Tuesday, September 23, 2008


On Sunday I attended my first professional soccer game in La Paz. It was el classico--which pitted the two rival La Paz teams, Bolivar and Strongest, against one another. El classico is essentially the equivalent of the NYC subway series--you´re either a Bolivarista or a Stronguista. And, like any other sport in the world, allegiances run deep.

The stadium in La Paz has seating for approximately 45,000--though crowds sometimes swell to more than 65,000

I attended the mid-afternoon partido with UAC-CP agronomy graduates (and recent newlyweds), Carlos Gutierrez and Erica Calle de Gutierrez, and Erica´s younger brother, Vladimir. Upon arriving at the stadium and buying our 15 Bolivano ($2.20) tickets for the nosebleed seats, the three insisted that I pick my favorite team. Based purely on my preference for the colors blue and white, I pledged my allegiance to Boliviar...not realizing that Carlos and Vladimir, diehard Strongest fans, would make me sit amid the Strongest crowd wearing a goofy Bolivar hat through the entire duration of the game. Needless to say, Erica (also a Bolivarista) and I didn´t cheer all too loudly when "our" equipo scored.

It was an exciting game--complete with several fights, lots of fanatic foul-mouthed fans, and last minute penalty shots that kept spectators on the edge of their seats...and players literally on their knees praying. In the end, the teams tied 3 -3.

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