Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Viva Colombia!

It was the last soccer game of this year for Colombia and against Argentina, an unbeaten team in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and ranked as the best in the world by FIFA. Let me make it clear, I’m not a soccer fan. However, given the chance to see some of the world’s best players is something I appreciate in any sport. So that is why I sacrificed for yesterday’s game at El Campín in Bogotá.

Sacrifice? Yes, let me elaborate. I had to wait two hours in line to buy a ticket on Monday. Granted, it was the middle of the day when most people are working. For yesterday’s game I was told to arrive early ... four hours early. This sounds extreme, but it’s true. When I arrived at four in the afternoon, half of the stadium was already full. And since there are no assigned seats, you have to arrive ridiculously early to claim a decent one. Actually, this isn’t exactly true. El Campín is a small stadium considering it’s in the capital of a soccer-crazed country, and virtually every seat is good. I found a seat in the second row. I was actually excited about this game. Maybe it’s the camaraderie of sports. Maybe it was the promise of a blue sky and bright sun. I bought a yellow Colombia jersey at the stadium and talked with two guys sitting next to me. They were your typical super fans, knowing each player’s talents and mother’s maiden name. They were friendly. Most people are. Part of this has to do with the fact that I was probably the only American at the game. I say this with seriousness. Anyhow, it had been gorgeous weather all day. In Bogotá, that means little. After arriving, it began to rain ... and rain ... and rain. It poured for a good two hours. I thought to myself, I waited in line for two hours and now I arrived four hours early for this shit?

It cleared, however, an hour before game time. Throughout the rain spell, fans chanted for Colombia while they beat plastic noisemakers together despite an empty field. It was a big game. Colombia had not beaten Argentina since 1993. In the first half it looked as if this trend would continue. Despite Argentina playing with only 10 players (One Argentinean player received a red card for tripping a Colombian player away from the ball halfway through the first half.) it led 1-0 at intermission. Before the game I had told the guy next to me that I thought Colombia was going to win 2-1, and reminded him of my premonition. I should have placed a bet, but I don’t bet on sports. Colombia scored on a free shot and a fast break in the second half to make me look like a genius. I didn’t know a whole lot about either team, but I had this feeling that Colombia would win, and whenever I get this feeling it comes true virtually every time. I have to admit that I had a great time at the game. The quality of play and the excitement is contagious. The fans used a lot of foul language, of which a few words I have added to my vocabulary. Of all these words, hijueputas was used the most, which in English means sonsofbitches. Every time the Argentinean goalkeeper had a free kick, the entire stadium yelled this word in unison. It was funny. Though if I had a young child, I might think twice before bringing him or her to a game. There weren’t many Argentineans present, but a young woman in an Argentinean uniform decided to stand near where I was sitting at halftime. She was called every name in the book, and some fans threw objects at her. One guy near me threw a half-eaten sandwich at her and hit someone else in the head. Despite this ruckus, there were no fights. I don’t think you’d want to get in a fight. The whole place had security guards, normal police, and riot police.

After the game ended the streets and sidewalks were clogged near the stadium. People beeped their horns to Let’s Go Colombia, and waved flags with pride. With the win, Colombia is ranked in second, behind Argentina despite last night’s game, in the South American World Cup qualifiers. Today I asked a friend of mine what would happen if Colombia won the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa. She said that it would be a disaster as it is not prepared for this. For now, Colombians can relish their victory, and as for me, I’m not placing any bets.


Iván said...

Hello Brett
Let me just tell you, you are doing an outstanding job when talking about my beloved city. Keep up the good work!! Hopefully more "gringos" will soon read your stuff and realize Colombia is not only about death and kidnappings... I know we have our problems but we are working on them.
I'm adding your blog to my favorites.

Thank you very much my friend,
¡Y que viva Colombia no joda!

Brett Garamella said...

Thank you Iván for the kind words. I think Colombia is a great country and it is ashame that certain issues have been blown out of proportion and sensationalized by the foreign media. I'm trying to learn about your country but I still know very little so I always appreciate feedback from people like yourself... thanks again for visiting my blog.

Victoria said...

brett, what an awesome first south american soccer game to experience! i was with a colombian friend while he was listening in on this game here in NC and he was super emocionado. i can only imagine the energy at the stadium. y como siempre, ¡me encantan tus fotos amiguito!

Brett Garamella said...

Gracias mi amiga, yes the game was incredible. I seem to have that kind of luck wherever I go. One example... two days after I moved to Chicago the White Sox won the World Series for the first time in more than 80 years and people were crying with joy. I'm glad you appreciate my blog and look forward to hearing about your trip to Peru.

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