I have been fortunate enough to see many great football games live; FC Barcelona in Barcelona, Boca Juniors in Argentina, a World Cup game in Brazil, Asian Cup games in Thailand, and of course being Australian, countless World Cup Qualifiers in Australia.
One thing I can say from experience is that there is nothing like going to a football match in South America.The passion for football here is second to none. Some people even say it is a religion but last time I checked it was still classified as a sport.
We lived in Medellín for 4 months, a city that has two of the best Football teams in Colombia. I had the opportunity to see a live game while I was there; Atlético Nacional, the pride of Medellín Vs Newells Old Boys, an Argentinian club rich with History.
The whole experience was epic. I have never experienced an atmosphere quite like the one in Medellín.
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Football Teams in Medellín
Medellín has 2 main football teams – Deportivo Independiente Medellín and Atlético Nacional. As you would expect in a city with two football clubs, the rivalry between the teams is huge. These guys hate each other.
Previously owned by Pablo Escobar (no explanation of this guy needed), Atlético Nacional is one of the biggest clubs in the country. Just take a walk around the city and you will see their green and white shirts everywhere, even on non-game days. Nacional has had a lot of success including 14 league titles, two of these coming back to back in 2013 and 2014.
The lesser supported team in Medellín is Deportivo Independiente Medellín. Know as ‘Los Rojos’ (The Reds). The team wears a red and navy blue kit and has won five league titles in their proud history.
The game of the season without doubt is when these two teams meet in El Clásico Paisa (the Paisa classic). However, any game at Atanasio Girardot, a stadium that both teams share, is an experience that won’t disappoint.
Video as the teams come onto the pitch –
The Football Match in Medellín
We were invited by our Spanish teacher and good friend Camilo, a mad Atlético Nacional fan, to go see a game between his team (now ours too 😉 ) and Newells Old Boys from Argentina. This was a biggy – a quarterfinal in the Copa Sudamericana.
As we arrived at the stadium, the atmosphere was intense. There were people everywhere. Outside the stadium there are dozens of food vendors everywhere; selling the typical Colombian staples – plates of grilled meat, potatoes and hot dogs topped with crisps. There are also plenty of outdoor bars where you can grab some drinks pre-game.
No alcohol is sold inside the stadium so make make sure you act like a local and drink as much as you can before the game.
The queue in to the stadium is quite long and can take sometime to pass all the security pat downs and checks. Make sure you arrive early to avoid missing the start of the game.
Once inside the stadium, you are basically free to choose your seats in that section. We tracked down some seats in the upper stand of the Oriental section.The upper stands provide a better view as the seats in the stadium are a bit of a distance from the pitch.
The first thing you notice when inside the stadium is the fanatical fans at each end, in particular the stand behind the northern goal . This section is a sea of green and white shirts, banners, streamers and flags. The area is bursting at the seams. I was actually fearful that some fans were going to fall from the edge of the top tier from lack of space.
The support and dedication from these supporters is something to be in awe of. They did not stop singing and jumping the whole game. Combine that with a percussion section and you have this amazing atmosphere that seriously gave me goose bumps throughout the game.
The quality of football was ok. Not up there with any of the top leagues in Europe, but still some great skills and very entertaining.
The game finished 1-0 in favour of the home team, with the lone goal coming right at the death in the 88th minute to send the crowd into a frenzy. I can’t describe how good the atmosphere was at this point.
It was such a tense game throughout and to have an incredible finish like that was something I won’t forget in a hurry.
Video right after the winning goal was scored –
How to Get There
Estadio Atanasio Girardot is located in the Laureles area of Medellín a few kilometres west of downtown.
The easiest way to get to the stadium is to take the metro. The Estadio stop on line B is next to the stadium. If you are coming from downtown or the Poblado area you will need to take line A on the metro then change at the San Antonio stop to get on to line B. The metro cost 2000 pesos ($1US)
Taxis are another alternative and are very reasonable especially when sharing with a few people. A taxi shouldn’t cost you anymore than 12000 ($6US) from the Poblado area or 8000 ($4US) from downtown.
Where to Buy Tickets
You can buy tickets at the ticket booths at the stadium. These can also be bought on game day as games rarely sell out, unless it is the clasico or the final.
There are also other venues where you can purchase tickets such as the Coltejer building in downtown and at El tesoro shopping mall in Poblado.
Most tickets range from 10000 pesos ($5US) to 50000 pesos ($25US).
What you Need to Know
Stadium Address: Entre carreras 70 y 73 y las calles 48 y 50, Medellín
Metro: Line B – Estadio stop
Costs: 10000 pesos ($5US) to 50000 pesos ($25US).
For football and non-football fans the experience of seeing a live football match in Medellín is something that can’t be missed. The passion and energy the supporters bring to each game is something that has to be witnessed. I have been to various sporting events around the world and this for me was up there as one of the most memorable. It wasn’t because of the quality of football, or the even the actual game itself, it was the atmosphere and the noise that these die hard supporters bring to the game.
Nothing can prepare you for a football match in South America, there isn’t anything that comes close. Do yourself a favor and make the effort to get out and see a game, you will love it!
Have you ever been to a football match in Medellín or anywhere else in South America? What did you think?
As the co-founder of Fulltime Nomad, Johnny really believes the world is too big to stay in once place. In 2013 he broke away from his non-location independent job to chase his passion of travel and living abroad. Now he helps others do the same.