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Football
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Argentina Futbol Club

Rating:

For many, the Superclasico is the most passionate and intense derby in football. Boca Juniors and River Plate are far and away the biggest clubs in Argentina - between them, they are estimated to boast 70% of fans in the country - and their meetings have a seismic impact on the people of Buenos Aires.

Argentina Futbol Club, which was shown as part of London's 'Kicking + Screening' football film festival in late September, is a documentary exploring not so much the rivalry between the clubs as the rivalry between the fans. Fanaticism is etched deep into the Argentinean psyche and, as the film shows, is manifested in strange ways.

There is an ageing River fan who shows such remarkable dedication to recording statistics - including the weather and temperature changes during games - that he develops a kind of celebrity status, while another supporter cuts pictures of the opposition from newspapers so he can ritualistically put them in the freezer ahead of the derby. In one scene, a group of television pundits offer up their predictions for the game, prompting the presenter to theatrically look under the table in search of impartiality. "I can't find it," he says.

Even a local with no interest in the sport turns up outside the stadium on match day. "I'm only here to observe the irrationality of these people who spend five hours to watch a meaningless game," he explains.

The violence that can afflict the game in Argentina is also covered but, to his credit, Argentina Futbol Club director Juan Pablo Roubio never allows his film to become bogged down by the negativity, preferring to emphasise the playful and the quirky. That makes for an enjoyable experience, but the film also expends its scope to help sustain interest, most notably in its exploration of the country's fiercely-defended fan ownership model.

There are interesting observations on the international game, too, and how Boca legend Diego Maradona was able to bring together fans of the rival clubs during his playing days. As the footage of the famous Iglesia Maradoniana - 'Maradonian Church' - shows, Maradona is a unique figure in Argentinean football history. When he played, the country was united behind the national team - particularly when his goals against England at the 1986 World Cup saw Argentina gain revenge for the Malvinas (Falklands) war - but these supporters otherwise care little for anything but their clubs.

Entertaining and revealing as it is, the film lacks the kind of narrative thread that would make it truly gripping throughout, and it is unfortunate that it was produced prior to River's astonishing relegation in 2011. Even so, the eccentricity and passion of the fans mean that, while Argentina Futbol Club is certainly a niche offering outside Argentina, it is a film that has the inherent charm to fascinate any follower of football.

For more information, visit the film's official website here

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