When chatting to people about travelling in South America we often end up swapping stories about our experiences at football matches. Back in 2007 I went to a night Copa America match in Santiago where we had an interesting experience to say the least. I’ve been lucky enough to attend football matches in Argentina and Brazil but the night fixture in Chile was certainly the most eventful.
If you’ve traveled South America or indeed elsewhere and attended an interesting game, leave us a comment we’d love to reading your story.
Here’s my blog entry from 2007 after the match between Colo Colo and Millonarios.
Colo Colo vs Millonarios – Copa America
I had the opportunity to watch a football match in Santiago with two guys from Texas, one from Holland and one of the guys from the hostel. We had tickets for Colo Colo (Chile) vs Millonarios (Colombia) at Estadio Monumental. There were two great goals and the crowd were bouncing around as if the score line was 3-0 to the home side. Huge flags were flying in the crowd, fireworks and flares lit up the sky.
Colo Colo were eventually knocked out of the cup by Millonarios in a nail biting penalty shoot out – 6-7. Never the less we had seen an entertaining game and a lively, passionate crowd. It was that passion that was about to overspill.
Riot Vans and Water Cannons
As we exit the ground everything is seemingly orderly. Heading towards the bus stop, the fans are strolling away in good spirits. There is a large crowd at the bus stop as we arrive and people are scrambling to catch the bus. We have to wait for the next bus, it’s already about 12 at night. To my amusement I point out to the other guys the huge metal dark green riot van complete with turrets parked on the grass verge on the other side of the road and the second one on the road beyond. Everything seems normal, the fans on the street seem eager to get home but are behaving well.
Suddenly whilst I’m admiring the huge looming riot van, a booming roar comes from it’s engine as it turns abruptly onto the road from the grass verge where it was parked. It pauses for a moment as I sit still admiring its rugged exterior presuming it will drive on by towards wherever the trouble is. Perhaps I could get a quick shot with my camera? I think. The van jerks forward bouncing back on the suspension of its wheels and the turret turns in a robotic movement to face the crowd at the near end of the bus stop, then to my disbelief it opens fire.
A huge powerful blast is sprayed out of the turret knocking scrambling fans off their feet and one fan spinning backwards like a rag doll in a washing machine. We turn on our heels and abandon our bus stop outpost sprinting for cover like retreating soldiers under heavy fire. The van roars down the road spraying water mixed with tear gas like some kind of giant robot from “The War of The Worlds”. The Chilean guy from our hostel is sprinting away in sheer panic like a pedigree greyhound. Zig zagging across the street my heart is pumping as I desperately try to keep an eye open for the rest of the guys whilst leaping over barriers. This isn’t the best place to be lost. As I sprint as fast as possible a local fan leans down whilst running to pick up a decent sized rock, he turns in front of me and hurls it at the van in anger. Suddenly we are amongst the rioting crowd and to the monstrous riot van we are part of the herd. The air of calm on the dark Santiago streets had suddenly turned to one of lawlessness.
We find ourselves at a safe enough distance from the riot van. One of the Texas guys tries to take a quick video of the pursuing riot van. This isn’t the best idea being the only “gringos” in the area. Suddenly whilst running from the riot van I hear the Texas guy shouting “get the ?%@# off me!”. Stilling fleeing in panic I turn to see the guy from Texas with a guy on his back like “Gollum” from “Lord Of The Rings”. He manages to shake off the thief but is slightly shook up about it.
Only “Gringos” Around
Mario, our Chilean host for the evening suggests sneaking around past the humming riot van to wait at a nearby petrol station. We tip toe round like ninjas on the opposite side of the road to the riot van doubling back on ourselves as police vans speed by, sirens screaming. Sneaking by my heart is in my mouth and I pray that the van’s turret which is now spilling out liquid onto the road doesn’t decide turn in our direction. We go unnoticed until a fan hurls a huge rock from his hand crashing down on the roof of the now stationary riot van. We move with haste and to our relief make it past the riot van unnoticed but only because it had run out of water and tear gas. Police riding on huge police horses pass by.
We try to find a cab as do many other fans. Most cabs fly past us and onwards down the road. As the only “gringos” around we are a target of any would be thieves. Waiting for a cab I notice a group of three locals circling us from a distance like vultures. Mario suggests we should move on, I agree and we move on further down the road. Finally we find a cab and all climb in except Mario who can walk to his nearby home unnoticed as a local.
The cab speeds on through red lights and in and out of traffic avoiding soccer fans, he’s not stopping for anyone or anything tonight.