The Localist

CHI CHI CHI LE LE LE VIVA CHILE

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The other night I was walking back home and Santiago felt like ghost town. It was very VERY cold (zero degrees), but even so will usually find a lot of people walking around the Providencia area at this time, as it’s a neighborhood with a lot of offices, commerce and restaurants.

Suddenly, loud screams coming from all around reminded me why the streets were empty: Chile was playing against Mexico in the Copa America 2015, an international soccer competition to determine the continental champion of South America. The smell of asado (bbq) was another clue I failed to notice.

Chile was this year’s host for Copa América. Although I am not a big soccer fan, it is impossible not to get carried away by the enthusiasm of everyone around you. A lot of fans have come from all over Latin America to cheer on their teams. Offices close early so people have enough time to get home, light their bbqs and share a few beers with friends while suffering every time Alexis Sánchez (who now plays for Arsenal) or Arturo Vidal (Juventus) run towards the goal area.

There was still meat on the grill when I got home. The whole building was screaming…in fact the whole country has gone crazy with the white, red and blue flags, paintings and decorations. We have never been a great team, but the players are very hardworking and make their best efforts to win; you can tell each time they play. And that is why all Chileans like them so much. Most of them are very hardworking men who have struggled a lot to get where they are now. I was watching a TV interview the other night and a former coach said “if Chile had more Alexis Sánchez’s, it would be a better country”. And this is true: it is very inspiring to see people who are so passionate about what they do.

Copa América was hosted by different cities across Chile, which is great, since usually this kind of activities take place in Santiago. It has given Chileans a reason to unite and cheer the classical CHI CHI CHI LE LE LE VIVA CHILE, in times where the political arena is very complex and the cold dark days make you want to sleep in.

UPDATE

On the 4th of July 2015 at 5pm all Chileans sat nervously in front of the TV. We were playing the finals against Argentina. Deep inside I thought Argentina would win. They’ve been world champions, they have great players like Messi, and they’ve won a lot of different championships. Chile, none. Never.

We watched the game with friends, just like everyone else. All of Chile was making noise, most wearing red t-shirts and wigs, drinking beer and sharing a bbq.

Images on TV were impressive since an eccentric millionaire gave away one Chilean flag to each person in the stadium: 40.000 flags being waved at the same time.

The match was fairly even until the end: 0-0. Screams came from all around every time Chile reached the goal area.   A decider by penalties had all of us in the verge of a nervous breakdown. Chile has never been great in penalties. We still remembered the penalty that Mauricio Pinilla missed against Brazil in 2014.

I screamed so hard my throat hurt. An Argentinian player missed his shot and then our goalkeeper and Captain Claudio Bravo stopped another shot. Finally, Alexis Sánchez gave us the triumph: our first Copa América.

The Roja de Todos (Everyone’s Red) had won. President Bachellet received the players in the Moneda Palace (Government house) after they’d travelled in an open bus around the city. It was funny to see how the players had no sense of protocol at all: they wore wigs, and chanted while the President tried to give a brief speech. One even requested her to declare Monday a national holiday.   Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, but  at least everyone was happy at work on Monday.

CHILE_MacarenaQuezada_MMEET THE LOCAL: MACARENA QUEZADA

Image. Photo by alobos Life. Creative Commons Attribution Licence. No changes made.

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