Colombia South America

Soccer in Bogota: Going to a Millonarios Match

Since I’m spending the month in May in Bogota, I had to catch a match while here.  I had a great first experience with Colombian soccer when seeing Atletico Nacional in Medellin, and even though I wasn’t expecting anything as electric as that atmosphere, I was still excited to see some live soccer in Bogota.

As the largest city in Colombia, Bogota has a fair number of teams (including 4 in Categoria Primera A, the top level of Colombian soccer.)  However, soccer in Bogota revolves around two clubs, Millonarios and Santa Fe.  For my match here, I decided I had to see Millonarios, the city’s most popular team.  In comparison, I heard Santa Fe matches are “dead.”  Plus, even though this is a bad reason, Millonarios is an awesome name for a club.

Snapchats from my experience at a Millonarios match

History of Millonarios

Millonarios has historically had a lot of success in the Colombian league, with their 14 domestic titles trailing only Atletico Nacional.  However, most of the club’s triumphs occurred in the beginning of professional soccer in Colombia.  From the beginning of the league in 1948 to 1964, Millonarios won 9 of the first 17 championships.

During this era, Millonarios attracted great players from across Latin America.  Millonarios established a pipeline from Argentinian giants River Plate and signed players such as Alfredo di Stefano, one of the soccer’s all time greats.  In fact, Millonarios was the last club di Stefano played for before heading to Real Madrid (where he became the club’s leading goal scorer in El Clasico.)

More recently, Millonarios has faced financial difficulties.  The club had to declare bankruptcy and were purchased by their fans.  They most recently won a league title in 2012, and even with their financial troubles, they have never dropped from the top division.  As of the time of writing this, they are 4th in the league standings.

The Stadium and Atmosphere

Outside of the Estadio El Campin for a soccer match in Bogota
Outside of the Estadio El Campin right before kickoff

Millonarios play at Estadio El Campin located near Chapinero and share the stadium with Santa Fe.  Arriving at the stadium 10 minutes before kickoff, I missed most of the pre-game activity, but spotted a few bars across the street that I’m guessing were pretty decent beforehand.  It’s important to note that alcohol isn’t sold inside stadiums in Colombia, so you have to get your fix before.

It was super easy to secure a ticket on the street and I got into the stadium right before kickoff.  The match vs Cortulua was on a Tuesday night, and as a result the crowd was probably a bit smaller than usual.  It’s also important to note that Champions League was on earlier in the day, and Colombians seem more interested in that than their domestic league.  Of the 36,000 capacity, I would guess the stadium was a bit less than half full.

One of the two ultras sections. These sections are inaccessible from the rest of the stadium.

There are two ultras sections, behind each goals.  These were the most full areas.  I wanted to get into this area, but the construction of the stadium makes it impossible, and they are heavily policed.  I was told later, however, that sitting in those areas is a bad idea if you don’t know the words to every song.  Okay, then….

Even with the stadium far below capacity, the atmosphere was really strong.  The constant singing and drums give a constant electricity to the stadium.  To me, the best thing I’ve seen from domestic soccer in Colombia are the fans.  There is so much passion in the stands and half full games in Colombia have a stronger atmosphere than sold out, packed stadiums in many other places in the world.  It’s really impressive and something we can learn from across all sports in America!

The Match

This match was a mismatch, with Millonarios amongst the better teams in Colombia and Cortulua towards the bottom of the table.  I had low expectations after being disappointed by the quality of play when seeing Atletico Nacional, but this match luckily exceeded it (however, it’s important to note that Colombians feel that their domestic league.

In the first half, Millonarios was constantly on the attack.  The play was free and open, and Millonarios had a lot of chances.  However, even with a barrage of shots, Millonarios was constantly off target and it was 0-0 at halftime.

In a non-soccer related note, there was one unique thing about halftime.  Millonarios has cheerleaders, with uniforms a bit similar to those of the Dallas Cowboys.  This was the first time I’d seen cheerleaders outside of a North American sports context.  Anyway, the second half…..

Gameplay in the second half of Millonarios vs. Cortulua
Heavy police presence for some footy in Bogota.
There’s a heavy police presence to prevent anyone from running onto the field

The second half was much tighter in terms of gameplay than the first.  Both teams were attacking and getting opportunities down the flank, although there was still a bit more from Millonarios.  However, each side was struggling to finish their opportunities.  70th minute, and still 0-0, although the crowd was getting louder in trying to rally Millonarios on.  Could each team squander their opportunities and end this one goalless?

However, soon after, there was finally a breakthrough, and Millonarios was up 1-0.  The crowd erupted, mostly out of relief.  After so many opportunities missed, it was a well earned goal.

Not long after, Millonarios doubled their lead.  With a 2-0 advantage, the crowd felt like this one was locked up.

However, this whole time, Cortulua was getting good opportunities and in the 88th, they were able to bag one in.  At 2-1, would Millonarios blow the 3 points?

For the last few minutes, Cortulua continued to attack and looked like they could equalize, but Millonarios held off.  The 2-1 result was appropriate with Millonarios keeping the 3 points.  Overall, a very exciting match with a lot of attacking, opportunities, and some good late drama.

Getting to the stadium/tickets

For a game this empty, getting a ticket was really easy.  I only got to the stadium a few minutes before the match, and within asking a few people I had my ticket.  I paid 40,000 COP (around $14 USD) for a ticket on the street with a face value of 38,000 COP.  The convenience was worth the 2,000 COP.

You can take TransMilenio to and from the stadium.  However, if you’re not familiar with Bogota, I’d highly recommend taking Uber or another ride sharing service, especially at night.

More information for visiting Bogota

Hotels: Since I’m living in Bogota for the month, I’ve been living in an Airbnb.  However, TripAdvisor is always great for looking for hotels.  I’d recommend staying either in La Candelaria (most convenient for sightseeing) or near Parque 93 (a safe neighborhood with lots of dining options.)

Getting In: El Dorado International Airport is one of South America’s largest, with many international flights across the Americas and to Europe.  Domestic flights are particularly cheap, making travel around Colombia quite easy.

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