South America is in the grips of football fever…well, more football fever than usual that is, considering that this continent is always crazy about the game! Whether it is the national leagues in different countries, a continental tournament or the world cup, there is ALWAYS something happening in the world of football here!!! This is evident by the at least 30 minutes of football coverage every night on the 9 ‘o clock news!
This time, it is the Copa America – the South American version of the African Cup of Nations or the European Championships.
But sadly, today Chile is in mourning…after three weeks of football euphoria in which La Roja (the national selection) beat Mexico, drew with Uruguay and beat Peru with a last minute own goal, the bubble has unfortunately burst with a 2-1 loss to Venezuela last night in the quarter finals.
I have enjoyed following the tournament in the last few weeks despite not being a huge football fan most of the time. But in a country like Chile it is impossible not to be swept up in the atmosphere of such a tournament. After each of the games during the first round of the tournament, Santiago has come alive with cars hooting, flags waving and scores of fans descending on Plaza Italia to celebrate!!! Echoes of the national warcry (Viva Chile!!!) could be heard for hours after the game until the crowds were inevitably dispersed by the police using water cannons! As always, celebrations usually disintegrate into chaos and clashes between police and hard core fans. Having watched all the games from a friend’s apartment overlooking Plaza Italia, I always had a “front row seat” to view the spectacle!
But last night, Plaza Italia was eerily quiet when the final whistle blew and La Roja were sent packing. The special forces and the mounted police were all in place around the plaza to deal with the inevitable chaos, but all they had to do was quietly get back into their trucks and go home!
I am certainly no expert on the game, but there were a few chances where luck/God (take your pick) were not on Chile’s side and more than one potential goal hit the cross bar! Everyone had been saying that this is the best team that Chile has had in over 30 years and they had a real chance of winning the tournament (especially since the giants of the continent, Brazil and Argentina had already been knocked out)! I have to admit that I was seriously hoping for Chile to do well, not only from the point of view of feeling rather patriotic to this country nowadays, but also, it would have made an awesome blog post to write about Chile’s first triumph in a tournament that has been happening for decades. Instead I get to write my blog from a different, sadly less euphoric perspective…
So for now, the red shirts of the fans have been relegated to the closets and the flags have been folded away. But in true Chilean style, the focus now turns to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014…and of course all the national football action which starts again soon with the kickoff of a new league! There is definitely never a dull moment when it comes to football in this corner of the world…