Chi Chi Chi le le le, Universidad de Chile

Hello everyone! So I´ve  finally managed to wrap up  all of my coursework at la Católica and have some time while traveling to update you all on the latest chilean experiences and adventures.

About a month ago, I had the chance to see a partido de fútbol (soccer game) at the national stadium, located in the heart of Santiago. After hearing story after story about the infamous Universidad de Chile partidos, I thought I had a decent idea of what to expect: crazy fans cheering on their team with a-most likely-drinking-induced abandon.  Yet what I witnessed on that day was something beyond entertainment–something that left an invisible, but lasting impression on me.

After being shuffled like cattle through a series of security checkpoints and nearly getting trampled by droves of overly anxious fans, a few friends and I managed to made it inside the stadium with only a few minutes to spare. Wiggling our way between cliques, we ended up perched in the only space left open: a tiny square of concrete wedged in the middle of the walkway´s end and the seats´ beginning. Like living sardines, we were packed in behind a series of almost novel-like characters. There was an older gentleman, maybe in his late 70s, who every so often would turn his attention away from the game to answer the ceaseless questions of his scrawny, but ever-curious grandson. Next to him, a young couple–that could only be described as chilean with their unbreakable embrace and constant swooning–nuzzled together against the railing.  Past the pololos, at the end of the walkway, stood the most lively group of all: three twenty-something guys who never failed to bust out some angry slang after each turnover or seemingly unwarranted penalty. When not cursing out Jesus or those ¨hijos de p&%$¨ (sons of a well, you can probably figure that one out), they would pass the time by sharing a seemingly endless chain of cigarettes or, for some variety, smoke a few joints. Yet these three modern musketeers, Romeo and Juliet and It Runs in the Family cast members were only noticeable for a brief moment…As a U. Chile striker knocked in the team´s first gooooooaaal, all of the individual faces faded into a uniform body of red & blue. Without missing a beat, the section surrounding us exploded into a fury of clapping and chanting so strong it shook the ground below us.

CHI CHI CHI LE LE LE Uni-ver-si-dad de CHI-LE

Although emotionally swept up in the moment, my mind wandered back to all the American football games I had seen as a kid at the Metrodome in Minnesota. Had I ever felt this way at a Vikings game? Had the crowds ever joined together in this kind of unified, soulful chanting? The answer on both accounts was a resounding NO. Sunday night football couldn’t even begin to compare to the sense of collective belief soaring on the words:

Al Leon, yo lo llevo  en el corazon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRUQTJXVNhA

Not in the mind, in the HEART. I knew instinctively that they believed it too–all of them, together, in that moment. I had stumbled upon a part of Chile you’d be hard pressed to find in the hustle and bustle of an urban landscape largely divided along socio-economic lines. It was the part that made you want to forget about those societal divisions altogether and recognize the human spirit beyond them. Standing amidst this motley crew of believers, I realized that this was neither a game, nor a stadium. It was a place where dreams wouldn’t just be fleeting visions, but reachable milestones. In the estadio nacional, the only communa was Chile, and the only skin colors were red and blue. Inside its hopeful walls, chilean hearts soared on the wings of possibility–and so did mine.

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