Diego Maradona, Hand of God: My Trip To La Bombonera, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Diego Maradona, Hand of God: My Trip To La Bombonera, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Right then – Diego Maradona – easily my favourite ever non-British footballer. Fact. The Argentinian superstar, a small, arrogant kid from the streets of Buenos Aires who set the world alight with his amazing dribbles. You’d be hard pressed to ever find a better footballer for his height. He was quite simply the best player in the world in his era, winning the World Cup once (in 1986), being runner up on another occasion (1990) and also playing for Barcelona, Napoli and of course…Boca Juniors.

And to think it took me 30 years to finally end up in Buenos Aires – a city we hear so much about, but yet cannot quite begin to understand until we go there. I took this photo outside the Cabildo Rosa, a pink palace somewhere central. There’s a lot more memories of the actual city of BA to be covered separately, including a bumper night out – a pub crawl which rivals any I’ve been on.

La Boca – is both the name of the area and that that lends itself to the football team, of Boca Juniors. 
It’s actually quite a run down and poor area, yet absolutely amazing looking. These colourful style housing add that bit of glamour and give it a real arty look. Other parts of South America seem to have copied this style of housing (Colombia and Venezuela for sure) but none have encapsulated art in poor surroundings the way La Boca has.

Boca Juniors is the name of the team. CABJ – Club Atletico Boca Juniors.
They play in a dark blue kit with a yellow stripe (or sometimes tint to it). This club, based in Buenos Aires, is where Diego Maradona became a superstar long before he moved to Napoli or Barcelona, or lifted the World Cup.
And so I made the obvious trip there. On the bus to La Boca. The bus was also blue and yellow just to get me in the mood for some Maradona reminiscing.

The streets and blue and yellow with flags and buildings. Very picturesque.
My first glimpse of La Bombonera, the Boca Juniors stadium. 

It’s an amazing stadium. So colourful, and I thought of other yellow and blue teams, such as Bangor FC in my hometown. A team I don’t support myself, but have many friends that do. Their finest hour was winning the 1993 Irish Cup and later almost knocking out Apoel Nicosia of Cyprus – a team now in the last 16 of the Champions League, no less. Torquay United also got a quick reminisce of my trip to their stadium of Plainmoor. Three teams all playing in blue and yellow, yet this building of immense capacity and history was somehow more inspiring, lended in some way by the history of the legend of Diego.

Having a beer at Bangor FC’s yellow and blue stadium, Clandeboye Park, Bangor, Northern Ireland.
Thanks to my friend David Watson, here’s an image of a Bangor FC Supporter’s Team, who similarly to Boca Juniors have yellow and blue as their main colours. Both stadiums are also quite close to the sea…

Torquay United’s yellow and blue stadium, Plainmoor, Torquay, England. Which I have been to once, back in 2006 for a SOENISC meeting. On a day where we met Maik Taylor and Damien Johnson, of Birmingham and Northern Ireland in a 0-0 draw in an FA Cup tie.

Just for good measure and on the subject of yellow and blue teams, here’s the sexy Helen Chamberlain, a Torquay United fan. One with her top on, one with her top off…back to Maradona and La Bombonera then…

There’s a museum there. Museo de La Pasion Boquense. It’s actually quite dear to enter, but the entrance part of the stadium contains a lot of information and memorabilia on its own and is free! Plus there’s a club shop there.

There’s a Diego Maradona statue inside and everybody takes turns to stand by it.

Probably not many with a Northern Ireland shirt and flag mind you…

The shop there is full of souvenirs of every type you’d expect in football. The thing is, I like to travel light on a big trip and didn’t actually buy anything.

Wasn’t even tempted by the signed Maradona shirts.

Yet another Maradona picture inside La Bombonera. Beyond this part was the museum entrance.

The pitch and stadium, empty.

What it would be like when it’s full. I actually missed the big derby by a few weeks – Boca Juniors v River Plate. I was there in early November 2010. I also saw the River Plate stadium, and for the first time in their history, River Plate were relegated from the top flight that year!

It’s pretty busy and touristy and what surprised me most was being outnumbered by females at a football stadium for the first time – really – even if this photo doesn’t prove it, there were much more females than males in and around La Bombonera.

The sheer immensity of the stadium architecture.

Stadium plan. Odd shape, but hey it works!
There are stars outside, one of course for Diego, so I put my foot in it.
More recent legends such as Gabriel Batistuta also featured amongst the stars.
I felt my trip to La Bombonera was more than simply a football visit. These shops, bars and restaurants nearby give the entire area a real appeal. The buildings are so colourful (yellow and blue of course) and pretty. However I resisted to have a beer by the stadium, probably would have done if I’d been there on a matchday. Plus, Argentina’s most popular beer (and once a sponsor of Boca Juniors), Quilmes, is probably the worst beer I’ve ever had. Revolting stuff.
Nearby streets all blue and yellow dominant. Bangor fans could find themselves at home here.
This picture makes it look like the streets weren’t busy! But they were packed! I met a Belgian couple and the dude kindly took a few photos of me.
There are Maradona murals everywhere. And understandly so. A true genius.
My favourite mural was the one of the famous “Hand of God”, a goal which in retrospect is simply part of football history. Even if he cheated, he did admit it was a handball (albeit via ‘God’), and it’s actually the referee and linesman’s fault for not disallowing the goal. The match in question (a clip on video below) was a 1986 World Cup Quarter Final between England and Argentina. Argentina won 2-1, though were 2-0 up at one point. Gary Lineker almost equalised towards the end from a John Barnes cross. But this was Maradona’s day of glory. Not just the “Hand of God”, but his second goal, which was pure class. He outran the entire England team on his own. It was his World Cup and he deserved to win it. The first photo of this article was of me “doing the Maradona” a moment which I really enjoyed.
The Northern Ireland flag got yet another airing there, on life’s short corridor I may never visit La Bombonera again.
I resisted paying the dear entrance fee for the museum as I’m a bit of a budget cheapskate traveller, instead walked the lonely streets nearby until my bus took me to another part of Buenos Aires. Seeing the murals, being there and getting my photo with the Maradona statue were enough for me. And I did buy one thing there – a yellow and blue postcard which I sent to my brother in Northern Ireland.
Some random photos now – 6 Belgium players lined up to try and beat Maradona. In the 1982 World Cup, Argentina (as reigning champions) lost 1-0 to Belgium in the group stage. Four years later they got their revenge, winning 2-0 in the semi final in Mexico, both goals scored by Maradona. Both goals absolute genius.
Maradona’s famous Hand of God. England’s Peter Shilton just can’t quite reach it.
A penis comparison – Pele v. Maradona. Judge them both on individual merit I say! And George Best of Northern Ireland was better than them both anyway…
The stadium looks immense in amongst some quite basic and poor housing. Proof once again that football is indeed the greatest game on planet earth. Those with no money can at least afford a ball and a set of goalposts…It was some experience. A truly awe inspiring visit.
A photo on my bus journey out of La Boca. To Diego Maradona – thanks for the memories.
Official website of Boca Juniors: http://www.bocajuniors.com.ar/home/sitio

Information on La Boca: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Boca

While trawling the internet for more research I found this! An Argentine restaurant in Belfast, Northern Ireland:
Videos I made:


Videos of Diego Maradona:




(embedding on this seems to be ‘disabled’ but what a goal)


6. MARADONA PLAYS FOR TOTTENHAM IN 1986 (Ossie Ardiles Testimonial):

7. NORTHERN IRISH CLUB LINFIELD FC PLAYED ARGENTINA IN A FRIENDLY IN 1990, who didnt actually include Maradona in their line up, but nice bit of nostalgia. The match appears midway through this:

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