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Medellin Soccer Experience:

Atletico Nacional (Medellin) vs Santa Fe (Bogota)-May 2019

By J Hubbard

I have been a lifelong sports fan and have attended many sporting events throughout my lifetime; however, the one sporting event missing from my “Sporting Bucket List” was attending a soccer (football) game in South America. When it comes to club soccer, most people automatically think of the passion and pride shown from the supporters of the big European football clubs, but for me…I wanted to witness the South American football experience.

I had a trip to Medellin planned for May 2019 and luckily for me there was a soccer game scheduled for one of the days of my trip (Sunday). Medellin has 2 main football teams – Deportivo Independiente Medellin also known as DIM and Atletico Nacional. I’ve heard this inner city rivalry produces an intense game day experience; however, during my trip Atletico Nacional would be facing Santa Fe (a team located in Bogota, Colombia).

The day before the game, I found a local street vendor in the city and purchased an Atletico Nacional jersey; this is the more popular team of the two in the city, but DIM also has a loyal following of fans as well. I purchased the jersey for roughly $35,000 COP (appx $10 USD) as I wanted to look “official” for my first soccer experience, but little did I know, this purchase could possibly have deadly consequences…but more on that later.

Getting to the stadium on game day wasn’t difficult at all. The easiest way to get to the stadium is to take the metro (Medellin has an excellent metro system) or take a taxi/Uber. The name of the stadium is Estadio Atanasio Girardot and it’s located in the Laureles area of Medellin. I chose the taxi option, which cost about $15,000 COP (appx. $4 USD) to travel from the El Poblado area.

This ride to the stadium provided me with tons of useful information, as the driver spoke a little bit of English. He first asked me, “Are you traveling to the soccer game alone?” which I replied “Yes”. Laughing he said, “You are a brave man”. I saw him glance in the rearview mirror and he noticed my green and white Atletico Nacional jersey. He asked, “Which team do they play today?” I only knew the name of the opponent (Santa Fe from Bogota). Remember when I mentioned selecting a jersey can be deadly in Colombia? Well, after I told him the team that was playing against Atletico Nacional; he stated that I should be safe [since it was the home team]. I was warned that sometimes fans from opposing teams can have tons of issues with fights and harassment due to wearing an opposing jersey and they take it very serious if you are wearing jerseys belonging to other cities (for example, wearing a jersey from Cali Colombia while walking around Medellin).

Before I departed the taxi, he stated the game to see is the matchup between the two teams in Medellin (also known as El Clasico Paisa). The taxi driver even helped me secure my ticket from a scalper outside the stadium; for $50,000 COP (appx. $15 USD). Tickets can also be purchased at the stadium (for most games) or some other locations around the city such as the El Tesoro shopping mall in El Poblado. Prices are usually in the $10,000-50,000 COP (appx. $3-15 USD) range depending on seat location and matchup.

The lines to enter the stadium were very long and it can take some time to go through security; expect metal detectors and pat downs. Arriving early would be highly suggested in order to avoid missing any of the game action (arriving early would also give you the opportunity to experience the many food vendors in the area and there were also small bars around the stadium area as well). Once inside the stadium, there is assigned seating on the tickets, but for the most part you are free to sit anywhere you choose (except if you are in the lower level…the people there tend to sit in their assigned seats). I sat in the upper level, which provided a perfect view of the field and also had great aerial views of the picturesque mountains which serve as a backdrop to the stadium.

The game play was okay and the support and dedication from the fans was unlike anything I’ve experience before at a sporting event. They were singing, playing instruments, chanting, etc. for the entire 90 minutes (the northern area of the stadium had the most passion with banners, flags, instruments, etc. in full force for the entire game). There were also a few fights and at one point during halftime, the police rounded up tons of rowdy fans and escorted them out of the stadium. These rowdy fans were getting pummeled with all types of items as the police walked them a quarter of the way around the stadium for exit. And for some odd reason the police began to escort each person, one by one, through the tunnel with full riot shields (making them even easier targets to aim the throws towards).

Atletico Nacional ended up defeating Santa Fe 2-1 and exiting the stadium was a bit congested, but finding a taxi to leave the stadium area was not difficult at all. Overall, this was a great experience and I would recommend anyone visiting Medellin to check out a soccer game while in the city (whether you like the sport or not). I already have plans to visit Medellin again and I just might have to watch El Clasico Paisa myself, since it’s been described as an even more intense atmosphere.

Medellin Soccer Experience video:

J. Hubbard is an experienced traveler, vlogger and sports enthusiast.

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