Racing Club de Avellaneda, commonly known as Racing Club or simply Racing, is football club located in Buenos Aires Province. They have won 17 league titles, most recently in 2014, and the Copa Libertadores in 1967. They are one of the “Big Five” clubs in Argentina. Racing Club is nicknamed “La Academia” because of their great success in the early 1900’s and by having “taught” the other clubs in Argentina how to win. However, there is much more that makes Racing Club such a unique and special football club.
Racing Club play in Estadio Juan Domingo Perón. Their stadium is commonly known as El Cilindro because of its perfectly circular design, something that is very unusual for a stadium without a running track. The two-tiered stadium with a capacity of 51,000 has a partially seated lower level and a fully seated upper level.
Due to the circular design of the stadium fans at midfield are some 30 yards away from the field. Despite this Racing Club have done something truly amazing. They painted futsal courts in the concrete space between the field and the stands where kids can play.
Santiago Fretes is one of the kids who plays on the painted courts in El Cilindro during Racing Club matches. Santiago became an internet sensation a few years ago after videos taken from the stands of his impressive skills went viral. Santiago had his right leg amputated after he was born with a genetic deformity, but that hasn’t deterred him from playing with (and beating) his friends on the futsal court during Racing Club matches.
One of Santiago’s most memorable moments was not a goal or a skill, but rather a heartwarming act of kindness. In the photo below, Santiago shared one of his crutches so that his friend could see over the advertising wall and witness one of the most special moments in the history of El Cilindro, the farewell celebration of Racing Club’s greatest player of all-time, Diego Milito.
Racing Club’s barra brava (their most passionate supporters) is known as La Guardia Imperial, or the Imperial Guard. Like any barra brava in Argentina, La Guardia Imperial is known for putting on extravagant displays of support. Throwing toilet paper that covers the field, smoke bombs, enormous tifos (banners), and a band that never stops playing create one of the most spectacular atmospheres in the world. The recibimientos, or receptions to players walking onto the field, are particularly impressive.
In a 2009 game between Racing and their rivals Independiente, players walk onto a toilet paper covered field:
The most important day of the year for Racing Club and their supporters is the day they play Independiente, their arch-rivals. This match is known as El Clásico de Avellaneda, and is the second-most important derby match in Argentine football, behind El Superclásico contested between Boca Juniors and River Plate. Their stadiums are only 300 yards apart, so to call them neighbors is an understatement; They are practically roommates.
In 2013 Independiente suffered relegation to the second division known as Primera B Nacional or simply “La B”. This was a particularly historic relegation because it was the first time that Independiente had been relegated to La B in their 113-year history. Despite Racing also suffering relegation in the 80’s, Racing fans don’t let Independiente forget that they now have a tarnished history, one that features a season outside of the first division.
To this day Racing fans dress as ghosts with the letter B written on them during derby matches against Independiente. This is known as “El Fantasma de La B” or The Ghost of the Second Division, which mocks how their rivals will always be “haunted” by their infamous season spend outside Argentina’s top-flite.
After Independiente’s relegation, Racing fans celebrated by setting off black smoke bombs to sarcastically mourn the death of their rivals. They also brought thousands of black balloons and could be heard making ghost noises and chanting “un minuto de silencio”
The band of La Guardia Imperial is relentless and plays during every minute of Racing Club’s games. They play from behind the goal and set the tone for the match, as well as excite the players and fans around the stadium. They intimidate their opponents and uplift their players.
In the video below, La Guardia Imperial sing one of their anthems “Muchachos, traigan vino juega La Acadé”, which means “Guys, bring the wine because La Academia is playing.” This anthem a celebration of everything it means to be a supporter of Racing Club.
They have also created humongous tifos that cover entire sections of their stadium during recibimientos. La Guardia Imperial make their presence felt with a tifo over 100 yards long reading, you guessed it, ‘La Guardia Imperial’.
I suppose this article would not be complete without telling you about Racing Club’s biggest idol, Diego Milito. Born in 1977, the striker graduated from the club’s youth academy in 1999 and in 2001 helped Racing Club win their first league title since 1966. In 2003 Genoa, who were playing in the Italian second division at the time, signed Milito to a multi-year contract. Milito left Racing Club a hero but vowed to return. In 2014 Diego made good on his promise by returning to his boyhood club after an illustrious career in Europe, in which he won the Serie A, Coppa Italia, and Champions League treble with Inter Milan in 2010. In his first year back with the club, Milito would help Racing Club win the 2014 league title. Milito helped end a 35-year league title drought in 2001, only to return in 2014 to end a 13-year title drought. He said that coming home to win Racing Club another title was a dream came true. In an on-field interview after winning the title, Milito told the reporter, “They are the club where I was born, the club where I grew up, and the club that gave me the opportunity to have the career that I did.”
I hope you enjoyed this article! Below are some more short videos of Racing Club’s supporters.
A father takes his son to El Cilindro for the first time:
Inside La Guardia Imperial: