In Chile, the word “football” (fútbol) is synonymous with the round ball game that North Americans call “soccer.” And, like most countries on the southern side of the Americas, Chile takes its soccer seriously.
But another form of football, rugby union, has a small but passionate community of Chilean followers and a rich history dating back as far back as 1894.
Rugby began in Chile in the saltpeter mining towns of the north, which had significant European and British communities. Local miners would play the crews of passing British traders that had to sail around the bottom of the continent, in the days before the Panama Canal cut down the long and dangerous journey.
Today, Chile is placed at 23 in world rankings and is considered the third-best team in South America, behind regional powerhouses Argentina and Uruguay.
Those regional bragging rights will be up for grabs this weekend at the city of Viña del Mar when two international tournaments will be held simultaneously at the Mackay School, in the beach resort town of Reñaca.
La Copa de los Clubes will bring together 12 clubs, composed of Chile’s national league and their counterparts from Argentina. The tournament will kick off on Friday, January 13, at 6 pm, when lower-ranked teams will battle to qualify for the last available places.
The national teams of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil will also face off at the same venue in a seven-a-side tournament called the Torneo de las Selecciones.
The match with most expectations riding on it may well be Saturday night’s clash between the Condors of Chile and the Pumas of Argentina. And, as anyone familiar with the rivalry between the Andean neighbors will know, the game is sure to be a fiery encounter.
The champions of both tournaments will be crowned on Sunday night at around 10:30 pm.
Tickets cost US$4 (CLP2,000) on Friday and US$8 (CLP4,000) on both Saturday and Sunday, or US$12 (CLP6,000) for both days.
All the international teams will be backing up from the recent Punta del Este tournament in Uruguay, which ended on Monday. The Chilean side claimed fourth place at the event, going down in the third place play-off to the home team.
Earlier in the tournament, Chile defeated Brazil 22-12 and lost a tight game against Argentina – who went on to win the tournament – with a score of 15-5.