Am I Colombia’s Newest Football Fan?

I’ve never been interested in sports. When I was a kid, I preferred to sit inside and read books instead of get sweaty or risk injury playing outside. During PE (physical education) class, I was the one who would ask my classmates to cut me in line so I wouldn’t have to swing a bat or kick a ball.

The aversion has continued throughout my adult life. I could never understand how some people can be so dedicated to a sport, buying hats and shirts and posters, never missing a game on TV and letting the topic infiltrate every conversation.

But a live game is a lot different than watching men run around on a flat screen. Feeling the contagion of excitement, unification with others rooting for the same team, and the high of a win in a group atmosphere is cool. So when I was invited to watch Medellin’s local team, Nacional, versus one of their rivals, Cali, I decided to take up the offer. Of all the aspects of Latin American culture I’ve explored, futbol fever is one I’ve never bothered to plunge in to. Until now.

Colombian football fans

Nacional fans

After a tight metro ride, waiting in line for ages and getting felt up by a female cop, we run into the stadium just in time for the beginning of the game. A sea of Paisas in green shirts fill the bleachers. In the ultra-fan section, massive banners that throw their hood up line the rows. Those not decked out in green and white striped jerseys are shirtless, and what they lack in uniform they more than make up for in intensity.

Since we are in Medellin, Cali’s fan base is excruciatingly small in comparison. On both sides of their designated area are empty bleachers, save dozens of police and Colombia’s SWAT team equipped with riot shields and helmets.

Cali supporters

Cali supporters shielded by riot police

We settle into our seats and join the chanting, singing, clapping, and foot stomping that persists through the entire game. Little kids make up some of the most devoted supporters – tons of them are decked out in Nacional jerseys waving flags and throwing their hands up when they score.

The clock runs out and Nacional wins the game 4-0. The Cali fans leave 10 minutes before the game ends to prevent any conflicts. The crowd cheers and chants, “Ole, ole ole ole, Medellin, Medellin.”

In spite of my general dislike of sports, seeing the game live and experiencing the atmosphere was an experience worth repeating.

Maybe Colombia will turn me into a football fan after all.

Reading this post via email and can’t see the video? Check it out here.

 

  • There’s nothing like being there live…Glad it might convert you:)

  • I am by default a Nacional fan due to my wife’s side of the family. The only thing about fútbol in Medallo that I don’t like is the fact that there are two teams. Being a male, this sometimes put me in the uncomfortable confrontation of telling someone I like one team over the other. As you probably have seen in Latin America because I am male that means I LOVE fútbol right? My response is usually something pathetic, “I’m not here to create enemies.”

    I myself hate watching the games on TV. Instead of wasting +90 minutes of my life watching a box I would much rather play a pickup game with the locals. I have found that kicking off my shoes and playing fútbol in the grass with parceros my age is exponentially more fun and beneficial than watching. 

  • Good points. It’s the same in Bogota, there are a couple of teams so things can get especially rowdy. The only sport I can stand watching on TV is rugby, and only when the All Blacks are playing :)

  • Dan Amos

    Medellin is such an awesome city. I am in Australia now having a great time but so jealous of you. I was at the Nacional game last June when they won the league. Just incredible.
    Love ur page Jasmine

  • Thanks for visiting Dan :) Be sure to catch a Wallabies game if you’re there during season.