From the small villages scattered across the vast countryside to the energetic city life in Buenos Aires, football plays a significant role in the culture of Argentina. In an exclusive interview with the official club photographer of Boca Juniors, Javier Garcia Martino, The Game immerses further into the unique football experience at one of the most famous clubs in the world, Boca Juniors.
Hailing from Buenos Aires, Javier Garcia Martino has closely followed the Xeneizes for over two decades. He knows every nook and cranny of the club’s ground, which earned him the honor of being the official club photographer for one of the most prestigious football clubs in the world.
Boca’s path to glory and international fame stems from the synergy of iconic players like Diego Armando Maradona and Juan Roman Riquelme, a unique stadium and a mesmerizing style of play worth watching. The fans’ passionate support, especially of La 12, the leading fan group, is globally admired and marveled at. Lionel Messi’s impact is also worth mentioning. The spotlight that the greatest player in history continues to shine on football in the Latin-American country is not to be underestimated.
The exhilarating atmosphere in the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, which was nicknamed La Bombonera because of its rectangular shape, resembling a box of chocolate, is well-known amongst football enthusiasts, and IMAGO delves further into the stands of El Templo del Fútbol with Javier Garcia Martino.
“La Bombonera is the closest thing to hell.” – Romario (Brazilian football legend)
How did you become the official club photographer for Boca Juniors?
Can you tell us about your journey and what led you to this position?
Since 1995, I have been taking pictures of Club Atlético Boca Juniors’ sporting activities on my own account, especially men’s football, both home and away. In those days, in Argentine clubs it was not common to have a professional photographer who supplied an image database of his own and Boca was no exception; every time they needed historical images they turned to the media or individual photographers, and I was one of them as I had photographic material of those conquests of the 2000s.
In 2008, with the growth of social networks, Boca decided to recruit a photographer to have their own images and I was assigned to that role for having traveled the corridors of the Bombonera, knowing the different sectors of the club, and as a form of compensation, for having paid the expenses to follow the team everywhere by myself … For me it was a beautiful recognition from the club and to this day I am very grateful.
What do you find most captivating about the culture and fanbase of Boca Juniors, and how does that influence your photography?
Their feeling and passion. The hinchada (as we call the fans) of Boca are without equal, I assure you that they are among the best in the world, they represent the people the most, cheer the most, are never silent, motivate in bad times and are capable of providing an unmatched atmosphere. They take care of their people, their players and their ground. I try to transmit all that energy and magical force through the photos, as well as the mystique of the players who engage with the passion of the hinchas.
“For me, Boca’s pitch is the essence of football.”– Vicente del Bosque (World Cup-winning Spanish manager and former player)
How do you collaborate with other team members, such as media staff or marketing professionals, to ensure your photographs align with the club’s branding and communication goals?
To be able to collaborate and be on the same level, good communication and trust is necessary. Knowing the topics of interest, having an idea of what the sponsors are aiming for, constantly studying and abiding to the codes of the club, the team and the sponsors. We have to maintain a balance, try to innovate and always stick to our principles. Respect between parties, constancy, loyalty, motivation, are part of the routine that should never be missing. We must be observant and studious, and know how to grasp what can be adapted to our own. Boca generates a visual, auditory and cultural catharsis… and an image cannot be anything less, it must contain everything.
“Boca generates a visual, auditory and cultural catharsis… and an image cannot be anything less,
it must contain everything.” – Javier Garcia Martino
As a photographer who works in La Bombonera, can you describe the unique atmosphere and energy that sets it apart from other stadiums?
There are thousands of beautiful stadiums in the world; gigantic, modern, with comforts and technology that we may not have here in this part of the planet, but La Bombonera is unique and unequalled thanks to its people and architecture. Arriving there, whoever you are a fan of, you are struck from the outside by what is such an extraordinary architectural work, well defined by its colours, adding to the charm of La Boca, the picturesque neighbourhood of the Italian immigrants. All of this makes a visit more than just a football game. Once inside El Templo del Fútbol, you feel the disconnection from the outside world and dive into the tide of passion.
“Once inside El Templo del Fútbol, you feel the disconnection from the outside world and dive into the tide of passion.” – Javier Garcia Martino
You won’t know whether to watch the match or enjoy the rumbling stands, which are always contagious and will make you feel the constant vibration, with the fans’ cheers roaring when a goal is scored. The continuous singing gives La Bombonera that particular feeling; the acoustics are almost unique. No other stadium in the world is alike. It is said that La Bombonera does not simply shake…it pulsates, like a beating heart (“La Bombonera NO tiembla…LATE”), and that is no exaggeration.
“You may think it’s a lie, but you stand still and the pitch moves.”- Juan Roman Riquelme (Boca Juniors legend and former player)
“I have never felt an earthquake like this before.”– Pelé (Brazilian football legend)
From a fan’s perspective, tell us about Boca’s impact on daily life in the city of Buenos Aires.
The daily life of a Boca fan is not just about a game on the weekend. From Sunday to Sunday, here in Argentina, Boca is talked about everywhere; in the offices, in schools, at work, in universities, etc. I notice that impact when I am stopped in the street; sometimes the fans greet me because they know I work for Boca. It is a form of pride for me but at the same time I am very aware that working in the Boca world comes with certain responsibilities.
To be part of Boca Juniors is to represent the people, to describe and write history with nothing more and nothing less than with images. In every corner of the planet exists a connection or relationship: Boca-Maradona, Boca-Riquelme, Boca-Tevez… and with this level of recognition, you can’t just stand by, you have to be at the same level, you have to understand in order to transmit.
What advice would you give to aspiring sports photographers who dream of working with a prestigious football club like Boca Juniors?
They have to be constant and persistent, learning from those with great knowledge and finding their own style. Luckily, nowadays it is easy to observe and study other professionals; it is good to take advantage of this opportunity to know how they treat photographs in different parts of the world and how they transfer and express their ideas in an image. It is also important to be responsible, respectful, have a code and humility, because Boca and its people deserve and demand that.
“You can’t just stand by, you have to be at the same level, you have to understand in order to transmit.” –
Javier Garcia Martino