I went for a wander around Pablado which seems like a nice place. With it being Sunday morning the abundance of cafes, bars and restaurants were fairly quiet.
After seeing a lot less live football than I’d have liked to the last time I was in South America, I made sure that I was in Medellin on a Sunday. Medellin’s a huge football city and is home to two big clubs. Deportivo Indepediente Medellin are the current Colombian champions and Athletic Nacional won the Copa Libetaredoras (South American equivalent of the Champions League) last season. Being here on a Sunday ensured that one of them would be playing at home. As luck would have it, today was the Medellin derby. In one sense this was a great time to be in the city. It was also first against second, albeit Nacional had a ten-point lead prior to today’s game. However this could have made obtaining a ticket somewhat difficult. It actually turned out much easier than expected. I initially enquired with the hostel receptionist and after a couple of phone calls she said that she found someone offering return transport from the hostel and a ticket for $46. This is obviously over the odds but I’d have probably paid something like that from a tout. Also with the game finishing after dark and with it being a big derby fixture, having a lift would obviously be safer than attempting to get there and back alone.
I was told to be ready at the hostel reception for 4pm. At around 4.25pm a minibus pulled up outside and a bloke called Nicolas welcomed me onboard. It turned out that there were 3 minibuses of tourists also on the trip. We were driven to somewhere within walking distance of the stadium. Medellin fans had congregated to drink pre match beers outside a corner shop. They certainly didn’t charge tourist prices here. A bottle of Club Colombia cost less than 50p. Medellin were the home team and we seemed to be in the thick of their fans so I guess that’s who I’d be supporting today. Previously I may have favoured Athletico Nacional. As well as having a great green and white kit, I also developed a soft spot for the way they conducted themselves following the Chapecoense Air Disaster, with Nacional the intended opponents in the fateful game.
Since the 2014 World Cup I’ve liked Colombian football. I saw thousands of their fans in Rio and Manaus despite there not even being any Colombia games being played there. They seemed friendly and football-mad in Brazil and this continued today. Locals telling visitors, “Welcome to Colombia,” has become a bit of a cliche. It dates back to the early 2000’s when a sparse amount of hardy travellers would venture to the country. Colombians would be surprised to see foreign visitors, yet grateful for the tourism, and therefore would be extremely friendly towards guests. Hopefully as Colombia becomes an increasing popular destination, this will continue. This evening the locals didn’t seem to be bothered about 50 or so gringos rocking up. Not speaking much English didn’t put off some friendly Medellin fans from attempting to make friends. A stall out of the back of a car seemed to be doing roaring trade selling hooky replica shirts for a fiver. I’d have considered getting one if the club logo of DIM didn’t mean that wearing such a garment back home would have made me a figure of fun! South American football anachronisms don’t always translate well into English. Another example is the initials of the Argentinian club, Newell’s Old Boys.
After a couple of hours of street drinking we were off to the ground. Nicolas had a well-organised operation going on here. Just outside the stadium we were given a plastic season ticket card. Inside the gate his mate collected them back off us. Nicolas must have been coining it in. Fifty people multiplied by $46 minus whatever the ticket costs(in the cheapest section of the stadium) minus the hire of three minibuses equals a lot of profit. To be fair though it was well organised and it turned out to be one of the best $46 you could spend.
In the aforementioned cheap seats behind the goal it was absolutely rocking. I’ve probably attended about a thousand football games including World Cups, European Championships, Champions League and Premier League games, play off and cup finals, derbies and so on, yet have never seen an atmosphere close to this. The photos don’t some close to doing justice to what I witnessed with my own eyes tonight. The first half wasn’t particularly eventful with Athletico Nacional shading it and taking a 1-0 lead. Medellin picked up in the second half to lead 2-1. This was short-lived following a Nacional equaliser. DIM again went in front via a penalty, although parity was again soon restored with an Nacional spot-kick. Medellin scored a last minute winner at the home end to make the score 4-3, sending the fans into exaltation. I’ve never seen such a passionate reaction. To be fair, the Athletico Nacional fans didn’t just immediately clear off and continued to get behind their team. For a solid 15 minutes after the game, Medellin fans were in raptures, with the partying continuing outside the stadium. It was a pleasure to have been able to attend such an amazing spectacle.