I will be posting shortly on the beautiful Valparaiso, near Santiago in Chile. Before I do, however, I need to mention one new fact about long term travel: you keep running into the same people, in new places. Having met the lovely Neda when she swung her head down from the top bunk to introduce herself in Bariloche, we (at this point me, Jessica and Neda) all decided to travel together to Valparaiso and onward to Boliva.
We found a lovely hostel in Valparaiso, and just as we were getting ready to go to bed, the door opened and in walked two guys we had met in Bariloche, several weeks earlier. Not only was it midnight, but we were also perched atop Cerro Allegre and not in the safest area of town. In addition, we never really knew their names; I met them in line at an ATM machine and struck up a conversation because I was bored.
Nonetheless: instant friends, in a matter of seconds. We all decided that we would head to Santiago together and then watch a football came. The Copa Libertadores was on in South America and it was an ideal time to see people go nuts at a game. We all bought tickets to the Colo-Colo vs F.C. Atlas (Chile vs Mexico) match, and was it ever worth our while.
Ruurd (one of the 2 ATM-encountered guys) was harassed and almost robbed of our money on our walk there, and then the Colo-Colo fans (known locally as the Garra Blanca) put on a show like you would not believe.
Here are 2 videos from the game, that only partially capture the insanity:
I grew up playing soccer (or football as it’s called in a good part of the world), and attended many games. The soccer matches abroad are far more exciting and dangerous than in North America. Even during our NFL or CFL (‘gridiron’) games, you rarely hear about riots and hooliganism. There was the “Bounty Bowl” where people were pelted with dangerously hard snowballs in the US, in 1989. When it comes to soccer, it’s not just snowballs but death and riots. Here’s a list of the top soccer game disasters. Not pretty.
I’ve long been interested in why. There are articles about people who were hooligans and loved it, and one of my favourite authors, Bill Buford, has written a book called Among the Thugs about the very topic. Buford, an American, was the editor of London-based Granta magazine and talks about “soccer hooliganism” and why it happens. From the Literary Review:
Particularly riveting is his account of the aftermath of a match in Turin, Italy, where 200 or so Manchester supporters marched through the ancient streets leaving fire and destruction in their wake. Buford’s original theories on football violence, fraught with notions about disenfranchised youth and the frustration of the working class, are forever dashed. He concludes that the English working class is dead, and what remains is a culture so vapid that ” . . . it pricks itself so that it has feeling, burns its flesh so that is has smell.”
I’m not sure if this kind of soccer-related violence will increase or decrease in coming years, but watching this match — a relatively quiet one compared to Buford’s writeups — still felt extremely surprising even though I had previously read about soccer fanaticism. Ultimately hooliganism seems less about the game itself and more about the sense of belonging, the glorification of violence and empowerment, and the very aggressive nature of enforcing team-based loyalties.