It is no secret that fútbol (soccer) is extremely important throughout all of Latin America, but I have found this to be especially true here in Argentina.
Argentina has a long history of success with the sport on both international and local levels, and rivalries are strong on both levels as well. Coming to Argentina, I was really excited to embrace this emphasis on soccer, as I played the sport throughout my childhood and high school and was excited to be in a culture that placed it front and center — unlike that of the United States. I was even more excited when one of our program leaders organized a night for us to play fútbol in Argentina with the locals.
We held the game at one of the many indoor stadiums here in Buenos Aires and it was fun to watch some of the more competitive groups play while we waited for the field that we had reserved to be free. Our game was very casual and we split up into three teams so everyone would have a chance to take a break while other teams were playing. Honestly, I was a little nervous that my skills would be embarrassing compared to those of the locals, but they were all so kind and welcoming. Thankfully, my high school soccer days are not too far behind me, so I felt like I fit right in!
While playing a sport that I loved was super fun, my highlight of the night was getting to know the other university students who lived in Buenos Aires. It turns out that a lot of them were from other places throughout Latin America or Europe, so I had the chance to not only learn about Argentine culture, but also that of many other countries. It was so cool to connect with people from all around the world through something like soccer.
After the game, we rented a grill at the stadium and had a traditional style parrilla — similar to a barbeque-style grilled meal. I had eaten parrilla multiple times already during my time here, but this time was different because I was eating it with Argentinians. For them, it was just a typical part of life. During the meal, we were all able to relax and share stories about our various soccer experiences from the past and I learned that some of my new friends played at a semi-professional level!
This night was one of the times throughout the semester that I felt the most a part of Argentine culture. For the other students, a soccer game and parrilla is a normal Saturday night and I was so grateful that they invited me to be a part of it!