On Sunday it was back to the Atahaulpa Stadium to watch the current champions : Deportivo Quito against the champions elect: Barcelona.
Although i arrived with my friend at the stadium 15 mins before the game it took at least half an hour to get into the Atahaulpa. Long lines were snaked around the ground with the police doing their disorganised best to slowly, filter the throngs throw the narrow, turnstiles. One gate was for blue and red bedecked fans of Deportivo the others for the vast amount of yellow, Barcelona” hinchas”.
Only when Barcelona had scored and the many fans became restlessness did the police and authorities begin to shepherd the fans through at a acceptable rate.
Barcelona enjoy a huge support in both in Quito and Guayaquil and are probably only matched in popularity with Liga de Quito. Although the base of support is in Ecuador’s biggest city they can count on supporters from all over the country.
In much the same way Rangers and Celtic attract fans from all over Scotland, Barcelona and Liga gather the most fans from all over Ecuador.
In recent years the Quito teams have dominated league titles with Deportivo Quito, El Nacional and Liga sharing 9 titles between them. You have to go back to 1997 for Barcelona’s last title although city rivals Emelec did win the title in 2001 and 2002.
Upon entering the stadium it was clear that the Deportivo Quito fans or “chullas” were totally outnumbered by about 4-1. The yellow and black of Barcelona covered 70 % of the stadium and with their team already 1-0 up to a Nina header they were in fine voice.
Deportivo had only the main stand to fill and numbered around 6-7,000 but as their were some spare rows of seats the police began to funnel some yellow and black fans into the Deportivo end. This did not go down well with hardcore members at the front and they immediately rushed to confront to the opposition, forcing them back into the Barcelona section. A few bottles were thrown and insults traded but in truth it was little more than handbags from very, young looking “hooligans”. The riot police and their batons and Alsatians seemed to dampen their enthusiasm.
nI such an atmosphere it’s sometimes difficult to concentrate on the match, especially when you know Deportivo are so poor in front of goal and have little chance of scoring but the game ebbed and flowed with Barcelona seemingly content to let Deportivo attack.
Luckily, again we had the benefit of enthusiastic beer vendors and police were happy to let us stand at the back and peer over the crowd.
Much has been made in the Ecuadorian media about the country’s hooligan problem but in the 20-30 matches i have attended here in Quito I have yet to see some trouble bar the throwing of plastic bottles or the odd plastic beer cup. It’s certainly no where near the levels that the UK or Europe had but i guess it doesn’t take much for things to get out of hand. The police were very aware of the threat and quick to intervene.
The only kerfuffle in the terraces today happened in the Barcelona hoards in the south stand. A yellow shirted youth (my friend was convinced it was a girl but not I) was thrown around like a rag doll and unceremoniously booted and punched through throngs of people and out of the exit. It was unclear what he had done to deserve this treatment but it must have been bad as his own brethren turned on him. The police pounced on him and escorted him away.
In the end Barcelona won two nil, thanks to; some dreadful refereeing decisions, two Deportivo red cards, some dreadful Deportivo forward play and a wonderful free kick form Michael Arroyo in the 90th minute (who in turn was strangely red-carded).
The Barcelona fans were ecstatic at the end, knowing they had all but secured their first title in 15 years while the Deportivo Quito fans solemnly shuffled out of the Atahaulpa. A feeling they have known all to well in a disastrous season.