Article Updated April 2016
In terms of favourite spectator sports throughout Latin America, there is only one winner. Fútbol (football/soccer) is by far the most popular sport and Chile is no exception. The Chilean National team boasts several players who are competing at the highest level with top teams in Spain, Italy and England. The standard of the game of futbol in Chile is therefore quite good, without reaching the levels of the premier European leagues. The very best players are routinely scouted by the strongest leagues from overseas. For example, from the current Chilean National team, Alexis Sanchez plays for Barcelona in Spain and Arturo Vidal for Juventus in Italy.
Currently, there is one playing season in Chile – from February to December. There are three main leagues – the Campeonato Nacional (Premier League/First Tier), the Primera B (First B Division/Second Tier) and the Segunda Division (Second Division/Third Tier). The top division is comprised of 18 teams: the best known, most successful and most popular of which are Colo-Colo, Universidad de Chile (La “U”) and Universidad Catolica (La Catolica). These are ‘the big three’ of the six teams from Santiago, and games between these three attract fanatical support. Other top tier teams from outside Santiago include the Wanderers from Valparaíso; Chile’s oldest football club, Everton, from Viña del Mar; and O’Higgins from the city of Rancagua.
Games are usually played on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season. All teams will play each other, both home and away, to decide the eventual champion in December. As champion, that team will automatically qualify to compete in the Copa Libertadores (which is equivalent to the Champions League in Europe) in which all of the champions from the countries in Latin America participate, to determine which team will be overall Latin American champion.
Universidad de Chile
All teams have their own stadium except Universidad de Chile, which currently rents the National Stadium (Estadio Nacional) for its home games. Estadio Nacional, has a capacity of approximately 50,000 people.
Address: Avenida Grecia 2001, Ñuñoa, Santiago
How to Get There: Take the Metro to station Parque O’Higgins, Line 2, and take a taxi or follow the crowds.
Colo-Colo plays at the Estadio Monumental, which has a capacity of approximately 47,000 people.
Address: located at Avenida Marathon 5300, Macul, Santiago
How to Get There: Take the Metroto station Pedrero, Line 5 and then follow the crowds on game day.
Universidad Catolica plays at San Carlos de Apoquindo, which has a capacity of approximately 30,000 people.
Address: Avenida Las Flores 13000, Santiago
How to Get There: Take the Metro to station Los Dominicos, Line 1. Exit the station, turn right onto Camino El Alba and take the red bus #C02, which terminates at the stadium.
Parking is usually available but public transport to the game is always a good option where possible. Be aware however, that for the top games it may be quite difficult and hectic to find public transport after the game as you will be competing for space with thousands of jubilant (or disappointed) fans. Once you’ve arrived, access to the stadiums should not involve extensive delays.
All stadia are in the process of being upgraded as a result of measures to enhance safety and many are now all-seater venues. As with all sporting events, there are some food and soft drink vendors at the stadia but expect to have limited choices, and note that no alcohol is served.
Each stadium provides a unique experience due largely to the capacity and location. In the Santiago area, they are mostly open (since rainfall is very infrequent) and this provides a significant difference in atmosphere compared to the all-covered stadia in northern Europe, where the confined intensity of fan’s passion can be electrifying. The Estadio Nacional and Estadio Momumental probably come closest to generating an experience which would be familiar to European football fans, due to their higher capacity and urban location. However, support for teams in Chile is very vocal and more alike the raucous support found at matches in Brazil and Argentina.
To experience something different, a good option is the stadium of Universidad Catolica, at San Carlos de Apoquindo. It is part of a huge sporting complex, located in an elevated area on the edge of a well-to-do leafy suburb, where the air is fresher and cooler. Nestled in the shadows of the majestic Andes mountains, you can easily enjoy the scenery, which is awe-inspiring: even if the standard of the particular game is not.
Games between the top teams (mentioned previously) attract fervent support and are very well attended. Ticket prices range from approximately $5,000 CLP for corner seats and the galeria (open seating in the fanatic area behind the goals), to as much as $22,000 CLP for the most privileged positions in the Tribuna (designated seats along the sides). Prices will be more for special games involving teams from other countries and for games involving the National selection.
Where to sit
I advise visitors to avoid the galeria, which are the areas directly behind the goals, as these sectors are the preferred locations for the most fervent supporters. Whilst it may be easy to exaggerate the potential dangers of being in these areas, there is no doubt that it is not for the faint-hearted, especially when the most popular teams are involved. It’s also good to note there are designated home and away seating areas, the fans of opposing teams do not sit together so if you’re planning to wear a uniform, make sure it’s the right one!
Where to buy
An important fact to remember is that in Chile, it is not a simple process to buy all your sporting tickets online and there is no central site to purchase tickets to all games. Apart from Colo-Colo and Universidad de Chile games, there is no online site where you can purchase tickets. Therefore, the most reliable (if not the most convenient) option is to purchase your tickets at the stadium ticket office before the game. For games between the big three, it is advisable to buy your tickets well in advance and not on the day of the game. For other games, there is usually no difficulty obtaining tickets from the stadium ticket office even on the day of the game.
Here are some suggestions for obtaining tickets without having to trek out to the stadium ticket office:
- Colo-Colo Games: punto ticket is the current online seller of tickets to these games. Tickets to the club museum and for a tour of the stadium are also available to buy directly at the museum/stadium.
- Universidad de Chile Games: The authorised online seller is Daleticket.cl.
- Games not involving Colo-Colo or Universidad de Chile: The authorised online seller is Ticketpro but they have only tickets for random games available to purchase online. Fortunately, they have appointed two stores as agents, retail store 100% Football and the department store chain Hites. Fans can go to these stores to check on availability, select their seat and have the ticket printed in-store. You must physically go to one of the stores to acquire your ticket if it is for a game that is not featured on the Ticketpro website. 100% Footbal is in Costanera Center, 4th Floor and has 7 other locations in Santiago, at the Mall Plaza chain of shopping malls; it also has stores in Viña del Mar and Talcahuano. The store sells all kinds of football items, especially team shirts from Chile as well as shirts from the most popular European teams.
- Games involving the Chile National team: Ticketpro.cl
Safety can still be an issue despite government efforts, but mainly only at the encounters between the top three clubs, where fierce rivalry exists. For visitors, the game and the fans’ passion can best be observed by purchasing a ticket in the Tribuna sections. As mentioned previously, visitors are well advised to avoid the galeria sections, especially involving games between Colo-Colo and Universidad de Chile. The galeria section (or barra ) is the chosen location for those active fanatical supporters whose entire lives seem to revolve around the outcome of the game.
Avoid bringing large or multiple bags to the games as they can attract unwanted attention from the security police and they often only allow you take in one per person (bag inside a bag may be considered 2 bags). Since alcohol is neither sold nor permitted inside the stadium, they will ask to look inside any bags and expect to be ‘patted-down’ on entry (respectfully of course), with a separate line and female police officers for the ladies.
Be aware also that at most if not all games, the departure protocol after the game will usually involve letting all supporters from one team (usually the home team), based upon where you are seated leave first. This is to minimise the potential for physical interaction between supporter groups leaving the stadium. Usually in these cases if you are sitting in the visitor section you will have to wait about 30 minutes until the home fans are clear of the stadium before you are allowed to leave. This policy is strictly enforced by the police who serve as security at the stadiums. Follow the instructions given or if you don’t understand what is being said, then just follow the lead from those beside you. As in all cases where there are large crowds in close proximity, be especially careful with your personal articles such as cameras, wallets, handbags and so on. We recommend as we do with all crowded events in Chile to only bring what you need with you to the stadium.
Football in Chile
The national team of Chile is currently not enjoying the best of seasons due to managerial turmoil, and are positioned about mid-table in the league of Latin American countries seeking qualification to the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014. They usually struggle to defeat Brazil and Argentina which are generally regarded as the strongest teams in Latin America; but games against the other countries are hard-fought close encounters. The home games involving the Chile national team are all played at the Estadio Nacional.
So by all means attend a game, buy a ticket for the Tribuna section and enjoy the atmosphere.
This story was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.