Have you heard the saying “Football is a new religion”? Once you are in South America, you will see why that saying is not an overstatement. Football has so many loyal followers who cheer, chant, cry, and do anything for their team. You will not believe this unless you feel the euphoria yourself, first hand. Join the local club’s supporters and spend your day on this authentic, genuine adventure. And here is your guide on how to watch a football match in Medellin, Colombia, written by someone who is a football fan herself.
Which match to watch?
Like every sports game, it’s important to decide which one to watch, especially if it is your first time and you don’t know anything about the team or players. There are two clubs from Medellin (Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin) and needless to say that the best match to watch is the derby, a classic match between two closest rivals.
Familiar with La Liga of Spain? According to the locals, the rivalry between these two Medellin clubs is similar to Real Madrid and Barcelona. Atletico (with their green-white jersey color) is the richer team, who are able to afford the good players money can buy. Independiente (with their red and blue, similar to Barcelona) is the people’s champion.
Surprisingly, the rivalry on the pitch does not interrupt the Saturday pre-match afternoon before kick-off. Supporters from both sides sit together around Atanacio Girardot Stadium enjoying their empanadas to fuel up for the game. In fact, there was one family whose four kids supported either clubs. Even though football fans in South America are known for being intense when it comes to football, the two sides can be civilized and have a laugh together.
However, once they get inside the stadium, the battle is on. It starts with a battle of chants and drums between the two tribunes even way before kick-off.
Drum battle between the two supporters
When you watch a game with a lot at stake, such as a derby, el Classico, or an important knockout round, choosing your seat is not just about getting the best view and protecting yourself under the shade. It is also about choosing a side. Even though you’re not supporting any of them, it is highly recommended to sit among the local team’s fans. For a derby between Atletico and Independiente, it should be noted that both teams share the same stadium. Therefore, it is best to know which team is acting as the “home” team and sit in their area.
In Atanasio Girardot Stadium of Medellin, the home team takes the south stand. The best seat is sector 14 in the southwest area as it will keep you close to the home team so you can hear them chant but far enough so you can sit down and enjoy the match. Plus, you will be mostly protected from the sun as you sit under the cover (this depends on the time of day and the sun’s position).
The roars don't stop even when they are three goals behind
This is an authentic experience you will not get from any other activities during your trip. Not only will you get to be among locals, but you will also get to witness authentic emotions on display - whether it be a win or loss. Their reactions towards every chance, foul, and goal is priceless to witness. Of course, some of them will show a bad attitude like an insulting cheer or throwing stuff out of disappointment, but you don’t need to worry about your safety because the whole place is well guarded. You can see police officers watching the spectators in every sector. In fact, every spectator will be frisked when they enter the stadium area and anyone considered a threat to other’s safety will be escorted out immediately.
Now, back to the football euphoria. Independiente was trailing three goals to nil, but the fans didn’t stop chanting. They kept singing their team’s chazas, a special chant made by the fans, wholeheartedly. You can ask them for the words if you want to chant along, but if you don’t, you can always clap along or sit quietly and watch the match.
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Now that you know what to expect, here's how to get there
First of all, you need to check the game’s schedule. Google makes this pretty easy. Just type in “Colombia league football fixtures” and you will see a list of upcoming games. While in Medellin, look for Independiente Medellin or Atletico Nacional. Click on the fixture to see where the game will take place. Estadio Atanacio Girardot is the one you want to look for.
There is a metro station close to the stadium. In fact, the station is called Estadio so it is easy to find on the metro map. Regardless of where you’re staying in Medellin, it will only cost you around 2.500 COP (approximately 0.72 USD) for a metro journey to Estadio. You can get yourself a metro card Civica for free at some of the big stations or buy yourself a ticket at a ticket booth at any station.
Once you get to Estadio station, you will not miss the big stadium area next to it. Since you’re getting a seat on the Southwest area, try to get to the west entrance stadium (using Google Maps) and find an officer with a “May I help you?” sign or this big orange banner in the area. This is the only booth selling tickets for tourists.
How much does it cost?
Even though it is a ticket booth designated for tourists, don’t worry about being overcharged. You are getting the same price as the locals. A seat on the southwest stand, sector 14 to be exact, is sold for 75.000 COP (approximately 21.6 USD). You can see the official price printed on the ticket. Don’t worry about having to buy the ticket in advance. You can get yours one hour before the match. Each seat is numbered, so you won’t have to come early just to get the best seat.
There are plenty of local eateries around the stadium. However, they only serve snacks like empanadas (which are quite filling). There are also food vendors wandering around during the game, so you can get your popcorn, chips, and beers delivered to your seat. Just sit back and enjoy the show!
An experience you will not forget
Considering how loyal football supporters are in South American countries like Colombia, watching a football game here is more than just enjoying accurate passes and fantastic goals. What is more important here is to get acquainted with the local culture and important tradition. For only 21.6 USD you will have hours of entertainment and lots of stories to tell. What more you could have asked for?
Even though Independiente lost 1-4 that night, the drums and chazas never stopped. You can immerse yourself even more by wearing the local team’s jersey and siting with local fans. Keep in mind that most of the locals here don’t speak English, so your Spanish language skills may be required. Hasta luego!
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