On the exterior of the world-famous La Bombonera stadium sit two outstanding murals by painter and sculptor Pérez Celis. They give a telling insight into the beautiful world of Boca Juniors fans and what heroes of yesteryear and the struggles of the support mean to the raucous fans of the Argentine club.
They force you to lookup. You take a step back, wondering what it all means. And at that moment, staring high into the Buenos Aires sky, taking in the splendor of the Celis’s exceptional work, you realize you’ve made it. You’re there, standing proudly in front of the most distinctive, awkward, dominating, and beautiful stadium in world soccer, La Bombonera.
Boca’s Favorite Star
He stood surrounded by family and friends in his lavish box. Diego Maradona, the king of La Bombonera, the man who spent just a solitary season of brilliance in the early 1980s and won a single league title in Buenos Aires, saluted his followers. The Boca Juniors fans bowed back, aware that the king had acknowledged them.
Despite his high perch in the strangely shaped stadium, El Diego belongs to his people. He belongs to the Los Xeneizes, the fans of this great institution.
Many decades before Maradona, before Boca was the world-renowned club they are today, Italian migrants left the shores of the poverty-ridden peninsula. They made their way across the South Atlantic to Argentina. There they would discover a land of limited opportunities, Spanish speakers, and stunning scenery.
Immigrants From Genoa
Many migrants to the capital Buenos Aires were from the northern city of Genoa. With them, they brought their flair for Calcio, and in this melting pot of cultures, backgrounds, and history, formed an alliance that would eventually result in the birth of a club from La Boca, their neighborhood.
Having brought famous dishes like pizza and pasta from their homeland, they established Boca Juniors, under the guidance of Irish soccer player and boxer Paddy McCarthy. In a city just shy of a million inhabitants, the Italian migrants, who accounted for 50 percent of the new arrivals on Argentine shores, had a club to call their own.
In spite of the challenges of living on the other side of the world, the La Boca community remained close-knit and determined to succeed. Boca Juniors would grow from a tiny local club to the focal point of the community; it remains precisely that over a century later in the district of La Boca.
Blue And Yellow Jersey
The club’s influence quickly spread across Argentina, claiming that over half the nation supports its famous blue and yellow jersey. Despite being difficult to verify, there’s no question that Boca Juniors is the most widely-supported club in Argentina and the most popular South American side globally. They have become a true global super-club from humble beginnings as the brainchild of struggling Italian migrants.
It’s then a pleasant surprise to note the ferocity the fans today aim to preserve their history. There’s a genuine acceptance of the struggles that the early migrants had to overcome – of how they used soccer to bring their community closer together and find a place of joy for their children.
Boca Juniors Fans Defend Their Club
Perhaps that’s why the Boca Juniors fans fiercely defend their club in the face of adversity. Whether it’s the chants of Los Bosteros (The Manure Handlers), in recognition of the brick factory outside La Bombonera that used manure in its bricks, or River Plate fans hoisting an inflatable pig in the colors of Boca Juniors above their rivals’ support, the club will go to extreme lengths to defend their history and place as the biggest club in Argentina.
Unsurprisingly, things don’t always remain cordial in the city that hosts almost half of the 30 Primera División clubs. In 2015, Boca Juniors was unceremoniously booted out of the Copa Libertadores after their fans were found guilty of spraying rival River Plate players with irritant sprays as they made their way out of the tunnel for the game.  It was a black mark on the reputation of the Boca support and one that landed the club a $200,000 fine.
River Plate defender Rogelio Funes Mori, now of Al-Nassr, was heard shouting, “I can’t see, I can’t see. I am burning. This is not a war!”
Due to an attack on the Boca Juniors team bus, the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors football clubs was postponed for 24 hours in 2018. As the Buenos Aires police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, River Plate fans clashed with police outside the stadium.
The incident highlighted two clear points: firstly, Argentine football has a genuine problem with violent hooliganism, and secondly, that a small section of Boca Juniors fans are willing to sacrifice the fundamental, honest morals that the club was built upon to break down their rivals’ resolve.
The incident comes after years of violence at stadiums in Argentina. Salvemos al Fútbol, a soccer reform group, reported that five people died each year in Argentina as a result of fan-related violence between 2000 and 2009. 
While Boca Juniors supporters have not been the only culprits, they have failed to respond positively from their perch as the biggest club in Argentina.
That said, many Boca Juniors fans have taken to social media and internet forums to display their anger at the incidents that have cast a shadow over the support of the Buenos Aires club and many others in the top flight. However, the vast majority of Boca fans, peaceful but vociferous with their support, are against violence. After all, this is traditionally a family club that prides itself on a long and glorious history.
Despite violence often detracting from the true nature of support at La Bombonera, the vast majority of fans inside this iconic arena support their club in the best possible way: through decibel-busting chanting, incredible tifos, and unconditional support.
Boca Juniors Fans Rivals
Labeling their local rivals River Las Gallinas (The Chickens) for their perceived tendency to choke in big games is a humorous retort that has been passed down the generations. In fact, the Boca Juniors fans, famously directed by the excellent Número 12 society, have nicknames for most of their top-flight rivals. They verge from the extreme to the downright funny.
The number 12 has been an integral part of Boca’s history, representing the fans for almost a century. The club is acutely aware that their support lends itself as the 12th man on match days, and they are often treated with the same reverence as players and staff at Azul y Oro.
These Boca fan come alive when matchday rolls into town. With their prominent display of blue and gold tifos – some covering a third of the stand – around the stadium, the fans create a visual atmosphere like no other in the world of soccer. Streaks of gold paper rush down from the highest reaches of La Bombonera, and Boca fans clamber atop the mesh fences to perch themselves above the pitch and in the greatest vantage points of all.
From there, many direct the support. The chants are pre-rehearsed, known by all the Xeneizes before entering the stadium. They all have songs for historical legends like Maradona and Mouzo to modern heroes like Riquelme, Tevez, and Palermo. They’re all serenaded and made to feel like they’re the most integral part of the family. The Boca Juniors fans can make you feel love like few others.
As the jungle of blue and gold bubbles with life, swaying from side to side in a stadium with acoustics to rivals any other in the game, the players ride on their shoulders, taking in the electric atmosphere and often rising to the occasion. That’s what the fans expect – that their support of the club is repaid with honest performances. There’s no time for passengers and passers-by; you’re either 100 percent in or 100 percent out. That’s the Boca way.
Perhaps that’s why Carlos Tevez was so hungry to move back to his beloved Boca. It’s like a bug you can’t shake, a disease that eats at your very core, calling you back and making you want another fleeting moment in the sun. It’s spectacular how La 12 can make you feel like the most unique player Argentine football.
In a world where soccer players share their every move on social media, where their lifestyle is on show for everyone to see, it’s not hard to imagine what life must be like for the professional player. But, it’s a good world – one where you’re paid incredible sums of money to do what you love.
Few things in the world are left to the imagination anymore. We know what to expect wherever we go and whatever we do. While that statement holds true in most cases, it fails to explain what it means to watch a game at La Bombonera. You can’t imagine what the atmosphere is like, especially if you’re a fan from outside South America.
Boca Juniors are a club like no other. They’re the embodiment of worlds colliding in the beating heart of Argentina. Their colors are taken from a Swedish boat adorning the national flag, their early talent, and a group of Italian working-class migrants formed them. Yet, they still represent values and boast a history. That’s the antithesis to much of soccer today. Their fans, La 12, are much the same.
Boca Juniors Fans Love
In a sport losing touch with the men and women that for so long made it tick, Boca Juniors’ supporters, the good and the bad, represent an ideal. They represent the acute meaning of loving a club through everything, of loving their players and keeping them as one of their own. And through their support, their noisy, brutal support, they’ve managed to retain a relationship with the men they come to watch every week. They’ve made Boca Juniors a club like no other. A club where players feel like they’re a part of the stadium.
La Boca may be a working-class neighborhood in Buenos Aires to many, but it’s one of the last bastions in soccer where through their actions, Boca Juniors fans have managed to maintain a bond with their players like no other.
 and : www.edition.cnn.com/2015/05/17/football/boca-river-ban/index.html
Getty Images (main image)
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!