Being a country that has higher stakes in soccer than American football, I expected the sports scene to be different here in Chile, but one thing that surprised me was the atmosphere at the games among spectators. The attitude toward sports in general here is very different from back in the U.S. One of my friends went to a soccer game and met some Chileans who told him that, “In the States they [games] are a giant party, but here they are war.” From my experience, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s a war, but it is definitely a much more intense attitude than in the U.S., which you can see even from the venue.
In the U.S., whenever you go to a professional sporting event, there are usually vendors walking around the stands and refreshment stands where you can buy food, drinks or alcoholic beverages. Here they don’t have that. They have a few vendors walking around selling soft drinks and a couple snack foods, but there is no refreshment counter. They also don’t serve alcohol at the games. The fact that they don’t sell alcohol at the games here is part of what makes it seem like less of “giant party” and more of a war. Even though they don’t sell it in the actual arena, many people go out to a bar or restaurant after the game to celebrate their team’s victory and have a good time with their friends.
It’s also the spectators’ attitude at the games. In the U.S., you go to a game to have fun and watch your team with your buddies. Here, you go in support of your team and participation in the cheers is required. When I went to a soccer game, the group of people that I went with didn’t know the cheers and for a little while, we were seen as outsiders in the section we were in. Eventually, we figured the cheers out well enough to participate in them, but we still weren’t wearing the team’s jerseys, making us stand out in the sea of blue and red.
The police presence at the games also suggests that things could easily get out of hand if a game went sour. There were police everywhere you turned, ushering people out of the arena after the game and there were groups of them at the exits. On our walk home, we saw many police vehicles parked around the arena, some of which looked similar to tanks or jail buses in case things got too crazy.
Fights have been known to break out and there are certain games that we are advised against going to because of the strength of the rivalry and the possibility for violence to break out. People here take their sports seriously, making the atmosphere surrounding them much more serious.
That being said, going to a soccer game here is something you have to experience for yourself to understand. Having gone to one game makes me want to go to another game even more; not necessarily to have a really fun time, but to watch another game and be able to appreciate the athleticism on the field and the support displayed in the stands.