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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

La Bombonera is the famous ground of Boca Juniors
The need for expansion could carry Boca Juniors away from La Bombonera

Professional football is both commerce and culture.

It is not always easy to balance the two, as Argentina's biggest club are finding as they debate whether to move home.

Boca Juniors can currently cram just over 55,000 people into their stadium.

But if they are forced to make the ground all-seater then that figure will fall to around 30,000 - way too small for a club of their size and supporter base.

They are considering the idea of buying some land in order to construct a brand new 60-70,000 all seater palace.

In business terms there would seem to be no argument. The increased capacity will generate extra revenue which in the long run will make the new stadium pay for itself.

But if it goes ahead something very important could be thrown away - the club's very identity.

The new stadium will carry them across town; the two candidates to house the ground are the areas of Agronomia, the favourite, and Lugano. Both are some distance from La Boca.

In Spanish 'boca' translates as 'mouth'. La Boca is just that - right at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata river.

It is an area rich in the mysticism of Argentina's immigrant working class.

Millions arrived principally from Italy but also from Spain, Poland, Germany, Lebanon and elsewhere. They toiled in the docks or in the nearby meatpackers.

At night they played - given the fact that most of the men had come alone, the brothel was a key social centre.

This was the original territory of tango, the professionals of the night creating an erotic dance as they tried to ensnare their customers.

And on Sunday afternoons they went to the football. Boca Juniors' great rivals River Plate share the same earthy roots.

But long ago River moved out to the snooty suburbs. Boca stayed put - and that decision explains why the club is such a phenomenon.

The club are all about identity.

To support Boca is to celebrate this collective working class experience.

Diego Maradona, 'Diego of the people', has his own box at the ground, and is often to be seen leading the singing with his shirt off.

Before long he might be doing it somewhere else. As colourful and run down as ever, La Boca is a cramped neighbourhood, as acknowledged by the club's world famous home.

It is not a venue for sufferers of vertigo.

With no space available to the sides the stadium had to be built upwards - hence its name, ?La Bombonera' - the chocolate box, because it seems that one layer is directly on top of the other.

And now the need for expansion could carry Boca Juniors away from La Boca.

Some of what they might lose was apparent on Sunday, when the old stadium played host to a magnificent game against Velez Sarsfield.

Two goals and a man down against impressive opposition, most teams would have been out for the count.

But the legendary Bombonera roar inspired Boca to a thrilling 3-2 victory.

If the club goes ahead with the new stadium the capacity will be greater and the level of comfort much improved.

But the memories may not be as sweet as those that generations of fans have carried away from the chocolate box.

  • Tim Vickery takes part in Up All Night's World Football phone-in every Saturday morning at 0230 BST on BBC Radio Five Live

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