As reigning champions of last year’s Copa America (American Cup) tournament, the Chilean fútbol (soccer) team has had quite the amount of pressure on its back recently. Like the majority of countries in the world, soccer is the most popular sport in Chile. Last year’s dramatic penalty kick final against rival Argentina sent La Selección de Chile, the underdogs, into the global spotlight. So, it’s no surprise that Chile’s first home game of the season against Argentina was met with great hype and nerves by Chileans across the entire country. Not to mention the whole world was watching.
Chile versus Argentina happened to fall on the Thursday before Easter, and since we had the day off from school, some of my friends and I bought our tickets to one of the most cultural experiences we’ve had yet while in Chile. We knew that Chile and Argentina were big rivals, the team is sometimes called “La Roja,” and Chileans love soccer. As we entered the stadium that night, we finally understood what everyone meant by “La Roja”. The entire stadium was filled with cheering fans, young and old, sporting the color of not only their team, but also their country. Throughout the night, the cheering and singing never stopped; families, friends, and even strangers came together to root for their homeland. Fans proudly waved their Chilean flags in the air while chanting and singing like one big choir. We even noticed Chilean pride when “pan con palta” (bread with avocado) was served during halftime, a classic Chilean snack/dinner. Despite an incredible first goal by Chile, “La Roja” was defeated 1-2 by Lionel Messi and the Argentina team.
On the following Tuesday, Chile traveled to Venezuela in hopes of a win to garner more points for the 2018 World Cup. Even though the game was away that night, the excitement was just as vibrant. Plans were made to view the game at a house or bar, and night classes were cancelled. I spent the night watching the game with my host family at our home. Our viewing party fell nothing short of a Super Bowl party in the United States. Extended family and close friends gathered around the TV and traditional Chilean party food was served. Instead of ketchup, our chips were served with mayonnaise and instead of hot dogs, we ate “choripan”, a small, spicy sausage served on toasted bread. Chile defeated Venezuela 4-1 and snatched the most views of any live broadcast this year in Chile.
Chilean soccer is more than just a pastime or form of entertainment; it is deeply rooted in Chilean culture and has the power to connect Chileans regardless of what else might separate them. ¡Chi-chi-chi, le-le-le, VIVA CHILE!
The world awaits…discover it.