La Roja

Football in Chile

Spend an afternoon at Santiago’s historic stadium and experience Chileans’ passion for the beautiful game with 50,000 of your closest friends.

Friday, May 27, 2011  
Nothing quite compares to the sensation of jumping up and down as thousands of fans sing and dance t Nothing quite compares to the sensation of jumping up and down as thousands of fans sing and dance to urge on their team.

Latin American football may seem to be all Brazilian flash or Argentine bravado, but come take a look at the Latin American football nation you’ve never met: Chile, where soccer is the beating heart of popular culture. Teams have histories, social meanings and storied rivalries, and who you root for determines much more than what color you’re wearing as you watch the game.


If you get a chance to see a football match in Chile, take it. Nothing quite compares to the sensation of jumping up and down as thousands of fans sing and dance to urge on their team and belittle the other guys. And thanks to well-designed separations between the crowd, the stadium can be a great trip for the family as well.


Who To See


Ask anyone from Santiago and they’ll tell you there are only three football teams in Chile: the three Division I teams of Colo Colo, la “U” and la Católica. La U and la Católica both take their names from Chile’s most prestigious universities, Universidad de Chile and Universidad Católica, from the days when players were actually university students. Now, the ties between the clubs and the schools have largely been cut, and Chile’s best players can be found on their lineups.


There are four local teams in Santiago that also serve up a good football match, three of which are named for immigrant populations in the cosmopolitan capital. The Union Española is one of Chile’s oldest teams, tracing its roots to Spanish immigrants in the 19th century. You can also see the Audax Italiano, the Santiago Morning, or the  Palestino.


But don’t believe what the Santiaguinos say: there is football outside the capital, usually inspiring fierce regional loyalty regardless of how badly the team gets beaten by a Santiago rival. If you’re traveling in Chile, take a chance to experience local culture through football, and don’t be confused when you hear that Valparaíso’s local team is called the Santiago Wanderers.


For fútbol Chileno translated into Australian, a nice discussion of the teams and their rivalries - with lots of Aussie hints - can be found at the blog of Santiago resident Tim Dixon.


When To Go


The most popular football events of the year are always the World Cup selection events for “La Roja”, Chile’s national team. In anticipation of the 2010 World Cup, more people attended the Chilean team selection games than those for either of Chile’s much bigger football neighbors, Argentina or Brazil. Check out the schedule for the selection matches here.


If you’re not in time - or in luck, depending on the way La Roja is playing - for a World Cup selection match, try to catch the send-off game for La Roja as they head to the regional tournament Copa América this year, June 19, 2011. 

Another good match-up is the twice-yearly Superclasico between Colo Colo and la “U”. Ticket prices fluctuate, but they usually start around CP$5,000 (US$10). If you’re feeling adventurous, try one of the Estadio Nacional’s signature sandwiches: the sandwich de potito. Yes, that’s right, the little-butt sandwich, and it’s made from exactly that part of the cow.


Another drama-infused match-up is the twice-yearly Clásico Universitario, featuring the historic rivals of la “U” and la Católica. Try to buy your tickets in advance, either online or at the stadium, and get to the station early to get a good seat: the seat number on your ticket is usually purely symbolic.


Stadiums in Santiago


Colo Colo plays at the Estadio Monumental in Macul on Avenida Departamental. You can walk from Metro station Pedrero, Line 5.


La “U” plays at the historic Estadio Nacional in Ñuñoa. Buses leave from Metro station Irrarrazaval every few minutes; look for one that is headed down Avenida Grecia, or follow the be-jerseyed and be-flagged fans - they won’t be hard to spot, and they will lead you like breadcrumbs to the stadium.


La Católica plays at the Estadio San Carlos de Apoquindo in the upper-class neighborhood Las Condes. From Metro station Escuela Militar, look for one of the orange neighborhood buses - either the C02 or the C09 will get you to the stadium. In winter, do your best to make friends with someone who drives.


The local teams also play in smaller, more intimate stadiums around the city, including one of the new, state-of-the-art stadiums built to celebrate the 2008 Womens’ Under-20 World Cup, where you can watch the Audax Italiano.