo and without any relation to the history of the club.

With the new court, the team was regaining stability. In 1995 they won the Clausura Tournament after twenty years in white since the golden period prior to the dictatorship and, in 2014, they got their first Liberators, while the dream of returning home was finished. The Subcommission of the Fan has been collecting signatures and donations for years, mobilizing to return and recover its origins. At first, they were ignored, but, little by little, his dream was penetrating other fans until he reached the current directive, which has taken the matter very seriously. The first step was to build a sports center, where basketball teams will soon start playing, but it was not until 2012 when the Historic Restitution Law opened a door to recover the entire land of Avenida de la Plata, recognizing the club as legitimate owner and setting the parameters of a negotiation that would take years. Carrefour, finally, has just accepted the offer of 150 million pesos for 75% of the land and will even be part of the new project, putting one of its stores in the remaining 25%. The plan is very ambitious and again it has been the fans themselves who have taken it forward, symbolically repurchasing the site where they will rebuild their history. From the worker who has bought a meteorite, to the actor Viggo Mortensen, who took over an entire area. Thus they will finance half of the work; the other half will be faced by the club thanks to the credits obtained by its healthy financial situation.

Although not all neighbors see the change with good eyes, the truth is that the area has changed a lot in recent years. The supermarket has eaten all the shops in the area and has been left a little in no man’s land. The return of San Lorenzo home is something natural and also serve to recover the neighborhood. The project goes beyond building a building to use it once every fifteen days and will integrate into the same space several sports and cultural complexes, squares, and green areas, much needed in the area, shops, a public school, offices, and plazas parking. The works will begin within a year when the French multinational has dismantled its current building. In 2019, San Lorenzo will open its third stadium and the dream will finally be fulfilled. They will show again that football in Argentina is something else and that, however perverted it may be for commercialization, the unconditional love and sense of belonging of these fans remains intact. Going back to Boedo will cease to be a mantra, to be a reality.