It was a fantastic opening night in La Plata with a spectacular if not slightly-out-of-time opening ceremony, which brilliantly combined images of 100 years of football, centuries of South American culture and 21st century sci-fi cinematography concepts. Those of us lucky enough to be accredited journalists had fantastic views from near the centre circle of Argentina’s most modern sports arena. La Plata stadium is as modern as any stadium in the world but whereas some modern stadia are soulless, La Plata certainly has a personality, although I get the sense that for your average Argentine fan, long established stadia with history and memories are still preferable.
It was quite simply the coldest I have ever been watching a football match anywhere in the world. Yes, it was only about minus one, but the cold really did get inside your bones, despite the free energy bars to keep you going. I was sat just 20 metres away from ‘Mr Bolivia’, the Bolivian President Evo Morales, and it was interesting to see a political leader who genuinely seems to be respected by your average man in the street in another country other than his own. Of course, though, the number one alpha male present was Lionel Messi, a man on course to be recognised as one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen. I sat next to a Venezuelan radio journalist, with two Peruvian gentlemen in front of me, and it is clear to see that the mere presence of Messi in the stadium turns otherwise mature individuals into excited schoolboys.
As it was, despite moments of brilliance from Messi, this freezing cold night belonged to Bolivia, who put in a resolute performance to leave La Plata with a deserved point.
By the time the journalists’ buses got back to La Plata it was 2am and many of us struggled to hail taxis to get back to our various homes for the night. In our case, myself, Nurnberg Charles and Equadorian Antonio possibly looked like a bunch of bandits with our head scarves, hats and numerous layers of jumpers and coats, and most drivers thought better of picking us up.
Copa America 2011
A blog from the 2011 Copa America and road trip around Argentina.