La Bombonera. Quite possibly the most intimidating stadium in the Football world and home to arguably Argentina’s biggest Football club. The club that Diego Maradona has supported all his life – Boca Juniors. The stadium, with a capacity of 49,000 (which fills more than that though), is filled with supporters that are capable of creating an atmosphere which would make places like the Nou Camp and Old Trafford seem like libraries in comparison. Boca’s Ultras are recognized for being among the most passionate fans in the world. So passionate, that it borders on disturbing.
For many years, Boca Juniors fans would perform a tradition that would demonstrate just how obsessive they are. It’s a tradition that was, for many years, the only one of its kind in the Football world. No Football clubs anywhere else in the world (unless I’m mistaken) have got any traditions anywhere near as extreme as this Boca tradition. If you’re looking for truly loyal and passionate fans, Boca Juniors’ supporters are the ones to watch; as many of their fanatics (which to be fair, are the majority of their fans) would leave instructions to their families that, once they have passed away, they would like their bodies to be cremated and their ashes spread onto La Bombonera’s pitch. That was their final wish. No worries about distributing money in their will, nor about houses to their loved ones or any requests about material objects. The only thing they would request, and they would go through a legal procedure to do this, is for their ashes to be spread across La Bombonera. That is real fanaticism. Real dedication!
True to their loved ones’ wishes, friends and family members would attend matches and would perform this act of scattering the ashes onto La Bombonera’s pitch. This was a normal tradition for Boca’s fans. It became almost predictable that at every Boca game there were numerous supporters holding bags of ashes and throwing them onto the pitch. It happened extremely often. However, this tradition had to end. Not because it was ridiculous. Not because some ashes would be flying in the air and onto people’s face. Not because it’s almost insanely inhuman for a person to ask that his or her ashes to be dispersed onto a football field - but simply because this act was repeated so often that the ashes actually had a major effect on the actual grass. It happened so frequently that the grass was being ruined. As human ashes are made up of calcium, when it rains they turn into a solid brick similar to cement so the club's management had banned the act from taking place (even though some people still sneak in and do it). They did however find a solution to satisfy Boca's fans; and this again shows to what lengths their fans would go to show their love for their club.
They created a Boca Juniors cemetery exclusively for Boca Juniors supporters to be buried there alongside their fallen heroes. The club has already pretty much marketed every possible object into a product for their team. From thongs to toothbrushes and now they’ve given their fans the option of buying grave spaces, and tombstones, which allow them to be placed next to some of Boca’s fallen heroes. The burial spots at the cemetery have got prices at the cemetery vary from $500 to $5000, and has actually got grass in the Parque Iraloa, where the cemetery is located, that has been extracted from La Bombonera to allow fans to finally “rest in peace”.
A very famous Boca chant goes something along the lines of “Even death cannot separate us, from heaven I will cheer you on”, and it seems they’ve made use of those lines to somehow try and give it a literal meaning. They've given the place a feeling that would make Boca's fans feel at "home". They have even prepared a spot for Diego Maradona as well over there, even though, the legend himself has never commented on this. I wonder what the price will be to be buried alongside the great man when his time comes? Thankfully Maradona’s in good shape these days and we won’t have to think about that happening for some time yet.
(this post is dedicated to Julien Jressati)