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Posts Tagged ‘futbol’

Futbol…..Finally!

Today is our 138th day in S. America. And until day number 137, I had yet to see a live futbol game, which should earn me banishment from the continent as it’s wildly popular here.

I’ve played soccer my whole life and started coaching a few years ago, something I definitely want to continue doing when we return. I love the game, always have, always will. And while professional soccer has gained some popularity in the States over the last 10-15 years, it’s still on the outskirts as far as being anywhere near any of the big sports like baseball, football, and basketball.

But here it’s different. Futbol is a way of life in S. America. And during our 2.5 months in Argentina, it was the offseason, so we weren’t able to go to a game.

But we arrived in Santiago, Chile this past Saturday, and I had one goal in mind before we flew to Colombia on Wednesday. Get to a futbol game. And yesterday, we finally accomplished that goal.

In the first division of the Chilean League, 6 of the 12 teams are from Santiago. There was one game yesterday that could be reached by subway from our hostel, so by default, that’s the one we went to.

Audax Italiano vs. Union de Espanola. Audax was the home team, but Espanola is also from Santiago, so the fans were split about 50/50. The match started at 7pm, so we took off from our hostel at about 5:30 since we still had to get tickets when we got there.

We got off the subway and had about a 10 block walk to the stadium amidst red and green clad fans of both teams chanting and singing with their team’s flags draped around their bodies like capes. The atmosphere got better and better the closer we got to the stadium.

We finally arrived and saw several huge lines and then a crush of people near the boleteria (ticket office). “Uh-oh” I thought as I looked at my watch, reading 6:30. So we joined the throngs of people going towards the ticket office.

When you hear about futbol in other parts of the world, particularly Latin America, you think violence and rowdiness. And while there was definitely rowdiness, it was in no way violent at any part. I was a bit worried during the ticket fiasco, but alas, there was nothing but smiling faces all around.

In the US, we tend to bitch and whine (I am definitely included in this collective “we”) about procedures for getting tickets to sporting events, concerts, etc. But while trying to get a ticket to this game, I started to realize how organized our culture truly is. If the ticket buying process was the same at home, there would be numerous fights, arrests, and just general chaos.

There was no semblance of a line anywhere. There were about 6 ticket windows, and just a throng of people moving in one fluid motion towards them. I felt as though we were in the middle of a mosh pit at a Rage Against the Machine concert. There were men, women, and children of all ages in the middle of this, and my initial thought was a fight was surely to break out.

But then I looked around. There was no yelling. No screaming. No scowls. No hostility. Only smiles and singing and chanting. It was the most unorganized organized chaotic thing I’ve ever been a part of. There was pushing and shoving and jostling for position, but it was all done in a friendly manner. If someone tried to shove you out the way, you just shoved back, and then you got a smile for your efforts. It was hilarious.

We finally made our way to the ticket window, and there was no one person at a time. It was everyone stick your arm in the window with money while shouting how many tickets you want. We finally got our tickets (at about a total of $13 (try going to a Cardinal game for that) and were on our way.

We both wore green as that was the color of Audax, the home team. We had no idea what kind of tickets we received, if it was just general admission, assigned seats, no clue. So we walked up to the nearest ticket taker and gave him our tickets, assuming he would tell us if we were in the wrong spot. He tore them and sent us on our way.

The game was about 5 minutes underway, and we walked through the tunnel into the stadium and saw a sea of red, much like Busch Stadium on a hot summer day. “Uh-oh,” we thought, wrong side. And this isn’t like home. You can’t just walk around the whole stadium as they have separate entrances for each teams’ fans and the rest is closed off to prevent fighting. So we were stuck on the opposing fans side wearing green to all the red.

After our initial hesitation, we decided to say “Screw it” and hoof it towards the section of standing, dancing, singing, chanting, drum-beating fans and get into the mix and truly experience Chilean futbol.

We figured we stood out as dumb gringos so the colors we were wearing wouldn’t matter, and we were right. I was quite surprised at the number of women and children in attendance, and while it was loud and rowdy, it was rowdy in a good way. There was no violence whatsoever, only wild fanaticism. As someone who absolutely loves all sports, I was in Heaven. These people were so loyal to their teams, and the constant singing and standing the ENTIRE game was an awesome sight to see (unfortunately we were advised against bringing anything of value, so we left the camera at home, thus preventing us from getting any pictures or video, so hopefully my descriptions suffice).

Each team had their own songs, complete with dancing and clapping. There were no alcohol sales and minimal food and beverages were available, which didn’t matter because NO ONE left their seats during the game. It was quite different from the drunken debauchery that goes on at American sporting events (I’m not criticizing here, because Lord knows that I have taken part in said debauchery on many occasions at games). The cool thing was that everyone was there for the game and only the game. That’s all that mattered.

We were lucky enough to see an exciting game complete with 4 goals. Espanola went up 1-0, and since we were on their side, it was madness when they scored. Audax tied the game shortly after the half, and the tension mounted on the visitor’s side.

Each bad call by the ref, each change of possession, each break or corner was met with collective cheers and groans, including the double middle finger extended towards the refs after a bad call by a 5-year-old being held in his dad’s arms. Dad didn’t bat an eyelash (I so wish I would have had the camera).

With about 15 minutes left, Espanola scored and went up 2-1, causing a near riot on our side. The man sitting in front of us with his 10-year-old son turned to his son and screamed at the top of his lungs with one of the most intense facial expressions I’ve ever seen. It was both awesome and terrifying at the same time.

The older man in front of us on the other side promptly fired up a smoke as he knew the last 15 minutes would be intense. The home team stepped up the pressure and pressed forward, despite being a man down because of a red card in the first half. The play went back and forth as Audax pressed and Espanola countered.

With about 5 minutes remaining, Audax scored off a corner, sending shockwaves through the visiting section. While people were noticeably pissed and disappointed, it took all of about a minute for the songs to start up and the fans to try to will their team to victory by chanting and singing and encouraging their side to put one more in.

But alas, it wasn’t enough. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, but it was a very exciting ending to a very exciting game in an electrifying atmosphere. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I was drained and tired from standing and clapping and trying to sing along and cheer. Megan had a newfound respect for the world’s game and realized why futbol is so beloved around the world.

All in all, a fantastic cultural experience that both us will never forget. We hope to catch another game during our month in Colombia because it left such a positive impression on us.

After the game we came back to our hostel and met up with our friends Nate and Sarah, who just arrived in Santiago from Easter Island. They ran into friends of theirs who they met and hung out with in Buenos Aires a couple months ago. We all went out for dinner and drinks and had a great time with a new group of friends. It should be a great next few days as I know we are all going to have a great time together.

We fly out of Santiago on Wednesday night and arrive in Bogota Thursday morning for nearly a month in Colombia before going to LA for a few days and meeting up with Megan’s parents, which is something we are both really looking forward to.

Not sure if we’ll update again before we get to Colombia, so until next time…

~Adam

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The first morning at our lodge (so the second day of the Pampas tour), our wakeup call came in the form of roaring howler monkeys. The howling started before dawn and is a sound like no other I have ever heard before. It is a low guttural sound, almost similar to a distant motor (a big motor!), but still a very distinct sound. After the howlers did their job, we headed out on our one scheduled hike of the tour: the search for Anacondas and Cobras. Anacondas in the pampas can reach 12-15 feet and capture their prey by squeezing then swallowing it whole. (Bad news for small critters in the pampas, no worries for big old humans.) The cobra had me a little more worried as it is actually venomous. We were assured that any cobras we might encounter didn’t have enough venom to kill a human, only to make one really sick (it’s amazing what kind of comments you begin to find reassuring on a trip like this!).

Before setting out, we had been warned that the bugs, mainly ticks and mosquitoes, would be bad, and that we would be tromping our way through swampy ground and forests. In an effort to fend off as many itchy bug bites as possible, we followed our guide’s instructions for gearing up (although I’m not completely discounting the idea that he just gets a giggle out of making gringos look super dorky!):

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Lucky for us, our humiliation paid off when we heard shouts from a nearby tour guide that he had found an anaconda. Domingo beat us there and was in the process of moving the snake when we showed up on the scene.

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I was watching the anaconda (and not necessarily what was in its path) when I heard Domingo say the words that made me freeze in my tracks: “Don’t move, Adam. It won’t hurt you.” I looked up and realized that the boots that were inches away from this six-foot long snake belonged to my husband! I can say pretty confidently that I would have taken off running if the anaconda had decided to cozy up with my feet, but Adam held his ground.

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After Adam’s close encounter, we spotted were lucky enough to spot another anaconda—another group the day before had hiked for five hours without seeing any snakes. Domingo then gave us the option of continuing on the search to look for cobras or heading back to camp for lunch. Hmmm, leisurely boat ride to lunch or sweaty hunt for a venomous snake? Tough choice! After having lunch, we set out to catch our dinner—Piranha fishing!

We baited our hooks with some kind of raw meat (yes, gross) and began what I was expecting to be a fairly leisurely afternoon. The piranha had different plans though. Every time I threw my line into the water, I could immediately feel a flurry of little tugs. A quick yank on the line revealed an empty hook nearly every time. Domingo, expert that he was, showed us how it was done:

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After a few pointers, Adam started to get the hang of it:

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Finally, it was my turn for glory. A well timed yank on my line confirmed that I had in fact, hooked a Pirhana. I pulled it in to the boat and turned to Adam to take it off the hook for me. He abandoned me in my time of need encouraged me to improve my fishing skills by doing it myself. I bravely grasped the man-eating fish in one hand and the hook in the other. The fish started squirming, and I, forgetting the whole big teeth aspect of pirhana, freaked out and loosened my grip. Not smart. I promptly had a pirhana latched on to the tip of my index finger. I threw the fish down into the bottom of the boat and shouted “F***er bit me!!” Domingo rushed over to make sure that I was intact. He frantically looked around the boat to find my attacker. And he looked. And looked. Finally I pointed down below adam’s seat, where the fish was flopping around. Domingo promptly burst out laughing. In his defense, he tried to suppress the giggles, but apparently my scene was just too much for him. He picked up the fish and gently explained to me that yes, I had caught a piranha, and yes, that was good, but unfortunately, this particular man-eating beast wasn’t big enough to eat for dinner. In fact, it wasn’t even big enough to cut up and use as bait to catch other piranha. It was after hearing that pronouncement that I declared my retirement from Piranha fishing. Lucky for me, Adam and Domingo picked up the slack and caught enough fish for us to have a nice piranha dinner.

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After Piranha fishing, we made a stop at another camp to hang out. It took all of about 90 seconds for a soccer game to break out. Since I stuck to my role as photographer, I’ll let Adam fill you in on the excitement:

Adam:

When we arrived, everyone was playing volleyball, but after just a few minutes, everyone decided to play a real sport. So a futbol game started. We decided to play the Bolivianos vs. the Gringos. It was 6 v. 6, and the Gringos team wasn’t very good at first. Only two of us seemed to have any soccer experience, myself and a girl from California. There was one other guy from California who had played before, and then two Canadians, who probably would have been better served to have ice skates and hockey sticks in their hands. We played to three, and the first game was over rather quickly.

But we decided to play another game, and we seemed to get our act together the second game and actually challenged the Bolivianos. It was interesting playing barefoot on a dirt field, obviously with no lines, small goals, and one sideline that consisted of barbed wire fencing. And of course a game in South America wouldn’t have been complete without the hot-dogging, diving, and acting of one of the Bolivianos. Even though the Gringos held their own, we still fell 3-2, but we gave them a good game. It was quite the experience playing a pick-up game of soccer, which just doesn’t happen back home, even though that’s the game I grew up playing, loving, and now enjoy coaching. It’s something that I’ll always remember from this part of the trip.

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Megan: After the soccer game (in which I have to brag that Adam was definitely the best of the gringos), we spent the evening after dinner getting to know the new tour group that had showed up that afternoon. We whiled away the evening swinging in hammocks, sipping cold beer and alternating between chatting and singing along with one of the guys who was playing the guitar. Adam and I realized that the following day would be the first Thanksgiving either of us had spent away from home. I was definitely sad to not be able to share the day with my family, but having that evening and that opportunity to meet a whole new group of interesting people from around the world, to be able to discuss their views and travels, there in such an absolutely amazing setting—well, the gratitude I felt for that was just overwhelming.

It was a very good day.

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