The night before. Tomorrow at 14:10 San Lorenzo will kick off its final match of the 2011-12 season; and it remains a possibility that it will be their last match in the Primera. An unlikely possibility after defeating Instituto of Córdoba 0-2. Instituto must win by three or more goals to achieve ascension into the Primera. The Nuevo Gasómetro is once again sold out with all of the tickets reportedly gone before the end of Friday after two furious days of sales at both club locations. Line-ups measured in blocks filled with cuervos hoping to be in the stadium this Sunday; I spent an hour and a half waiting with families mid-Friday to purchase a ticket for a friend. Father and son, friends, a mother with her three daughters, the lone hincha stood waiting – only to hear by noon that there were no tickets for 'invitados', non-members of the club. The remaining tickets for members soon sold out.
I've only recently recognized how much this championship has been weighing on my own emotions. All the matches, the conversations with hinchas, the time spent with Cuervos debating the problems and seeing how life's problems become enmeshed within the successes and failures of the team - I've become suseptible myself to the trials and tribulations of an hincha. I've been defending San Lorenzo over dinner, in a bar, or over facebook to hinchas of Boca or some other middle of the table team. My own day-to-day issues have become a part of the difficulties of San Lorenzo.
Thus when, after a struggle to purchase tickets - a story unto itself - standing on the old terraces of Instituto's small stadium cheering "GOOOLL!!!!!!" while in the embrace of six cuervos, knowing that the 2-nil lead put San Lorenzo for the first time in the fight against relegation "in control", I could feel the stress just lift. Our 24-hour journey to Córdoba and back - with little sleep in the cramped mini-bus smoke hazed minibus - actually 'felt' worth it. Not just the value of "what great research material!" but what it means: to be able to smile and laugh with ease again. Friday in the Bar San Lorenzo the release was palpable - the cuervos were untouchable to jokes or jabbs and more than ever the loud Italian voices boomed across the tables.
There is still risk for Sunday's match. Instituto's defence was clearly not prepared to play the match, overwhelmed by the magnitude of situation, and were dominated by Carlos Bueno's two goals. For brief moments, however, their forwards demonstrated the promise of the team that had lead the Nacional B table. Nothing has come 'easy' for San Lorenzo this year and every step forward has seemed like a mountain climbed by the hinchada, who only find themselves sliding further downwards. Thus it would be arrogant and dangerous to say Sunday will be a guaranteed party. It is not, San Lorenzo needs to play to win; not a given in their recent history.
But if San Lorenzo wins - I'm sorry Boca Juniors and River Plate fans - but it will be the most meaningfully celebrated match this week and this year. One more Copa de Libertadores might be shiny and end up in a cabinet and on a wikipedia page, but suffering for 10 long months to find salvation only at the very last possible moment will be memorized by every hincha of San Lorenzo and immortalized in the emotion of the songs of the hinchada. "Che" Guevara once said, "Si el presente es de lucha, el futuro es nuestro." - If the present is struggle; the future will be ours.