Where To Watch Football Matches in Colombia
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — or technically, every four years! Yes, that’s right, it’s time once again for the world’s great football powers (and a few underdog challengers) to clash for the honor of reigning soccer superiority. Like the rest of Latin America, Colombians will be glued to their televisions for the next few weeks — but if you haven’t got your own TV, where to glue yourself to make sure you don’t miss a single goal?
Though the lucky folks making the trek to neighboring Brazil get to see the action live, football mania is raging just as much here in Colombia. Despite the disappointing announcement just a few weeks ago that superstar player Falcao would be missing the tournament, optimism is high across the country, and with the national selección playing better than it has in decades, there’s sure to be all sorts of drama filling June and maybe even, dare we hope, July? If you’ll be in Colombia anytime in this next month, you can’t possibly miss the matches — don’t even think about trying to schedule meetings during those times, for starters. You’re best off just joining in the national madness, donning a yellow jersey and cheering on James Rodríguez and the rest of the Cafeteros with everyone else. To make sure you don’t miss a single match, here are the best places to catch a game in some of the country’s most fútbol-crazy cities.
If you really want to go where the action is in the capital, you have to go outside — to one of the city’s major parks, that is. The municipal government is planning to set up 12 large, high-resolution screens in different parks and plazas across the city to broadcast all of the tournament’s matches, as well as some Brazilian movies for a bit of culture amidst all the chanting and screaming. The screens will be placed in locations including the central Parque Simón Bolívar, Parque Nacional, Plaza de la Independencia, Parque El Tunal, Plaza de Usaquén and the plaza by the Torre Colpatria. Parque 93, in the north of the city, will also have a screen showing the matches, along with 500 beanbag/puff chairs for added watching comfort. If the weather turns, never fear — theaters in all of the city’s largest cinemas (most located inside malls) plan to broadcast a select number of matches from the group round, playoffs, semifinals and, of course, the final.
Speaking of Bogotá’s many malls, a number of them are planning special decorations and events, from a fútbol-themed mini-museum in the Gran Estacion mall near to bringing in a magician to officially predict the winner at the Santafé mall up north. Naturally, any restaurant or bar with a television, down to tiny corner tiendas, will be packed around game time, so get a table early if you want to be able to drink your beer sitting down, especially if you hit up a hotspot like the Irish Pub or Bogotá Beer Company. Some of the busiest neighborhoods will be the nightlife hub of the Zona Rosa, especially the Zona T; the many pubs and eateries of Usaquén; the student-filled bars and fast-food joints of the centro and La Candelaria; and spots lining the busy thoroughfare of the Séptima, especially in Chapinero. For an all-out experience, head to Foodball in Chapinero — as the name might suggest, the place is a fan’s dream, with team flags lining the walls and even chairs with football cushions.
Most folks think this coastal port city only heats up (figuratively, of course) around Carnaval, but they clearly haven’t been around for a football match. Barranquilla is home to several of the SelecciónS top players, as well as the stadium where the Colombian team plays all of its home qualifying matches to take advantage of its ability to somehow keep functioning in the stifling Caribbean heat. Though the matches won’t be played just down the road this time, the city is warming up for the event as if it were a series of home games, with storefronts and public spaces across town decked out in red, yellow and blue and the shops and stands of the chaotic city center completely taken over by patriotic paraphernalia. Like Bogotá, Barranquilla’s movie theaters will also allow people to watch matches from the air-conditioned comfort of cinema seats in the Villa Country and Portal del Prado malls, with tickets available for 5,000 pesos (about $2.50).
For a bit of national diversity, check out Che Boludo, a Colombian-Argentine locale that carries both teams close to its heart (and likely hopes they don’t end up facing each other). Or for some good old-fashioned eating and drinking, head to Café de la Casa, which will have beer deals, BBQ food and raffle off authentic Colombia team jerseys on game days.
Even tony Medellín is ready to don the tricolor in honor of the occasion, opening up public spaces and plenty of bars for the city’s fans, who probably haven’t even finished celebrating the hometown Atlético Nacional team’s victory in Colombia’s national championship in May. For those who have traded in their Nacional green for national red, yellow and blue, the city is putting up four big screens in central plazas and parks, including the Parque El Poblado, for free match viewing. Like the other cities listed above (and a few other metropolitan areas in Colombia, including Cali, Cartagena and Pereira), Medellín will also be transforming some of its movie theaters into mini-stadiums broadcasting the matches. If you like beer specials to go with your team songs, the bars throughout Poblado are a safe bet and likely to be packed with what should be an interesting mix of Colombians and representatives of the city’s significant expat population, perhaps even sporting some international team garb. For an all-immersive experience, head to the Centro Comercial Del Este and elbow your way into the Soccer Club Resto Bar, a museum-bar-restaurant that worships all things fútbol.
LAN Colombia gets you close to the pitch with daily flights to Bogotá and domestic connections to Barranquilla and Medellín.