Going to a game of football in South America is quite different to any other continent. Once I realised that there was an Atletico Nacional game on during my stay there was no way I was going to miss this. Even if you’re not a big football fan the experience of the game and the atmosphere is worth the adventure.
Medellin has two local teams Atletico Nacional and Deportivo Indipendiente Medellin with fierce rivalry between the two teams. Atletico Nacional, formerly owned by the notorious Pablo Esocobar, has a green and white uniform. Walking the streets of Medellin you can see fans all over the city wearing the tops with pride regardless of whether or not it is game day. On this particular Wednesday evening the game was Atletico National versus Sante Fe.
The experience starts when you go to buy your ticket. Rocking up to the stadium we went to what we assumed was the ticket booth to purchase tickets, after all that is what we would do back home. We were surprised to find that the ticket window didn’t sell tickets on the night so we asked for directions to the ticket vendors. Heading back toward the ticket vendors we were swarmed by scalpers who were keen to offload their left over tickets. Coming from Australia and the UK we were all a little weary of the scalpers. After all this isn’t what we are used to. After checking with the police they assured us that it was perfectly safe to purchase tickets from the scalpers as long as we paid only after the tickets had been checked by stadium staff. Make sure you negotiate with the scalpers, especially in a group as they will often lower the price of tickets to guarantee the sale.
Best places to sit in the stadium are on the sides and on the top level. You can ask for occidental arriba (upper west side). The south side behind the goals is dedicated to the hard core fans. If you’re game you can sit in amongst it but many locals we spoke to advised against it. Once inside the stadium the energy coming from the supporters at the south end was undeniable. They did not stop singing, dancing, beating drums, flying flags and most impressively jumping up and down for the duration of the game.
The game itself started off slowly then Santa Fe broke through to score the first goal. We were keen to see the intensity of the fans increase with a Nacional comeback and we were not disappointed. Fans erupted when Nacional came back to level the match at 1 all.
A couple of quirks which made the whole experience even more interesting. The games are completely dry, that is no alcohol is served. You can purchase alcohol free cerveza if you really want but really what’s the point. Secondly the half time entertainment is not to be missed. Colombians dressed as Japanese dancing to Korean music. Bottom line regardless of whether or not you are a football fan make sure you catch a game in Medellin. You won’t regret it.