The Origin of Species and the Modern Football Fan

Santiago Travel Blog

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The final destination on my five month meander around South America, Santiago hasn't really offered any surprises in the few days I've been here. Rather like Buenos Aires, it strikes me as a place in which it would be better to live for a while rather than spend a few days mooching around as a tourist. I get the impression that a lot of the real cultural kicks to be had here lie beneath the surface. It`s a very youthful city, students teem through centre all day, there are bars, clubs and restaurants aplenty, and I reckon that it could be a hell of a lot of fun to stay here longer term. For me however, that isn't on the agenda.  

As part of my own little city tour, I made a trip up to Cerro Santa Lucia, a rocky hill slapped in the centre of the shallow bowl of the city. Good old Charles Darwin has a garden dedicated to him up on the hill because, back in the mists of antiquity, he once climbed to the summit to take in the view. His garden is not fancy; there`s no statue of the great scientist or anything. My guidebook (Footprint) says that there's a plaque quoting his description of the surroundings, but I certainly couldn't see it. What I couldn`t miss, however, was the rather imposing statue of the first Archbishop of Chile on the edge of Darwin`s little plot, pointedly showing it his stony back. Intentional or not, this says it all really: Roman Catholicism, rather than scientific reason, remains "The Word" in this part of the world.

I also finally took in a football match, something I promised myself I would do at some point in South America. Jack and I went along to a Copa Libertadores match between local favourites Colo Colo and Venezuelan "giants" UA Maracaibo. It turned out to be an entertaining experience, with Jack and myself standing on our seats to see the action; the entire section were standing on their own seats so we had little choice really. Not sure the teenage lads stood directly behind us were too thrilled to get 6 foot gringos blocking their view though. The partisan home crowd sang and chanted throughout the whole match, which is quite an achievement considering they were serenading about 6 fans from Venezuela. From my limited understanding of chanted Chilean spanish, most of the songs seemed to suggest one of the following:

(1) Colo Colo is the best team ever

(2) The opposition (and their fans) are all homosexual

(3) The opposition's mothers are not ladies of virtue and may, additionally, have slept with Colo Colo fans   

So pretty much the same as most English football chants then.

Fortunately Colo Colo triumphed 2-0, each goal sending the mob of thousands in the terrace next to our own into a frenzy. They streamed down the slope, howling all the way, to leap onto the high chain-link fence, topped with lashings of razor wire, that separated them from the pitch. This terrace seemed to house most of the die hard fans and was the main concern of coppers kitted out with heavily-padded, olive green riot gear and big old shields. Our own section was thankfully, slightly more subdued, although there was still much bouncing around on (and subsequent falling off of) the surprisingly resilient white plastic seats. 

After the match we ended up in a bit of crush to get on the Metro (subway) back to the centre. The locals were in a good mood though so the cops marshalling entry into the station were only subject to a spot of gentle banter and a bit of shoving. On the whole it was a great night out, an intreresting comparison to English football both on and off the pitch, and definitely worth the 10 dollars entry fee. There's also a little piece of me that can't help but wonder what Charles Darwin would have made of it all.                         

Higton says:
HA! I'm 5 foot-eleven and three-quarters.

Now you probably understand...
Posted on: Apr 22, 2008
Saladin79 says:
Ok pedant, so I'm 5ft 11 and a half. You seem strangely concerned about small measurement discrepancies - anything on your mind?
Posted on: Apr 22, 2008
Higton says:
You aren't 6 feet tall
Posted on: Apr 21, 2008
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