Nacional vs. Peñarol

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!

Nacional penalty kick goal

– Nacional Fans!

Peñarol Fans!

The “Ultimate” Opportunity!

Part of every great adventure is meeting awesome new people and this adventure is no exception. As most of you probably already know, the three of us are very involved in the ultimate frisbee community in the United States. We have all played on top tier teams and participate in local leagues and activities. When we decided we were coming to Uruguay, one of the first questions we had was “Do they have an ultimate team?” None of us could imagine 6 months without the sport and community that we love. Luckily, Matt did some research and found the Uruguay national team (the one and only team) and found Carlos.

Carlos heard of ultimate frisbee 3 years ago and has built a team of about 30 people that compete in 1 or 2 tournaments each year and even put on their own hats tournament last year. Carlos has negotiated field space for the Ultimate team to practice on three times a week and organizes community events to teach children how to play ultimate. He even has a small supply of fliers (with him at all times) describing the 10 steps to playing ultimate that he can give to people that are interested. Everyone that we have met on the team has been so welcoming and helpful.

Carlos has picked us up at our house and taken us to practice, which is good because we probably would never have figured out how to take the bus on our own. Carlos and his brother also helped Matt organize his weekend trip to a beach ultimate tournament in Argentina. Everyone has been awesome in suggesting things to do in the city and describing things about the city that would never have occurred to us. Just like any other ultimate community that we have been a part of, I have no doubt that the team will quickly become a home away from home and we’d like to help them in any way that we can!

We are starting to help them achieve their goal of becoming a competitive team (they’ve never won a game as a team) by teaching them as much as we can and helping lead practices. We have already seen improvement in the couple weeks we’ve been here.

Unfortunately they don’t have all the opportunities that a team from the U.S. might have. There are no local (i.e. anywhere in the country) ultimate frisbee companies that can provide discs or jerseys for this team. Uruguay, as a country, does a great job promoting local goods by requiring an enormous import tax on anything being shipped into the country. These import taxes can be up to 60% of the value of the goods. Because of this, getting ultimate related equipment or apparel is prohibitively expensive for the team.

We have arranged a generous donation of discs from the ADFC, Atlanta Flying Disc Club, to be shipped to the team. These will no doubt help the team in their practicing and community activities, as the discs that most of the players currently have are so scratched up they shouldn’t be played with.

Despite the donation of discs, the team still does not have jerseys. As with any sport, looking and feeling like a team is vital to the teams’ success. We would like to help the Uruguayan team look, feel, and play like a team by helping them get some jerseys. We’re doing our best from here, but we need your help. Please visit our Uruguyan Ultimate Jersey Fundraising page. Click the link or find it at the top right of our blog.

Let’s help support our ultimate communities across the world!