Sat, Jun 09, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Argentine fans there for the music


Members of a San Lorenzo fan group called “La Butteler” play songs to support their team before the start of a match in Buenos Aires on April 11.

Photo: AP

San Lorenzo have just scored the decisive goal to qualify for the Libertadores Cup, but in the stands behind one of the goals, fans of the Argentine team barely notice.

In those seats, reserved for the most passionate followers, nobody is paying much attention to the match. Under a sea of the team’s blue and red banners, so many that they make it almost impossible to see the pitch, the fans dance, jump and sing. They play trumpets and crash cymbals and chant pop songs with the lyrics changed, turning them into odes to their team.

Carolina Rutkoweski waves her arms and shakes her hips as she sings: “San Lorenzo, what I feel I can’t explain / I’ll be with you always / Because the blue and red runs in my soul” to the music of Luis Fonsi’s hit Despacito.

“You feel the football match in your body, through your veins. No need to watch it,” said the 44-year old woman at halftime of the game against Chacarita.

San Lorenzo are not powerhouses like Boca Juniors or River Plate, but their fan base is known for its talent in rewriting local hit songs, turning them into stadium anthems. Despite intense rivalries that sometimes turn violent, other teams acknowledge San Lorenzo’s creativity and often adapt the chants for their own cheers.

Only a week before the start of the World Cup, San Lorenzo fans have written a new song for the Argentine national team, hoping it would become as popular with players and audience as the one sung in stadiums during the last World Cup, a put-down to host country Brazil based on a melody by Creedence Clearwater Revival that went “Oh Brazil, tell me how it feels.”

“San Lorenzo’s songs tell a story, it’s not just throwing together some lines that rhyme,” said Sergio Peljhan, one of the chant’s writers. “In soccer culture there are battle songs — they’re like a call to arms, but our songs don’t have many insults or references to drugs. Our intention is to celebrate, not to inspire violence.”

San Lorenzo achieved some renown in 2013, when one of their fans, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became Pope. Then they shot to fame again when fans chanted their soccer-themed version of Despacito, composed by a small group of devotees called “Escuela de Tablones” (School of Wooden Planks) in honor of the wooden seats in many stadiums. The chant went viral and then was taken up by stadium crowds in Spain, Portugal, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Uruguay and Ecuador.

The new song was recorded by the Wooden Planks in a house outside Buenos Aires and was released last month. The song is based on Echame la Culpa, another track by Fonsi. The Wooden Planks said they contacted the Puerto Rican singer’s recording label and it agreed to let them record.

San Lorenzo, one of Argentina’s top five soccer clubs, was formed in 1908 in a middle-class suburb of Buenos Aires. Initially, the team played in a stadium dubbed “El Gasometro” because it resembled an industrial gas field, until in 1979 the nation’s then-military rulers seized the land that would later be sold to a French supermarket chain.

During the 14 years that San Lorenzo lacked a home base, they played in borrowed stadiums and were often the butt of jokes and object of disdain by their rivals. It was then that the fans became inspired to answer with homemade chants.

Just as the players stretch their muscles before the game, the musical fans prepare their vocal chords and practice the lyrics that have been bouncing around social media and WhatsApp messaging groups the past few days.

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