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!

Asado with the Chiale Family

We had the pleasure of joining the Chiale family for an Asado last weekend.

This family has been every kind of nice to us. The three sons, Carlos, Juanma, and Maxi led the welcoming charge from the frisbee community when we first arrived. The Chiale family put on a wonderful birthday party for Carlos, which we were lucky enough to attend. Carlos generously invited us to join him and his parents at a fútbol game and we have participated in numerous activities, both social and ultimate related, with Carlos and Juanma. We have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the Chiale family and are so lucky to have found such nice people so far from home.

Matt posted previously about an asado he had in Buenos Aires, but this one was a little different because of the weather. It was cold. None of us wanted to stand outside to watch the meat cook, so we took the token photo and then spent a good amount of time inside chatting.

From left to right: Juanma, Asa, Randi, Matt, Carlos, and Maxi. Photo credit: Juan Carlos Chiale!

The asado meat and the chorizo were both really tasty. We had french fries with egg and spinach mixed in and some salad as sides. Dessert was an incredible dulce de leche ice cream dish with pieces of cake mixed in and meringues on top. Oh and don’t forget the Uruguayan flags in the dessert!

After we were done eating we made our way to a local fútbol field where Maxi, the youngest brother, was having his weekly game. They unfortunately tied 2-2, but Maxi scored a goal!

Thanks again to the Chiale family for making us feel so welcome!

Fútbol Game!

Last night Asa and I were lucky enough to attend a local fútbol game. Our friend Carlos won some tickets to the game and invited us along for the fun!

Just a quick note about fútbol outside the United States and in Uruguay. Fútbol is a “national pastime” in many countries and in Uruguay especially. The Uruguayan Futbol Association (the country’s governing body for the sport) was founded in 1900. The national team has won the World Cup twice; once in 1930 during the first World Cup Tournament (also held in Uruguay) and again in 1950. They came in 4th during the 2010 World Cup and have won the Copa América a record 15 times, including in 2011. The success of the Uruguayan national team has been cited as amazing by many in the press because of the country’s small size (about 3.5 million people). Check out the great info about the team on Wikipedia.

In short: Fútbol is important here. Children start playing in local leagues when they are very young (i.e. when they can run and not fall over immediately) and they keep playing. There are numerous teams in the country’s professional league, the two most popular being “Nacional” and “Peñarol”.

When there are important games on television the city stops functioning (literally). Carlos told us that people will leave work early, stores will close, and people can only be found where they can see the game (i.e. at home or in bars). This type of interest/obsession with a sport can only be rivaled in the United States by the Super Bowl, which comes in at a very very distant second.

The game last night was Nacional vs. a team from Chile. It was one of several games in the Copa Santender Libertadores that occurs from January to July and involves teams from 11 South American countries. The game was at the open air Centenario Stadium. On our way to the stadium a crowd of fans from Chile were walking down the middle of the street yelling and carrying on, stopping traffic. Of course this was about 2 miles from the stadium.

The turn-out for the game was pretty poor because of a cold rain forecast in the weather. We went prepared with raincoats, thick socks, and beanies. Despite the small crowd as a whole, the die-hard fans were there in throngs. Clubs in the city get together and get seats behind the home-side goal, where they spend the entire game singing, dancing, lighting flares and small fireworks, and in general being the “life of the party”.

There was a huge fireworks display as the home team, Nacional, took the field. Carlos said that sometimes they fire off so many that they have to wait for the smoke to clear before they can start the game.

Vendors walk around the stadium selling various things to eat including: potato chips, peanuts, coffee, tortas fritas (fried bread), and sodas. Just like anywhere else, prices were a bit more expensive than in the supermarket or local corner store. There were police patrolling everywhere, but weren’t checking bags or preventing people from bringing things into the stadium. We brought some sandwiches and cookies.

The game itself was fairly frustrating. The home team, Nacional, had a ton of shots on goal and runs down the field, but for whatever reason couldn’t score. There were lots of yellow cards. A man sitting behind us even yelled “tarjeta (i.e. card)” every time a player hit the ground. I guess that’s part of the recent efforts to try and crack down on fouls in the game. Nacional managed to score in the second half with a nicely deflected ball from the heel of a foreword; home team wins 1-0.

The game was a blast. Asa and I are looking forward to other games, as we imagine each game has a different “feel” based on who is playing and the weather. We really want to see a Nacional vs. Peñarol match. Here’s to hoping that there will be one while we are here and that we can get tickets!

Check out some short videos I took with my camera: Video 1 and Video 2.