Thursday afternoon, on a lark, we headed down to Liga's stadium (la casa blanca), where LDU, better known as Liga, were playing a qualifying match against San Lorenzo (from Argentina). We headed out with some new friends "a la brava" (which basically means we didn't have any tickets and were hoping to find something there). We did end up getting tickets, we did go inside, and we did have a good time (and "our" team, LDU, did win).
The stadium was relatively small, at least in comparison to NFL stadiums - there were a little over 40,000 people. What the crowd lacked in size, however, it more than made up for in energy and rowdiness. It wasn't nearly as bad as the stories you hear about the hooligans and the general pandemonium and poor behavior in european stadiums -- there were women and children at this game, it was sort of like a family event, but there was the fireworks, the chants, the drumming, the jumping up and down, the jeers and taunts.
It's hard to explain how big a deal this game was for Ecuador, and for most latins, in general. Latin America has the Copa de Libertadores - the professional league championships here that mirror the Champions League in Europe. This is a "world series" for all the winners of all the professional leagues across all of South America. LDU, by winning in the game that we attended, goes to the quarterfinals of this series, where they play Mexico's America team. The winner of this Copa, at least as far as I understand, will then play in another championship in Tokyo this summer against the Champion League winner (Manchester U) and the winners of other league championship, to eventually determine the world champion league for the year.
And then it all starts over again.
So, we got tickets, we had a good time, and I think that we'll go to the Americas game (when they play here again) in a couple of weeks. There aren't any seats in the stadium, just benches of concrete, and it's all general seating, by section. The key, as I've realized, is that you have to find a seat that minimizes the number of fences between you and the field of play, since multiple fences can obstruct the view. And there are fences - tall, barbed wire encrusted fences, around everything - all the sections are individually wrapped and the field is surrounded by high fencing. The North and South sections are where all the hoopla is happening, that's the center of all the flag waving, stomping, screaming and pyrotechnics. The West and East sections are more family oriented (we were in the West). Here's the weird thing - I don't know if it's an innate thing, or a skill/custom learned from years of watching football, or if there's some manual somewhere, but everyone in our section stands up and sits down at the same time, based on what's happening in the game. It's like everyone knows when they should sit, and when something exciting is going to happen on the field. So, there we are, amongst 10,000 people, who are all standing up and sitting down at the same time. Kind of like being in church. Which, in a sense, I guess is what a stadium is.
This has to be the most linked post ever.