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Tens of thousands of ecstatic fans jump up and down in unison, roaring modified cumbia classics to the beat of carnival drums; crazed supporters sway atop 10-foot fences between the stands and the field as they drape the barbed wire with their team's flags; showers of confetti and sulfurous smoke from colorful flares fill the air. The occasion? Just another day's fútbol (soccer) match in Argentina—and all this before the game even begins.

For most Argentineans soccer is a fervent passion. The national team is one of the world's best, and the World Cup can bring the country to a standstill as workers gather in cafés and bars to live out the nation's fate via satellite. Feelings also run high during the biannual local championships, when rivalry between hinchas (fans) gets heated. In a country where people joke that if soccer great Diego Maradona were to run for president he'd win hands down, fútbol is the source of endless debate, fiery dispute, suicidal despair, love, and hate.

Matches are held year-round and are seriously exciting—and sometimes dangerous. You're safest in the platea (preferred seating area), which starts at around 60 pesos and increases depending on location and the importance of the match, rather than in the chaotic 25- to 30-peso popular (standing room) section. Be careful what you wear—fans carry their colors with pride, and not just on flags and team shirts. Expect to see painted faces, hundreds of tattoos, and even women's underwear with the colors of the best-known teams: Boca Juniors (blue and gold) and their archrivals River Plate (red and white), as well as Independiente (red), Racing (light blue and white), and San Lorenzo (red and blue). The no-man's-land that separates each team's part of the stadium, the drum-banging antics of hooligan mafias known as the barra brava, and the heavy police presence at matches are a reminder of how seriously the game is taken.

You can buy tickets at long lines at the stadiums up to four days before matches or from the teams' official Web sites.

Skip the lines and the hassle by buying match packages through Tangol (4312-7276 www.tangol.com). These include well-located platea seats, transport, and a soccer-loving guide. Expect to pay more to see the most popular teams.

Walls exploding with huge, vibrant murals of insurgent workers, famous inhabitants of La Boca, and fútbol greats splashed in blue and gold let you know that the Estadio Boca Juniors is at hand. The stadium that's also known as La Bombonera (meaning candy box, supposedly because the fans' singing reverberates as it would inside a candy tin) is the home of Argentina's most popular club. The extensive stadium tour is worth the extra money. Lighthearted guides take you all over the stands as well as to press boxes, locker rooms, underground tunnels, and the emerald grass of the field itself.

Horse Around

Combine the horsey inclinations of Argentina's landed elite with the country's general sporting prowess, and what do you get? All 12 of the world's best polo players. The game may be as posh as it gets, but most local sports fans take begrudging pride in the stunning athletic showmanship displayed by polistas like 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso or Ralph Lauren pinup Nacho Figueras.

Campo Argentino de Polo. Major polo tournaments take place at the Campo Argentino de Polo, run by the Asociación Argentina de Polo (Argentine Polo Association). Admission to autumn (March to May) and spring (September to December) matches is free. The much-heralded Campeonato Argentino Abierto (Argentine Open Championship) takes place in November; admission to the whole championship starts at about 500 pesos. You can buy tickets online in advance or at the polo field on the day of the event. Av. del Libertador 4300, at Dorrego, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1426BWN. 11/4777–6444. www.aapolo.com.

For polo match information, contact the Asociación Argentina de Polo.

As well as polo players and polo ponies, Argentina also breeds swift racehorses, prized throughout the world.

Catch the Thoroughbreds in action at the Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo. Major races like the Gran Premio Nacional (nicknamed the Argentine Derby and held in November) pull a crowd.

Tee Up

The 18-hole municipal course, Campo de Golf de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, is between Palermo and Belgrano. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:30 to 5 for a 40-peso greens fee.

If you want a range with a view, Costa Salguero Golf is right on the river and includes a driving range (50 balls for 30 pesos), pitch 'n' putt (40 pesos for 18 holes), as well as club and ball hire.

For more information, contact the Asociación Argentina de Golf.