Wednesday 24th November 2010 – Estadio Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo – Kick Off 3:30pm
This week the Colombian Correspondent offers La Liga Postobon in 2nd Division form, it’s the play-offs and Bogotá FC, the team with one of the most eye-catching badges in world football, need to win to have any hope of joining the elite next season.
El Estadio Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo has a long name but isn’t much of a stadium, more of what we’d call a ground. As a result I don’t have much in the way of visuals this week, only words, so employing them I’ll endeavour to describe the foreplay.
The ground is smack-bang in the middle of a university campus, the entrance to which is not initially clear, as I was to find out. Trudging through mud towards a heavily guarded gate, in light rain, two members of the army approached me to make enquiries about the nature of my visit. I politely informed them that I was intending to take in the match and wanted to know how to penetrate the outer rim of security.
Before I could say ‘of course Real Madrid deliberately induced those two red cards’, I was being whisked round to the turnstiles in a camouflaged jeep, overtaking the City TV media van in the process, that’s right, thegoal-line.com has edged out one of cable TV’s finest, albeit down to the local forces curiosity in a foreigner with a notepad rather than any kind of reporting acumen.
The worm soon turned, I then had to queue up with the swell of trumpeting away fans while the smug City TV reporter flashed his laminated card and swaggered through full of hubris… keep that swagger up pal, this is the second division, on a wet Wednesday afternoon, in front of a crowd of about 200 people… that’s your job, I’m pursuing a hobby… I can stop anytime I like… your kids will go hungry if you don’t learn all the players’ names… I can leave when I want, in fact, I don’t even have to go in. I did though.
This way to the ground, easy if you know the right people.
It wasn’t over… and the game hadn’t even started, the inner rim security, the armed police, breathalysed me, that City TV guy must have stitched me up. Breathalysed? La Liga Postobon, where you’re bombarded with beer publicity… but don’t you dare drink one. Next they’ll be confiscating my belt. Ah, they did.
Anyway, I found my way to my seat, my trousers fell down and the game kicked off. On seven minutes the beautifully named Fredy Pajoy put Patriotas of Boyacá 1-0 up, smashing home a 25 yard free-kick in off the post, a huge set back for Bogotá and a minor set back for my trousers as I stood up to gain a better vantage point of the celebrations that ensued.
The game then strictly followed a seven minute cycle, the sun emerged and on 14 minutes the City TV chap was noting things down furiously, I followed suit. Another seven minutes passed and in the 21st Bogotá’s target man made a complete hash of a free header, a stream of away fans appeared from nowhere, beltless and having duped the breathalyzer test with mints.
On entering, trumpet signals were sounded to communicate to the Patriotas fans already in the ground, much like the system employed by ducklings and their mother.
At some point in the 28th minute the equaliser came for the home side, a glancing header crept in off the back post, the hero of the moment, Harry Castillo, another good name, although Fredy Pajoy will be quite hard to beat.
Fredy Pajoy, celebrates best name award with a guy in jeans
The radio commentator was jabbering frenetically a few rows back, giving the game an element of excitement unapparent to me. The seven minute loop brought the 35th minute and Patriotas had what looked a decent goal chalked off, this was closely followed by some histrionics of Rivaldo proportions when the away keeper threw himself to the ground, as if suffering a bullet between the blades from a sniper in the crowd. He was caught be a late challenge, a nibble on the ankle, no more. Shame on him.
Minute forty-two, the next instalment, an explosion, a harsh straight red for the Bogotá’s David Silva, an influential midfielder, was no longer influential, pushing and shoving turned into more than handbags, there was some oversized baggage being thrown around in there. But the man not on-loan from Manchester City was the only name to go into the notebook and off he went, much to the dismay of the Bogotá manager, remonstrating with the ref from the dugout made of a cut and shut gazebo with garden furniture. I now realise that the various rims of security were for the players, not the fans… and with all those plastic chairs around, Arsenal fans would have had a field day.
By the way, if you want to see / hear some insane commentating, go to www.bogotafc.com.co and check out the youtube clips of previous matches, I think they breathalysed the wrong man.
My Jerry Springer half time ponder left me thinking that I had nailed my colours to the mast too soon, after deciding to follow Millonarios, I now realised Bogotá FC was the team for me. Cheap tickets, a splendid kit of yellow and red, a lion emerging from behind a Punch and Judy curtain depicted on the badge and free-flowing football with no end product. I liked them, I liked them a lot and they’re even on twitter.
Start of the 2nd half, 10 v 11
As with 10 against 11, the second half was proving difficult for the yellows and just as they were starting to run out of ideas, a gilt edged chance was missed, a smart save from the shamed away keeper, whatever his name might be.
Hope was fading for Bogotá FC, in the 70th minute a great jinking run ended in the ball being blazed over, I won’t pretend to know who by. Chances came and went at both ends, the pace and enthusiasm of the radio commentator’s delivery was now justified, in the last 10 minutes both sides missed headers from close range, wide of the target, toblerone ™ heads all round.
Towards the end, we saw what all fans love to see, the home side’s keeper goes up for a corner, gets caught out, sprints the entire length of the field to get back just in time to make a spectacular back-peddling save, another corner. I was willing the Number One at the other end, Señor Shame, to go one better. He didn’t, he stayed put… because the team from Boyacá (shouldn’t Ali G live there?) didn’t need to, a draw suited them, the final whistle was blown and Bogotá FC were out.
A shame really, the yellows deserved the win for all their effort and in centre midfield they have a man mountain, we’ll call him number 19, a real talent who I’d imagine will be snapped up by Bolton or Stoke at some point.
So, what have we leant from today’s match? Much like the Roof Stadium of Equidad not having a roof, a stadium isn’t always a stadium; City TV have clearly been unnerved by our presence and that Rivaldo when spellchecked is ‘Rival do’.
News of La Liga Postobon’s first division to follow soon…
Wednesday 17th November 2010Estadio El Campin - Kick Off 7:00pm
International football from the Colombian Correspondent, courtesy of thegoal-line.com
, the website where padding scores higher in scrabble than succinct.Tonight we return to El Campin Stadium
on yet another wet evening in Bogotá, so wet in fact that the players squelch onto the pitch in wellington boots and retro cagoules.
In the first minute Colombia’s Jackson Martínez lets fly from the edge of the box, the ball sits in a puddle while the number 11
’s wellie takes the umbrella clean out of the Peruvian goalkeepers hand!
That didn’t happen, I made it up… but damned if I’m going to finish this news piece without you having some idea of how wet I got.
As the teams lined up I’d forgotten that Peru boast the finest kit in world football. Watching Peru is like watching eleven little Nobby Solanos running around the pitch in inflatable Red Stripe beer can costumes. But tell me, why is it you can only buy a can of Red Stripe at dank gigs in sub-standard venues?
A man dressed as a can of Red Stripe lager, no sorry its Nolberto Solano. Available at a dank music venue near you...
At 7:06pm the match got under way. After ten seconds we saw the first big gasp from the crowd, a lofted ball up field landed with a huge splash… whooooooaaaaaaa!
Ahem...didn’t anybody notice the two non-stop days of torrential rain leading up to the match? Or is the invisible bubble protecting the pitch inactive again? No, that’s right, IT HASN’T BEEN INVENTED YET!
Anyway, Colombia dominated the early stages; they clearly have a decent player on their hands with Junior’s Giovanni Hernández, the highest paid player in La Liga Postobon. He was dictating the play with clever flicks, deft passes and some impressive aqua showboating. Hernádez in widely considered as the best number 10 Colombia have had since the legendary Carlos Valderrama, unfortunately for the home side, he was surrounded by a pack of Hamilton Ricards. For all Hernández’s inventiveness Colombia were unable to create any clear cut chances.
Little by little the diminutive cans of Red Stripe fought their way back into the game inevitably took the lead on 35 minutes, a cracking volley from just outside the area, dispatched by Luis Ramírez. The travelling fans, of about ten in number, went wild… before having a roll of toilet paper thrown at them from above.
Toilet roll fly! Peru take the lead...
Half time came and went as I took photos of the South American version of the St John’s Ambulance, wearing bright green tin hats. The rain ceased, Colombia having made three substitutes came out looking like a team that didn’t want to be beaten by a beer that was originally marketed as a soft drink.
Splash! On fifty-seven minutes John Valencia sends a header just over the bar from point blank range.
Slosh! Two minutes later Giovanni Moreno blasts straight at the keeper when clean through.
Splatter! On 65 minutes, Victor Ibarbo narrowly fails to get on the end of a cross and slides straight into the post, provoking memories of Gazza in the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany.
The three substitutes are running the game, Peru can’t get out of their half and on 73 minutes, it’s time to crack open the Red Stripe, after some great wing play, John Valencia squares the ball across the gaping goal and Luis Núñez taps home. Game on.
The star of the show is substitute, Dayro Moreno of Once Caldas, a Tevez type figure, he plays with pace, aggression and drive... regrettably similar not only in style but in looks.
Colombia have two or three more opportunities to win the goal but alas, the now active protective bubble seems to be protecting the Peruvian goal and the game peters out to a 1-1 draw with a ripple of soggy applause.
During these moments, a noticed the absence of cheerleaders (see Millionarios v Tolima
) so I was left venting my anger on the hoards of fans videoing corners and free kicks on their Blackberrys
. Just watch it with your eyes, they’re much better designed for this kind of thing, anything spectacular can be found on youtube
at a later date… and while we’re at it, put away the popcorn, it makes you look a like the yanks.
At the final whistle I was left to ponder, maybe we’re not so different… having watched England v France on TV earlier in the day, I noted how 85,000 fans paid above the odds to sit in the cold and leave early, not before getting a few heckles in. Here, 5,000 fans paid above the odds (for an average Colombian income) to sit in the rain and leave early, not before shouting hijo de puta!
at every Peruvian goal kick, then chuckling to themselves… possibly unaware that the keeper in question was far too far away to notice… or care.
But I cared… I cared that I was wet, I cared that I was cold and I cared that in the absence of Red Stripe, I had a fridge full of Colombia’s finest beer, Aguila
, waiting for me.
Saturday November 6th – Estadio El Campin – Kick Off 8:30pm
Welcome back to La Liga Postobón, where we’ll provide you with more waffle than content, where sarcasm is deemed an acceptable substitute for knowledge and where we call a roof a roof.
Tonight, the fate of Millonarios’ season will be decided at home, in El Campin, Bogotá, the National Stadium of Colombia, just a brisk 15 minute walk from my flat. Defeat against league leaders Tolima would all but end the home side’s chances of making the play-offs.
Tolima of Ibagué, come having already qualified for the last eight, don a brightly coloured kit of yellow and a reddish orange, a superb cross-pollination of Bradford City and Melchester Rovers. There’s no sign of Roy but it’s not raining and the atmosphere is electric. The 50,000 capacity stadium isn’t a work of architectural genius but its two extremities are filled with bouncing ultras, giving a vibrating surround sound buzz that even the best Sony Bravia can’t provide.
From the off, the pace of the game is relentless and it takes only seven minutes for the first goal to arrive, Millonarios’ hard-working forward, Jonathon Estrada, is brought down in the box, and Yovanny Arrechea, breathes a sigh of relief as he side-foots home the twice taken penalty.
There’s a feeling transmitting through the stadium that the dream is still alive, the fans raise the noise level and the players up to the tempo. There’s something entrancing about the ultra’s constant chanting, jumping up and down in unison and the unfurling of gigantic banners.
I find myself divided, one eye on them, the other on the game, the level of effort on behalf of the fans to get behind their team is more than impressive.
Tolima, for their part, are not an unlikeable side, bringing a sizeable away support, play effectively on the counter attack and contribute to an entertaining game. And using the somewhat British mantra of football, beer and birds, their official website allows fans to rate and vote for Miss Tolima. In the event you can’t find the URL in question, I could pass on the details.
Half-time comes around very quickly, fans and players alike welcome the break after putting their all into the first half, that is with exception the cheerleaders. Now, it’s my opinion that cheerleaders have no part in football, it’s an unwelcomed Americanism that I’d quite happily send back with Mexican Waves and Mascots. However, my insignificant beliefs aside, these cheerleaders in particular have got to be the laziest bunch of work-shy fops I’ve ever seen, sitting chatting and giggling at the side of the pitch, unemployed ball boys in mini-skirts. If the fans are running on Duracell then the cheerleaders have clearly opted for Eveready.
Seeing as my match-day ticket boasts ‘toilets’ as one of the ground's facilities I take a half-time wander to check them out, a bizarre exercise I know… but in this case necessary after two hurriedly drunk pre-match beers. Besides, if the Roof Stadium had no roof (see Equidad vs Millonarios last week
) then who’s to say that claiming the presence of functioning lavatories wouldn’t end in the same disappointment.
Anyway, there were… but to be caught out in need of a number two would be a horrific experience, as anyone taller than Shaun Wright-Phillips would be able to look straight over the top of the cubical at… well, you know.
If I ever needed something to distract me from images of the bobbing heads of bottom wipers, it was the start of the second half, Tolima broke away in the 49th minute and Paraguayan Julio César Ortellado poked home after being teed up by Roy of the Rovers.
Now, every team has their carthorse and Millonarios are no exception. They possess one of those archetypal gangling centre backs, the Venezuelan Alejandro Cichero, formerly of Benfica and according to Wikipedia ‘good at the air
’, whatever that means. He is, for want of a more sensitive description, an absolute donkey, similar not only in stature but in looks to former Norwich and Arsenal defender, Andy Linighan. It was his careless pass that led to the Tolima’s equaliser, but clearly sensing that I’d noted his equine abilities popped up at the near post two minutes later, to flick on a corner to the back post where Ómar Vásquez steamed in to put Millonarios 2-1 up with a diving header, the crowd went wild and Andrés
Linighan had silenced his critic.
The home side, The Blue Ballet, dug in, Alejandro Cichero became a man possessed, winning every header, making last ditch challenges and timely interceptions. All of a sudden the game become about him, just to make me eat my words and to lead Millonarios into the last eight.
Nerves were setting in but the time was ticking away and the noise was getting louder and louder and victory was in sight. But we know football… and football knows us...
In the 89th minute after some moderate pressure from Tolima a hopeful cross was unnecessarily turned into his own net by… full back, Leonard Vásquez, the trailing leg syndrome. And In the words of the great Danny Baker, "there’s only one Johnny Polston!" 2-2, undeserved, unfortunate and frustrating. At least the victim wasn’t the great Venezuelan, Señor Cichero. I thought about lying for comedy effect but as Winston Churchill once said "a lie can get half way around the world before the truth has had a chance to put its trousers on"… and somebody would have found me out, eventually.
Frenetic until the end, both teams spurned one-on-ones
in the final minute, the respective keepers applying ‘the Schmeichel (Peter not Casper) method’ of throwing everything they’ve got at the ball at the oncoming player just to keep the score level.
On a day where Wolves manager complained that his team got ‘diddly squat’ for their efforts, I more than got my money’s worth, I arrived an intrigued on-looker and left a Millonarios fan.
And all this from the league that sent us Hamilton Ricard.
Next week, with Millonarios now eliminated, our attentions turn to the other Bogotá giant, Santa Fe.
Futbol, Colombia style. Equidad vs Millonarios
Iain Fuller, Bogata
South American football provokes sparkling images of Pele, Diego Maradona, Enzo Francescoli, Carlos Valderrama, the free-scoring and slightly eccentric goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert, the equally free-scoring and pie eating Ronaldo and more recently Lionel Messi.
Mix in some vibrant colours, a style of football that has football commentators irritatingly tripping over their superlatives, cameramen unashamedly zooming in on busty bouncing beauties in the crowd and the occasional mis-timed tackle and one could say you have a reasonable picture of fútbol south of Panama.
Think of Colombian football and you may be struggling to get beyond the aforementioned Carlos Valderrama, another eccentric goalkeeper in René Higuita and Faustino ‘Tino’ Asprilla (formerly of Darlington, nearly)… Villa fans will probably recall Juan Pablo Ángel and then there was Andrés ‘suicidal defending’ Escobar, apparently the BBC issued a public apology the day after his death (he was shot 12 times outside a bar in Medellín after putting through his own net against the USA during the group stages of the 1994 World Cup) when Alan Hansen commented after a match the following day that ‘the Argentine defender warrants shooting for a mistake like that’. Anyway, throw in the infamous Birdman perched in the crowd and you may find your Colombian football memory banks all but exhausted.
So, it’s on this lingering thought we bring to you La Liga Postobón, Colombia’s answer to the Premiership, the league that produced Hamilton Ricard, and the brilliantly named Freddy Rincón. Tonight’s match is a Bogotá derby, Equidad vs Millonarios, two teams placed 7th and 9th respectively, both hoping to secure a place in the top 8, there are three league games remaining, thereafter the cut is made (from there the division’s top eight reconfigures into a cup scenario starting at the quarter finals stage, with the final being played over two legs to decide this season’s champions). Can you imagine the Premiership following suit with, as it currently stands, Newcastle and West Brom having a shot at the title, Kevin Nolan holding the Premiership trophy aloft? A bizarre and frankly unthinkable image.
Equidad, only formed in 1990 by an insurance company of the same name, have risen through the leagues faster than the growth of facebook. Often looked down upon, they have all the heritage of MK Dons. That said, similarities to the now defunct Wimbledon cannot be denied and it’s said they are the only team in the league who aren’t corrupt. But that’s a story for another time.
Millonarios, however, have a rich tradition, once boasting Alfredo di Stéfano among their ranks they also share the most Fútbol Profesional Colombiano championships, 13 in total. However, the last was in 1988 and they have recently suffered a financial crisis, a constant string of big name signings that have ended in failure have not helped the cause and when trying to draw parallels to the English league one can’t help think of Liverpool… but with the misplaced importance of Spurs.
Anyway, a Bogotá derby is not taken lightly by the police, even though it’s not the big derby match, which would be Santa Fe vs Millonarios, police presence is heavy, as are the black ninja turtle suits that the riot police sport outside the ground. After three vigorous searches, the confiscation of my belt (which was ‘looked after’ by a conveniently placed woman for a fee of $2000 pesos) and a photo shoot with the local press, (a menacing steward takes time out from slamming suspect ultras up against the fence to smile and politely check my matchday ticket for the cameras) I finally get into the ground, if you’ve ever been to the Withdean Stadium in Brighton then hold that thought, erect some 80’s style fences and you’re more than halfway there. It’s 40 minutes to kick off, it’s raining, the terrace is uncovered and there’s no sign of the birdman… the true reality of La Liga Postobón in the Bogotá winter on a very wet and chilly Saturday night.
The game gets of to a flyer, there are chances at both ends before former Millonarios winger, Sherman Cardenas, plays a tidy one-two on the edge of the area before curling home the first goal of the game, the 500 or so employees of Equidad Insurance go wild, Ben would have been proud.There’s nothing like rubbing salt into the soggy wounds than an old reject popping one in against his former team. The 4000 Millonarios fans who have taken over the ground respond with more drum banging salsa beats and further rallying chants of vamos por un gol, I believe they may have also been some swearing.
The game continue to flow from end to end without the excitement levels quite reaching Stoke vs Bolton proportions, it edges further towards half time with plenty of neat interplay and a few long range efforts but nothing of the occasional late challenges that were referred to earlier… that was until just before half time when Millonarios were enfeebled, reduced to 10 men when the referee issued a straight red for a challenge that closely resembled that of Benjamin Massing’s circa 1990, no Claudia Cannigia this time but when I say the referee had no choice, I mean the referee had no choice. It was becoming the night of the proud Ben’s. By the time the victim, Equidad’s full back, was plucked out of the stand, the half time whistle had already been blown.
Half time saw a yellow card of another type, one of the long haired, arm flapping ultras warned me to be careful about where I was pointing my camera, obviously concerned about the possibility of his mum seeing him topless on flickr. ‘Now, now René I’ve told you about not wearing your cagoule when it’s raining, pseudo hooligan or not’.
Anyway, my friend, Juan Felipe thought it best we move to the other side of the terrace where the salsa beats where more rhythmic and the self inflicted tattoos less prevalent.
The second half was somewhat of a disappointment, even the cheerleaders lacked enthusiasm for what was turning into a soaking for all concerned, the referee did his best to even things up by rather harshly sending off the Equidad’s centre back, Hugo Soto, for a second yellow, possibly intimidated by the snare drums and squelching from the Millonarios end. It had little effect on the game though and in the 88th minute a long punt up field put Dahwling Leudo clean through, the Millonarios keeper raced out, stalled, then slapped his forehead with his sopping glove as he realised he’d made the number 8’s mind up for him, Leudo coolly lobbed the stranded keeper. 2-0 Equidad, the accountant, the finance manager and the gang of brokers again celebrated leaving me struggling for a Ben pun and Millonarios suffering a huge setback in their attempts to reach the top 8 in time for the cut.
There are now two games left, next week Millonarios face the league leaders, Tolima, at home and ‘The Insurers’ (honestly, I’m not making this up) travelling to 4th placed Nacional of Medellín.
All that was left do to was to find my way out of the ground, find the belt lady, negotiate the dodgy neighbourhood and jump on the bus back home, I didn’t factor in the 30 minute delay as the ninja turtles didn’t quite get the time frame right on holding the away supporters back with a stadium with a 6000 capacity. I’m no expert but 30 minutes in the pouring rain when it’d only take a taxi to extract the home fans, is a little excessive.
When Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael finally raised their shields it took me all of two minutes to find Paola, who really meant it when she said she’d meet me by the tree after the game to return the belt… now’s there’s an imagine of South American football that doesn’t usually spring to mind.