Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and soccer chat is the international language. There are few quicker ways to meet people and make friends abroad than to recount past legends of the game, or to swap predictions for tournaments in progress.
In soccer-mad Chile, the country’s first division has entered its fourth week and stadiums are rocking on the weekends with the unrivalled atmosphere created by South American fans.
To help you bulk up on your local knowledge, here’s a crash course on Chilean “fútbol,” as well as a guide to seeing the sport live at the fan filled stadiums.
A little history …
Soccer was introduced to Chile by British sailors in the 19th century. Large crowds would gather for exhibition matches in the port town of Valparaíso — where the country’s oldest clubs hail from — and the game quickly caught on and spread throughout the country.
Chile’s football federation formed in 1895, and clubs soon began touring the continent, raising the profile of the game and contributing to the phenomenon that is modern day South American soccer. The national team reached heady heights in 1962 when Chile’s hosted and placed third in the World Cup.
Chile’s top flight
The Primera División, also called the the Campeonato Nacional Petrobras, is played by 18 teams from around the country, in two league competitions each year.
Chile recently abandoned the play-off system for titles won on points. Every team plays one another once in the Apertura (opening season) between July and December and a champion is crowned, and the process is repeated in the Clausura (closing season) between January and April.
This season, there are six teams from Santiago, as well as teams from Iquique, Calama, El Salvador, Antofagasta, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Talcahuano, Chillán, Rancagua, Talca, La Calera, and Concepción.
Chile’s “Superclasico” is played between Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile — the country’s first and second most supported clubs.
Colo Colo is historically the most successful club in Chile, though in recent years Universidad de Chile — “La U” — has taken the lion’s share of trophies, including the coveted Copa Sudamericana in 2011. The rivalry between these two sides is intense, providing an exciting and charged atmosphere at the stadium. This season’s “Superclasico” is being played at Colo Colo in Santiago on November 10.
Others to watch out for: Unión Española is last season’s champion, Universidad Católica is a force, and Cobreloa has been in fine form in 2013. For a full list of fixtures click here.
How to get tickets
When buying tickets for games online, you or someone who is purchasing tickets for you must have a RUT (tax ID number). Most stadiums sell tickets on game day — make sure to make your purchase several hours in advance.
For Universidad de Chile tickets, go to the ticket office of the Velódromo del Estadio Nacional near the national stadium in Ñuñoa, Av. Grecia 2001.
Colo Colo tickets can be purchased at Feria Mix record stores, as well as at the stadium.
Tickets for Unión Española can be purchased at the stadium though only the day before.
Prices vary depending on the team, the match, and seating — expect to pay between CLP 5,000 and CLP 20,000. Get to the stadium an hour before the game — expect big crowds and a buzzing atmosphere!