Medellín: El Clásico Paisa

Today we are attending a fútbol game (or soccer for those from the Estados Unidos). The game we are attending is El Clásico Paisa, the name for the rivalry between the teams of Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín, both of Medellín. They both share the Atanasio Girardot stadium but once a year play each other. El Clásico Paisa – Wikipedia

While attending a couple tours in Medellín we noticed that the guides had mentioned the upcoming exhibition game on Saturday and how fun it would be. The thought of going to a soccer game in Medellín seemed scary to me due to the city’s history. Days passed and we eventually find we have a free day on Saturday, our last day. One of the ideas for the last day is to explore the neighborhood near the soccer stadium; after that idea it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to actually buy tickets to the game. To be honest my travel companion M is more on board with this idea than I am, but I am willing to go along for the ride. We mulled the idea too long I guess because the only available tickets left are on the supporter section of the underdog. Attending the game is one thing but sitting in the supporters section? I’ve been to soccer matches in the USA and I rarely sit in the supporters section because there is a high expectation of participation that I don’t always have the energy for. We decide to purchase tickets anyway.

We have our seats so now we think it is a good idea to buy jerseys plus a bum bag for me. We figure there has got to be lots of vendors selling knockoff Jerseys around town. We wake up semi-early the day of the game and wander our neighborhood after breakfast. We have yet to see any jersey vendors but we do come across a parade. We watch for a while since it is blocking the crosswalk. Growing impatient we “join” the parade for the purpose of crossing the road. No one seems to care. We aren’t quite sure what the parade is for.

We are in the parade

After the parade we are still having a hard time finding decent looking shirts for the underdog team (Independiente Medellín). It seems people only want to buy shirts for the better team so that is most of what we see. The knockoffs are pretty terrible, some not even the current year design. We eventually find some that are satisfactory. After our shirt purchases we head to a shop where I find a bum bag. It is black but it is obvious that I am buying a bag that was given away free at some tech conference and now is being sold in this shop. It is a rip off but I need something small to carry my items to the match so this will do.

While we are out M buys a couple gifts to for people back home. We take our things back to the hotel and get ready for the game. We want to head out early so we can witness the tailgate fun near the stadium. Also M wants to hang out somewhere to catch another game on TV nearby the stadium.

Eventually we take the metro down to the stadium area.

View from the metro

We start in the very crowded tailgate area of Atlético Nacional . We are wearing the jersey for the opponent but no one cares. No heckling or anything happens.

We walk down the street to where the fans of “our” team is hanging out. It is lively but much less crowded.

It is time to start looking for our seats so we head toward the stadium. We end up walking pretty far to find our entrance gate. M talks me into walking beers for the journey. Good call since no alcohol is sold in the stadium.

We are obviously early. The supporters section is only partially filled. The section that contains our seats appears to have many other tourists who joined the fun like we have.

Stadium view

Finally the stadium fills and the game starts.

As the game goes on the energy level increases. The supporters loudly sing their chants. They are loud but we can still hear the very busy supporter section from across the stadium.

Fans hold onto the banners draped over the stadium seats like their life depended on it, for some of them it is the only thing keeping them from falling below – guys stand on top the railing, grasp the banner and sort of swing slightly. They also sometimes hop up and down. We watch in anticipation and fear of a fall to below but it doesn’t happen; not to say it hasn’t happened in the past.

Somehow people have brought in cream colored burlap-like bags full of torn paper. It becomes useful for pivotal moments of the game as does the smoke bombs.

The other side is quite lively as well.

We buy some water in a bag and watch the tifo during the half.

We are having so much fun.

A vendor is selling fruit soda from a liter bottle in the stands. No alcohol sold just water, snacks and juices. Probably a good thing because I wouldn’t want to see this lively crowd drunk.

Someone hands out streamers to throw. We get to participate in the action!

Quite the mess to clean up.

The match ends in a Tie. The DIM supporters are very happy since that doesn’t usually happen. We head out of the stadium and hang out a bit where the supporters hang out. We watch the band play from a bar.

Here is a video I put together of the tailgating, game and post party in case you want to feel like you are part of it. (It is pretty long).

We fly home tomorrow which means this is the official end of my seven month sabbatical. I’ve had so many great experiences during my travels but what a fantastic way to end it all!

View of the last night of my sabbatical

Note about flight home, we both have colds we are fighting and we are trying to take a flight on the onset of the covid pandemic. We worry we’ll get booted off our flight. We don’t think we have this new and nasty virus but it is so new that we aren’t sure we’ll be flagged or not. Luckily we made it home and then the world shuts down about two weeks later. The timing of my return trip home seems to be impeccable.

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