Saturday, June 11, 2011

Santiago take two - Chile

The coach was indeed very modern with space age seats on the bottom floor.  Whilst it is never fully comfortable sleeping on these things I found it much better than our original overnight experience.  Now back in Santiago we decided to stay in the Green House guesthouse again.  There was some great news in that both football teams had won their semifinal legs and there would now be a Classico final in Santiago!  On the 6th we ventured into town to find out where we could buy tickets and whilst we were there we went back to the central market to get our favourite bargain dishes of the ‘cazuela de ave’ or chicken casserole and my pailla marinara or seafood stew which were delicious.  Having filled our bellies we made our way to the place where we had been told we could buy tickets.  We finally found it and upon trying to buy tickets got pointed towards a queue behind us which was about ten people strong.  I asked a guy in the queue why it was moving so slowly and some advice on where to sit to which he mentioned that they weren’t allowed to start selling the tickets for another half hour and that the ‘Antes’ are the cheapest seats and have the best atmosphere.  All in all we were queuing for an hour before we could buy our tickets but by the time they started selling the queue was quite far down the street so we were lucky to have come when we did.  Satisfied, we resigned to keeping ourselves warm in the most part indoors updating blogs and diaries, taking a couple of days to recover from our colds and only going out to shop for food or do some laundry until the match day.

Queuing for tickets in town

Tickets bought for matchday

The Classico quickly came upon us and we were extremely excited when match day arrived.  We headed in the direction of the stadium on the metros which were completely packed to the point of bums getting trapped in closing doors.  As soon as we got off the subway there were vendors selling scarfs, flags and other Universidad de Chile merchandise which really helped to embed the match day feeling.  The rivalry between the two teams, Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica began upon the latter’s formation in 1937 when taking team members from Universidad de Chile in order to establish themselves.  This was the most important Chilean rivalry until the ongoing success of Colo Colo coincided with Universidad de Chile’s rough run in the second division and they overtook them.  The teams still maintain a fierce rivalry and although it is something of a generalisation Universidad Catolica has a reputation of being an elitist team with its stadium being in the most prosperous area of Santiago, Las Condes. 

It was a twenty minute walk or so until we saw the bright lights and heard drums being banged from inside Chile’s national stadium.  Having spent a couple of quid on a woolly hat we eventually found our way into the stadium amid chanting and ferocious singing in front of the media cameras and literally hundreds of the carabineros, some of them heavily armoured in stab vests and metal plates.  I had taken my belt off on previous advice that they were not allowed inside and we went through security checks that surpassed those of airports including metal detectors and pat downs, Kate had her bag searched no less than three times.  

Logo for Universidad de Chile
Logo for Univerisdad Catolica

When we found our seats there were already people sat in them.  It then became apparent that people just sat wherever they felt like in the section so we headed down the front next to one of the security fences.  The chanting and singing from the crowd was immense.  I was kind of surprised that the stadium wasn’t full for a game like this but when you consider that tickets are still around twenty quid here even for the cheap seats it is kind of understandable.  Nevertheless the stand we were in was full as were those around us which meant for good times.  There were kids constantly cleaning streamers off the pitch and in the adjacent stand was the biggest drum I’d ever seen (it was carted off on a pickup truck after the game) being banged throughout the game.  When the home team came out dozens of flares and a blanket of streamers were let off which was amazing to see and a couple of times some exploding fireworks landed near us which was a bit dodgy but nobody was upset.

Asking the friendly Carabinero for a photo with some help from a fan
He was happy to comply in turning slightly!
The flares and streamers were spectacular to watch

The match got off to a good start and the home side were dominating throughout, narrowly missing a couple of chances which they should have definitely put away.  The away fans in the opposite corner of the stadium to us were supporting just as hard although we only heard them once or twice when it slightly died down our end which was a rarity.  Unfortunately the second half was a different story and the home team appeared to have gone to sleep defensively and there wasn’t much organisation.  When Catolica scored their first goal (which was well taken by the loan striker) the home supporters were momentarily stunned, the goal scorer ran towards our corner mimicking an owl (Universidad de Chile’s logo) with his fingers over his eyes to taunt the home fans.  This wasn’t a wise idea as he was swiftly barraged with coins and even a firework which blew up next to his head causing him to roll around theatrically.  There was minimal movement from any of the armoured carabineros and I’m not surprised with a crowd this volatile.  After people ran out of coins they were willing to part with a carabinero or two began filming the crowds on handheld video cameras which may have been a deterrent but markedly too late.  The defence had thoroughly gone to sleep and Catolica scored a second towards the end of the game.  At the final whistle the fans support didn’t wane and the cheering continued as we left.  It was a real shame that we didn’t experience a victory on our first game but the experience was still well worthwhile.  The final is played over two legs and Universidad de Chile still have some slim hope to win the cup but alas they will need at least two goals, good luck to them.

An injury and the away supporters

Photo taken from the top of the stadium

Again from the top of the stadium in my camouflage

The fans behind our seats were here for the whole game

We finished the night by buying some illegal chicken and chips, it’s true your eyes do not deceive you.  Just down the road from the guesthouse there was a lady with a big pan of boiling oil deep frying chips and pulling cooked chicken out a bag all from a shopping trolley.  At one point a police van drove past and our dinner got wheeled down the street and into a dark corner until they had gone out of sight.  She was doing some great business and I’m not surprised for just one thousand pesos or one pound thirty for chicken, chips and a bit of lettuce!  We wound down by watching a film “No country for old men’ which was a pretty gripping crime thriller before hitting the hay.   The next day was to involve packing as we would be embarking on our trip to none other than Easter Island the day after and we were still full of colds.  It wouldn’t help that our taxi would be arriving at four thirty in the morning as our 8:20 flight is classed as international (even though the island belongs to Chile) and we therefore need to be there three hours before under airport rules… Even so, this is a small sacrifice to make in order to visit such a remote and wondrous place and we are both immensely looking forward to it!

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