In the United States, the country only unites through the world of sports once every few years for various different competitions. In the world of team sports, the most popular are the Men’s basketball team that plays in the olympics, and the Men’s soccer team as they compete in the olympics and the World Cup. However, as many people know, the national intensity displayed in these sports is nowhere near the intensity shown at the domestic level.
When Copa America came to Chile, I had absolutely no idea what it would entail. I had never followed soccer much, but the idea of all South American countries competing for the title of best soccer team seemed like it was going to be fun. When the tickets became available, I quickly purchased three, Colombia vs. Brazil, the Semifinal, and the Final.
Going to these soccer matches opened my eyes. First, at Colombia vs. Brazil, the national pride on display was breathtaking. 40,000 fans packed in a stadium, mostly Colombian, cheered like madmen for 90 minutes. The energy and emotion was unlike anything I had ever seen. When Colombia scored the first and only goal of the game, I found myself screaming and hugging all the “parceros” from Colombia (lucky, I decided to sport my Colombia shirt in anticipation). With a brawl between the players at the final whistle, I was convinced that the national pride I had seen would never be replicated at a US sporting event. After the game, there remained no doubt in my mind it was the most fun I had experienced at a sporting event.
Next up was the Semifinal. Chile, after a strong showing in the group stage, had advanced to the semifinal to face a Peru squad. Chile, seeking it’s first world cup title ever, came out hungry. Being in a stadium full of Colombians was quite the experience, but it was nothing like what I felt in Estadio Nacional watching Chileans cheer on their team in their own country. As Chile was tied 1-1 with little time remaining, Eduardo Vargas unleashed the most amazing soccer goal I have ever seen in person. A rocket from far outside the box, the Chilean cold-bloodedly sank the goal to give Chile the eventual 2-1 victory. With Chile in it’s first Final since the 1980’s the entire country of “weones” was buzzing with anticipation.
Unfortunately, my iPhone had been pick-pocketed a week before while I was at a celebration for a Chilean group stage match. Because of this I had to sell my ticket to the Final, which ultimately netted me a fairly large amount due to the fact that Chile was playing. In the Final, Chile was the heavy underdog against Argentina, widely regarded as the best team in the America’s. Chile went on to win a dramatic championship through Penalty Shoot Out. As Chile won, a country cried tears of joy. Friends at the stadium told me they saw elderly men sitting in their chairs weeping in joy. The Chileans I watched the game with yelled and celebrated for about an hour, and the whole country began to flock to the streets in celebration.
Immediately going to the Chilean version of the White House to celebrate with the president, I knew this was going to be no normal celebration. As people took to the streets and partied until the early hours of the morning, I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience. That day, I was able to watch a country unite and celebrate through sports in a way that I had never seen in my life, and probably never will again. Immediately going to the Chilean version of the White House to celebrate with the president.
Gracias y vamos La Roja!!