Yesterday I paid ten extra dollars to watch the Quito derby from the “Palco” section of the Atahaulpa. The reason was two fold: the ability to sit undercover and so avoid the 5-8 pm daily downpour and also to experience the “behind the bench” fans.
Typically, it didn’t rain a drop so my $10 was wasted in the first respect (on Sunday I saved my money but third degree burns to my knees, arms and face) but the fan entertainment was hilarious and strangely familiar.
The Palco section is usually half-filled with various club officials,tracksuit suited staff, players wives and businessmen but the real characters are the old Waldorf and Stadler like pundits eager to offer advice and abuse with gusto.
In front of me were a group of silver haired darlings either giggling at their own jokes or roaring expletives at their players.
Now my Spanish is by no means fluent but even a beginner could decipher and understand the general “craic” and this was because the behaviour and language (but in Espanol) is exactly the same as in Scotland.
The last game I a went to in Scotland before leaving was St Johnstone vs Rangers in the McDiarmid Stadium, Perth. Thinking the game would be a sell-out I bought my tickets 3 days before so not to be disappointed. As a result I got tickets for the main stand, just behind the dug-outs, right among the local heroes.
For 90 minutes I had to listen to a selection of bawling donkeys, droning on to the Saints manager, Steve Lomas and because of the proximity of fans to dugout these aged experts were clearly in Lomas’s earshot. In the end Lomas actually responded, only encouraging the muppets. It wouldn’t of been too bad if the various shouts were witty or funny but it was just noise. Like a farmer shouting at his cows.
It was similar in the Atahaulpa last night but two things were different:
Firstly, as the dug-outs are separated by an “Olympic running track, long jump pit and 10 metres of concrete from the fans unless you have the roar of a lion the managers will never hear you. As result any pleas or offers of advice are totally futile. Dog barking at the moon.
Second, the abuse leveled at the players or management is much stronger and un-pc than back home. The cries of “Chuta Madre, Puta, hija de la chingada” etc(and not to mention the “negrito” chant) would get you arrested back home but in Ecuadorian games it’s quite the norm.
Because the Palco area is mixed part of the stadium their was choice banter exchanged between the fans, sometimes only rows apart. Surprisingly neither side took the bait nor rose to the occasion. Several times the old geezers openly berated and mocked much younger fans behind them.
Maybe alike Scotland the younger fans accepted their seniors were merely old, loud mouths quite entitled to their opinions and not worth the hassle.
Much the same opinion I have of the old bawlers back home.
The Estadio Olimipico Atahaulpa has seen better days and more than deserving of a lick of paint and a general spruce up. If its character you want then Ecuador’s national stadium has it in spades but if its comfort and safety then your better to head to the Casa Blanca, home of Liga de Quito.
I have only been in the Atahaulpa once when it has been full, and i mean full to bursting point. Usually it’s league inhabitants: Deportivo Quito, El Nacional and Universidad Catolica barely attract a 3rd of the stadium.
In July’s World Cup qualifier versus Colombia there was not a free seat in the house. Thousands more than the official capacity of 40,948 were rammed into the crumbling old amphitheater and with hundreds of people sitting on the stairwells and down the aisles it was dangerous in the extreme. Also with a deep pit below and between the fans and pitch it was not hard to imagine the possibility of disaster.
That being said the atmosphere was amazing even when purchasing a beer or visiting the toilet entailed a slalom course of hell. It was probably as close as you can get to 1980’s British match experience. The likes of which we will never see or feel again.
The stadium was opened in 1951 and it’s hard to believe it has changed much in the years since. It is a big concrete block of a structure which looks like the home of a Soviet Bloc team or nation. Unless you pay extra for the covered Palcos area you will be left open to the weather, its beating sun or sometimes torrential rain and similarly the Palcos/Tribuna are is the only place with seats.
When you are paying only $6-7 dollars for a normal match-day ticket a seat could be viewed as a luxury but at $25 for the international matches it is the least you could expect. With this in mind the Ecuadorian Football Federation has decided to seat the whole of the stadium at the cost of $17 million.
The refurbishment will decrease the overall capacity but as the security at capacity games seems to be lax in the extreme it will likely not make a difference.
However as the Ecuadorian Football federation invest in their national stadium they also face the possibility of losing two of their main tenants. Both El Nacional and Deportivo Quito have released plans for their new stadiums and while these have been protracted ambitions it seems they have real pretensions to fly from the national nest.
While Deportivo Quito’s plans have been on going for a a few years El Nacional have taken the next step and rewarded the construction contract to a Mexican company. Both teams however will be hoping a change of venue will inspire their teams into an unprecedented era of success alike their city neighbours Liga de Quito who went on to win the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana post flit.