I told you all we were going to go to another fútbol game while we were here. Thanks to Carlos (again!), running to the nearest Abitab (more on those in another post) to buy us tickets, we were able to go. Carlos’ other brothers are Peñarol fans and he and his parents are Nacional fans, so we were more than happy to hang out with him and get to see an awesome game.
Fútbol games here are a bit different than in the US. One big difference is that you literally have to choose sides. Peñarol fans were allowed to buy Peñarol tickets a week before Nacional fans. Peñarol tickets sold out in 30 minutes and were only available to those people who were part of a Peñarol club. When Nacional tickets went on sale they were available to buy at local venues and also sold out fairly quickly.
Not really knowing what to expect on game day, we strategically did NOT wear yellow and black (Peñarol colors). We took the bus up to Carlos’ house and on the way lost count of the number of Peñarol jerseys we saw walking along the streets. Not until we got near Carlos’ house did we see truck-loads of Nacional fans setting off fireworks in the middle of the street, decked out in their blue and white.
Our experience at the stadium brings new meaning to the term “sports fan”. There were separate entrances for Peñarol and Nacional fans, which later made sense when we realized that the stadium was divided into sections for the two teams. Between the fans of the two teams there was an entirely empty section, presumably so that aggressive fans couldn’t hurt each other. Bags were checked at the entrance and a quick pat down was given. No bottles were allowed. There were separate lines for men and women to be checked, although the fans were composed of 10 men for every woman.
Inside the stadium, one side was entirely yellow and black and the other side entirely blue and white. Fan clubs for each side hung banners from everything and anything. There were police everywhere in their swat gear, including helmets and shields (just in case).
The game started with a fanfare of fireworks, colored smoke, pieces of paper, flares, and much singing. The teams have their own songs and chants. It would have been good to have learned them prior to the game, but our excitement was well shown through our screaming and cheering.
The game was exciting and suspenseful, with Peñarol scoring a goal in the first minute as the result of an unseen handball, quickly followed by a penalty kick goal by Nacional. Peñarol scored a second goal with a nice kick from a wide cross which was followed by a Nacional goal that was very similar. Another Nacional goal came from an indirect kick outside the penalty box that didn’t touch a soul and we were on the winning side. Carlos won himself bragging rights for a while with his brothers!
The fans around us were animated. They sang songs, they taunted the Peñarol fans (even though they were far away), they stood up in their seats at every goal opportunity, they whistled instead of booing (Uruguayans are really good at whistling), and they cheered. It was an impressive display of support.
On leaving the stadium we learned that our way home wasn’t going to be as direct as we had expected. Fans from each side were only allowed to exit the stadium in opposite directions. In a country with such devoted fans, I can understand the precaution.
Check out some videos from the game!