Saturday, May 15, 2010

El Super Clasico

A few weeks ago a group of teachers decided to attend the biggest sporting event in Paraguay (outside of national team soccer games that is). The Super Clasico is a soccer game between the two biggest (and richest) soccer teams in the country. Olimpia is more or less the Yankees of Paraguayan soccer as they have the most championships and the most money. Their eternal rival is Cerro Porteno who have only slightly fewer championships and almost as much money. While none of us are fans of either team, this was a game that had to be seen in person at least once because it involves a packed national stadium of 36,000 fans screaming, chanting, insulting the other fans, throwing whatever they have on the field, and most importantly police in full riot gear.

We arrived in the neighborhood of the stadium an hour and a half early to get tickets and grab some lomitos. The area was already overflowing with supporters of both teams and the stadium appeared packed as we bought our tickets from a "ticket resale agent" outside. We got lots of weird looks from people in the streets after buying the tickets, as you might imagine a large group of gringos would, since we were the only people walking away from the stadium instead of towards it. We also made a special effort to wear neutral colors so we wouldn't be mistaken for supporters of either club (this meant no Olimpia black or white and no Cerro red or blue) and we thus stood out even further among all the passionate fans in their team colors.
Part of the teacher group dressed in our neutral colors.

After our delicious lomitos we headed into the stadium about 30 minutes before kickoff and found it to be nearly packed already. Apparently futbol games are the only events where "Paraguayan time" doesn't apply. The only seats we could find in our section happened to be right next to the police in riot gear separating the supporters groups of each team. We were not directly in between the opposing "hinchatas" since those folks sit in the end zones of the stadium, but we were a bit concerned none the less. For those of you who may be concerned about our safety after reading that, the worst that happened to us was that there were a few unidentified flying objects that fell near us during contentious times in the game.
Check out the line of riot police next to where we were sitting!

It turned out to be the hottest day of the last couple of weeks so these guys must have been frying in their full riot gear.

The game itself ended in a 0-0 tie but it was still worth going to view the spectacle. The stadium was alive with chants and drumming when we arrived 30 minutes before kickoff and the fans were all screaming and engaged while they watched the reserve teams (kind of like minor league baseball teams or a JV basketball team) for each side play a match before the real game started. Right before the teams came running out of the tunnel (or giant inflated bus as it is here) to warm up on the field both hinchatas went crazy with chants and started throwing rolls of adding machine tape that they had smuggled into the stadium onto the field.

The Cerro side of the stadium with quite possibly the largest banner I've ever seen!

Clearly the Olimpia side of the stadium won this contest of "Who can litter the field with more garbage and delay the start of the game longer" which made the Olimpia fans among my students very happy (interestingly this was more important to them the Monday after than the fact that they tied the game). Once this ended and the game began the level of chanting, drumming, singing, hurling very inappropriate insults, and attempting to hit the opposing players with bottles and even more rolls of adding machine paper (the city must have been unable to print receipts for days afterward) was very impressive and sustained throughout all 90 minutes.
Almost game time!

The view from our seats was pretty nice. This is the Olimpia side of the stadium
with the Paraguay River in the background. The land on the other side of the
stadium is actually Argentina.

All the teachers were glad to have witnessed the spectacle that was the Super Clasico, but I believe that we are all content with our one experience and probably won't head back again. Still, for those who say soccer is a boring sport the opportunity to experience a game like this was a great opportunity and a fun way to contradict that criticism.

No comments: