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Argentina's home advantage

December 11, 2018

When it comes to home advantage, no-one has more vocal and passionate fans than Las Leonas. Pre-match rituals involves singing and dancing in the stands; as the teams emerge onto the pitch the stadium becomes a cauldron which can unnerve the steeliest of opponents; during the match there is a non-stop cacophony of sound as spectators follow every move as if they are playing the game themselves; after the final whistle, the stadium erupts if it is a Leonas’ victory. There is a subdued, almost funereal air if the team in blue and white has lost.

“In every stadium, when you play in Argentina, it just goes crazy and, as a player, that is a fantastic atmosphere to play in." Delfina Merino, Argentina

Recently retired Dutch superstar Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel admits that the 2010 World Cup final [between Netherlands and Argentina] in the stadium at Rosario was the most nerve-wracking match of her life, due to the sheer noise and passion of the home crowd. “It was one of the scariest things. We walked out onto the pitch and it was as if everyone hated you. The coach said ‘enjoy the experience’, well, that was impossible,” she says with a wry smile.

When contemplating home matches in the three major hockey hubs of Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Rosario, Argentina’s Delfina Merino can barely suppress her glee at the thought of thousands of fans roaring their team onto success.

“In every stadium, when you play in Argentina, it just goes crazy and, as a player, that is a fantastic atmosphere to play in. Yes, travelling to the other countries will be a great experience, but to see the crowds in Cordoba, Rosario and Buenos Aires – well that will be something really special.”

Her teammate, Eugenia Trinchetti is equally pleased that Argentina will be hosting regular international fixtures. “I am really looking forward to travelling to places like New Zealand to play hockey but really there is nowhere like playing in Argentina,” says the 21-year-old attacking midfielder.

The three stadiums that will host Argentina men and women’s FIH Pro League matches are all homes to top hockey clubs or centres of excellence used to hosting elite athletes. The Jockey Club Cordoba is also home to polo, rugby and tennis clubs but the hockey club is the most successful sports club housed at the facility. The women’s team has won eight national championships and the men’s team has won seven. The Jockey Club will host Argentina’s first FIH Pro League matches against Belgium men and women, USA women and Pakistan men.

The stadium in Rosario was renamed Estadio Mundalista Luciana Aymar in 2015, in recognition of  the locally-born Las Leonas legend. With a capacity of 12,000 – a mix of permanent and temporary seating – the stadium has played host to the 2010 Women’s World Cup, the  2012 women’s Hockey Champions Trophy and the 2015 Hockey World League Final. In 2019, China, Great Britain and New Zealand women, plus Spain, Great Britain and New Zealand men will all play the home nation in the hockey hot house of Rosario.

Cenard, Buenos Aires, is the home for Argentina’s international athletes across a number of sports. The centre is a high performance centre which houses an Olympic swimming pool, a large international standard gymnasium, numerous tennis courts, track and field facilities and, of course, hockey pitches. Among events it has hosted are the 2006 South American Games. In 2019, Cenard will play host to Germany men and women, Netherlands men and women and Australia men and women.

“It has been a while since Argentina hosted top level matches," says Merino. "We want to remind the world what hockey means in our country,” added the 2017 FIH Player of the Year who, as part of the 2010 team that won gold at the World Cup in Rosario, knows what it is to win in front of 12,000 passionate Argentina supporters. 

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