With the countdown to the World Cup final just a few months away, it is time for me to confess. Despite a host of World Cup qualifiers, I only managed to attend one of the matches; Colombia versus Argentina on 13th October 2007.
Now England might be the home of football, but the love of the beautiful game on the South American continent is second to none.
Richard, my Colombian colleague is put in charge of securing tickets for five gringo teachers including myself. We want the very best and pay out for the most expensive tickets available (about $15) at the Nemesio Camacho "El Campín" Campesa Stadium which holds 44,000 spectators.
Wanting to soak up the atmosphere, we head off in a taxi after school and head into Bogotá´s city centre. As always the roads are packed but arrive shortly before 6pm. It is simply electric as we join the throng to enter the stadium.
We meander slowly up to our seats and the stadium is bursting at the seams. Ticket numbers are completely irrelevant and we scour our block on the upper tiers trying to find a place where we can sit in at least in approximation to each other; no easy feat.
Finally we find a few bench seats close the couple of hundred Argentinean supporters who have made the journey to the Colombian capital. Despite the rivalry (Argies are not popular amongst other South Americans, deemed somewhat big-headed and snooty) there is no form segregation and the banter between the two sets of fans is deeply insulting, but taken in good humour.
We are quickly spotted as gringos, but being well-decked in Colombian shirts, we become swiftly adopted by the other Colombian fans and offered potent aguadiente “fire-water” shots.
Come kick-off and the stadium erupts into a crescendo of noise and a giant Colombian flag is unfolded down. Ticker tape and yellow toilet rolls descend on to the pitch. Riot police endure this barrage around the entire ground.
Colombia make a slow start to the match and find themselves 1 – 0 down after just a few minutes as the Argentinean show off some of their South American fluidity. However after a dirty tackle the ever illustrious Lionel Messi is sent off and the game quickly turns to Colombians favour. The equalizing goal is a stunning free kick curled into the top corner and the crowd sense blood. With just 20 minutes to go, Colombia take the lead and hold the advantage to the final whistle.
It has been one of my best and most memorable nights in Bogotá. Unfortunately Colombia was unable to capitalize on the rare victory against Argentina and dismally fail to qualify for South Africa.
Highlights of the match can be found by clicking here.
More of my photos from the match can be found by clicking here.