Atlanta 1 (Soriano 55′) beat Colegiales 0 at Estadio Don León Kolbowsky, crowd ~4,000, Primera B Metropolitana, 23 February 2013.
There’s a steep set of stairs between the Humboldt Street entrance to Club Atlético Atlanta’s Estadio Don León Kolbowsky and the seats in the main grandstand. The sweat pouring off the grey-haired, singlet-wearing fella at the top of the stairs suggests that the ascent wasn’t an easy task for a man of his ample carriage on such a sultry February afternoon. Old mate takes respite at a landing, where metal plaques enshrine lists of club presidents, captains and other notable achievements from Atlanta’s 104-year existence. Every supporter that enters the ground – and scales those stairs – is reminded of the history of their club upon entering their seat; a homage to the past so often lost in modern football, but profoundly evident on Humboldt Street.
If they were English, Atlanta would be described as a yo-yo club. They’ve had spells in the top tier but currently sit in the third division of Argentine football, the Primera B Metropolitana. Before the game, hundreds of fans mingle on Humboldt before entering the stadium. A sign hangs above their heads, optimistically pledging a return to the first division by 2014. Surveying the ramshackle surroundings, the banner might seem optimistic, but ‘Los Bohemios’ – so-called for their nomadic existence in the early 20th Century, when they were forced to hop between impermanent home grounds before settling in the Jewish barrio of Villa Crespo – are on track for promotion, sitting atop the Primera B Metro for the visit of Colegiales, who are languishing in last place.
The police presence is noticeably lighter than at Vélez midweek – a pair of female policeman are chatting at the gate, protecting the hoary old men selling tickets; they cost 120 pesos for a spot in the plateas (the good seats on the side of the pitch preferred by families and older supporters, leaving the populares for the more spritely barra brava). I’m given two little pieces of paper that look more like tickets for an RSL meat raffle, but they get me into the Kolbowsky, past the metal plaques commemorating the tireless efforts of the men who fought to keep the club afloat (Mr. Kolbowsky, of course, heading the list).
Atlanta’s location in Buenos Aires’ Jewish hub has made ‘Los Bohemios’ Argentina’s club judio; an integral part of the nation’s substantive Jewish population. In his endearingly warm history of Atlanta, Raanan Rein describes how Villa Crespo schoolboys spent their Monday mornings discussing football in Yiddish and how their fathers tucked into knishes and pletzalej on the terrace on a weekend. The club simultaneously allowed its hinchas to retain and reaffirm their Jewish traditions while allowing the diaspora to access mainstream Argentine culture. The tight-knit community vibe Rein articulates is evident in 2013. Groups of men greet each other with the customary kiss on the cheek before lighting up a cigarette and gesticulating wildly for an impassioned discussion of one thing or other, not fussed by the absence of running water in the bathrooms, the crumbling concrete grandstand, or the dishevelled northern wing of the ground that accommodates a busy train line.
As the trains to Retiro station rattle past, Atlanta completely outclass Colegiales in the sort of game that appears bound to end nil-all, where one team huffs and puffs but fails to blow the house down. ‘Los Bohemios’ sunk chance after chance into the terrace of passionate hinchas, who were working overtime in the warm summer sun to will their blue-and-gold heroes home, outsinging a feeble handful of away fans who were almost outnumbered by the police stationed there to protect them.
Atlanta’s prayers were answered just before the hour, when golden-locked striker Soriano netted a sharp goal before celebrating wildly in front of a doting gallery. The three points were a predictable and thoroughly-earned reward for the home side, who bolstered their bid for promotion, much to the relief of the sun-baked gallery.
An afternoon on Humboldt Street: a neat way to spend your Shabbat.