Latin America continues to play a tremendous role in the social and global development of football. From Maradona to Boca Juniors, Argentina has been a pioneer in the foundation of football.
Fernando Monke, a passionate Argentinian fan, gives us an inside look at what it means to be a modern football fan in Argentina - both the good and the bad. The Independiente fan shares his thoughts on the 2030 World Cup (which is one of my favorite questions to ask), the downside of Argentina's football infrastructure and why Jürgen Klopp would be the ideal person to sit next to at a football match.
Wandering eyes, this is Fernando Monke’s story…
(Photo courtesy of Fernando Monke)
What’s your earliest fútbol memory?
It's hard to believe that I was only 10 years old when I went to Doble Visera, Independiente’s old stadium, for the first time. I was with my dad and it was an unforgettable experience. Some may only see pictures of it, but when you are there, it's even better than you imagined. Everything was magical.
It was Independiente versus Unión de Santa Fé and the result was 4 - 4. I was watching Usuriaga and Burruchaga closely. They were like superheroes to me. I remember all the people, the colors and songs! That experience signed my “lifelong contract” with Independiente.
Which teams do you support?
I'm an Independiente fan. I “inherited” this from my dad but it’s also by choice and feeling. My wife and her family are also Independiente fans. As a matter of fact, my in-laws met at Independiente`s stadium.
At our house, you breathe and feel Independiente. It's so much more than a football club. It's a way of life. It defines our calendar. Gives us unforgettable moments - it's synonymous with friends and family.
Marina, Fernando's wife (left) and Fernando (right), at Independiente's stadium (Photo courtesy of Fernando Monke)
Who’s your favorite player?
Over the years, I loved different players for different reasons, but there's no doubt that Ricardo Bochini is my favorite - it's impossible not to love him. He was Maradona's idol. He spent his entire career at Independiente, where he won a large number of titles and cups and was even a world champion with the Argentina national team.
My favorite foreign player is Gerrard - a true (Liverpool) icon, player and leader. When we were children, we would watch European football especially the Premier League. It was impossible not to love Gerrard. That also led us to love Liverpool, especially given its history, traditions, and values.
For those that are new to the football fandom and don’t know who Diego Maradona is, how would you explain his importance? Is he more important than Messi, Ronaldo, etc.?
Maradona was the most perfect one of the imperfect ones.
Maradona, for those who don't know him, united Argentinian people during a difficult time. Maradona came from extremely humble origins. But with his skills, he managed to conquer the world.
Thanks to his career, he is recognized on every corner of this planet. His fame and notoriety exceeds that of presidents, movie actors or rock stars. I don't want to imagine how difficult it must have been to be Maradona. Since a young age, everyone knew every step he took and questioned him - he had no privacy. Maradona's career took off in a direction in a way that he didn’t ask for - all he wanted to do was play football.
I think it's unfair to compare footballers. Especially players from different eras, times, and points in their careers. It's best to enjoy them all equally.
What’s fútbol culture like in Buenos Aires?
In Buenos Aires, as in all of Argentina, football = passion. It's much more than 90 minutes.
Sometimes there are people who take advantage and do a lot of crazy shit in the name of “passion”, but that has nothing to do with the true spirit of football and Argentine football culture. Unfortunately for many years, we’ve had bad leaders and poor organization at all levels, but that doesn't change an Argentinian’s love for football.
It's so much more than a sport. It's a social phenomenon. Football is lived and breathed every day and in every neighborhood.
Have you been to a game in abroad? If so, how does it compare to a game in Argentina?
We were lucky to attend matches at Anfield, Amsterdam Arena (now Johan Cruijff Arena), and RCDE Stadium. There are different levels of infrastructure and organization over there. In Argentina, there’s a lot of controversy and it’s difficult for fans to accept clubs that want to demolish its stadium and build a new one or move to another neighborhood to build a stadium. There's a strong sense of tradition and belonging to their stadium. It's like their place or their home. On top of that, if you add the many years of not investing money in maintaining or modernizing stadiums, that’s an enormous difference compared to other parts of the world where you'll find modern stadiums.
Marina and Fernando pictured in front of the RCDE stadium in Barcelona, Spain (Photo courtesy of Fernando Monke)
I think that motivates soccer fans to visit foreign stadiums or journey to Argentina to see stadiums from decades ago.
Regarding the experience, it’s completely different. Matches are much quieter overseas compared to Argentina. Argentina match day culture makes us different and attracts fans from other countries.
We had the chance to witness Liverpool fans singing, “You'll Never Walk Alone” at Anfield. It brought tears to our eyes.
Marina and Fernando snapping a selfie at Anfield (Photo courtesy of Fernando Monke)
What are your thoughts on 2030? Do you believe that Uruguay, Argentina and other Latin American countries should host the 2030/100th anniversary of the World Cup?
It would only be possible because it’s the 100th anniversary. Our region is so spread out compared to other parts of the world. It’s not so simple. There aren't many travel options. In addition to that, there’s also a huge difference in the structure of stadiums. It would be complete nonsense if governments invested large amounts of money to organize a World Cup when there are several needs and higher priorities of things to change.
What would be your dream match to attend?
First thing that comes to mind is Liverpool v United at Anfield. I would also add Nacional v Peñarol, Inter v Milan, or Olympique v PSG at Velodrome.
Marina and Fernando at Anfield (Photo courtesy of Fernando Monke)
What do you want to see changed in the world of football?
As a passionate fan, I would really like to stop seeing the teams and leagues compared and treated differently, especially when they have different economic resources.
Do you think everyone in the football community is well respected?
There’s a lot of intolerance and rejection of minorities. It's a shame that a sport so universal and globalized, there are still elements of hatred.
For football fans who visit Argentina, what’s a place they must visit?
As an Independiente fan, I’d recommend Libertadores De América - the Ricardo Enrique Bochini stadium.
Argentina has a huge passion and culture for football. Some stadiums offer tours. In Rosario, there are Messi tours. In Córdoba and Mendoza, you can visit stadiums that were used in the 1978 World Cup.
If you really want to know Argentine football and the passion Argentinians have for the sport, you should definitely attend a match. You will feel all the madness, happiness and passion - it’s such a unique experience regardless who plays.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being a football fan?
Unfortunately in Argentine football, there's a big lack of organization. Fans aren’t valued and pay the price for the lack of organization. In addition, soccer is becoming less popular and accessible to the general public. In our country, many years ago, we couldn’t even go see our team’s away games. It seems like there are more and more things that prevent fans from going to stadiums. However, our passion is much stronger.
If you could sit next to any person at a football game, who would it be? What would you want to chat about?
Due to his knowledge, philosophy and passion, it would be entertaining to sit with Jürgen Klopp. I would love to see how he plans and “reads” the game.
Let's say you were to be honored at an Independiente game and you get to walk out to the field and meet the players, coaches and staff. What would be the perfect song to play in the stadium as you experience this moment?
I would choose Juguetes Perdidos by Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota. This song would be perfect for a unique and unforgettable moment.
When you hear the word, “football”, what words come to mind?
Love. Family. Friends. Red. Share. Unforgettable moments. Travel.
Soccer is much more than a sport. That's what makes it unique - that's the beauty of all this.
We can be different genders, children or adults, live thousands of miles apart, speak different languages, wear different colors, practice different religions, or believe in opposing political views, but when the whistle blows and the ball starts to roll, we all feel the same adrenaline pulsing through our veins.
Fernando and Marina at an Independiente match (Photo courtesy of Fernando Monke)
You thought that was the end, huh? Mwahaha no!
Here's a special message from Fernando:
With Marina, my wife, from stadiums, traditions to customs, we both share a strong passion for football. Every time we have the chance to travel, we try to see the stadiums and catch a match if possible.
At the beginning of the pandemic, with isolation and a lot of time at home, we decided to bring Groundspotters to light. We had the idea for some time but given the time that we had we thought it was a good time to start.
With our account, we share our own material, photos and videos. It’s all about our experiences at different stadiums or matches. We want to share with the world what Independiente and Argentine football means to us.
Groundspotters has given us the chance to meet people from all over the world. We have also been able to advise, suggest or clear doubts for those that want to visit Argentina and/or learn about Argentinian football. We are continuously growing and we collaborate with other accounts. The two of us even joined the FIFA Fan Movement and have met a large number of people from Argentina and other countries with the same interests as us.
And with that being "said", please go support Fernando and Marina’s football travels and experiences! Go give them a follow @groundspotters !!