Didier Drogba, Dwight Yorke and Ji-Sung Park are among the star international footballers confirmed for the special Football For Fires match in Sydney in May.
The forthcoming Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors is an unprecedented sporting, cultural and social event in Argentina, with one newspaper already declaring that “the country will never be the same after this”.
The mood in the romantic, ever-charming capital city of Buenos Aires has automatically switched to electric, with workplaces, schools, buses and the Subte already full of replica jerseys and conversation about both teams’ chances – and this still with eight days to go before kick-off.
Having lived here for a mere five weeks, I have luckily been plunged right in to the belly of the Superclásico beast, buzzing at the thought of bearing witness to the peak of the most intense rivalry in world sport in all its messy, theatrical and slightly dangerous glory.
Quite simply it cannot be overstated how monumental (pun intended) these two fixtures will be, with the hatred between the club’s supporters sure to plumb near-fracking levels of previously-unimaginable depths.
Just three years ago the two met in the semi-final stage of the same competition, with the second leg at Boca’s La Bombenera stadium not even going ahead due to Boca fans teargassing River players as they walked out of the tunnel. While they must have felt like fleeting heroes, the match was then awarded to River in a walkover, and they subsequently claimed their third Libertadores title.
The continued fascination and romance of this rivalry lies in the fact that modern football can be so corporate and sanitised it barely resembles the same sport of even 15 years ago. The Superclásico cedes no ground to that world, and therefore evokes a more vividly passionate era, one where clubs were stacked with local lads who would die for the shirt and take on the world.
Tickets on the re-sale market are already at record prices, with $1000 USD being quoted for the cheap seats (trust me, I’ve already tried), far beyond the financial means of a large majority of Argentinians. The Willy Wonka-esque scramble for any of these tickets will be one of the more humorous aspects of this whole drama, a welcome respite from the suffocating grip on society it will take.
The end is nigh, a wild west feel is forming, and the destiny of both clubs will be shaped by two matches, whether they want it to or not. See you on the other side.