It is often said that although the English invented football, the Brazilians were the ones to perfect it. It is hard to argue with that statement given their record five World Cup titles, and the wistful joy the yellow shirts evoke in football fans from all demographics. Unless, that is, you happen to be Argentinian. You’ve all heard of Pele and Maradona, however since these icons graced the pitch a continual shift towards European dominance of domestic football has left the state of South American football in flux. Clubs are unable to compete with the wages offered in Europe and it has led to a gradual exodus of the majority of the continent’s best players. That is not to say that the spectacle has suffered as a result. The fervour and passion is evident on every street corner and in every taxi. The unity of the people is unbridled during international competition. And the feverish spectacle of the continent’s best games is unmatched anywhere on the planet.
This package is the ultimate opportunity to hop around the continent and take in all its wonders whilst simultaneously getting caught up in the frenzy that is fútbol. With an overwhelming set of variables, you can put your mind at rest knowing that our team will have everything covered, from matchday tickets to transport and everything in between.
The most pertinent difference between European and South American football is its league format. All countries but Brazil host two half-season tournaments called the apertura (opening) and the clausura (closing), where each team in the league plays another once. This complicates relegation and dilutes the importance of winning the league title but is entrenched in Latin football culture and provides plenty of excitement.
The Copa Libertadores is the premier competition on the continent, and its little brother the Copa Sudamericana is the South American equivalent of the Europa League. Both begin in January or February and conclude in November or December, with a break in the middle (May/June for Sudamericana and June/July for Libertadores). Like the European Champions League both competitions feature home and away games in the group stages and two-legged playoffs in the knockout stages – including the final. Consequently it is impossible to make arrangements to attend the final at a particular stadium, although this unpredictability adds to the allure of the competitions.
If you’ve been to your fair share of football games, it may take a lot to impress you. What can be assured is that the noise, energy, and passion inside a South American football stadium is likely to outstrip that of your typical European affair. The atmosphere at a game can overload your senses with deafening noise and stunning visuals.
If European football is the pinnacle of tactical, physical, and technical brilliance, South American football contains flair, ill-discipline, and passion unrivalled elsewhere. It is not uncommon to see a wonder goal and a red card in the same game.
The matchday experience as a tourist whilst often spectacular and event-free, can be disconcerting. You will be refused entry with a belt in many stadia, burning flares are ubiquitous, and away fans are often escorted from the stadium before the 90 minutes are up to prevent violent flashpoints. Youngsters will beg you for some change so they can buy a ticket to the game and strangers will pass you a spliff during the game. As ever, you must remain vigilant and keep an eye out for pickpockets and other potential problems. This is why we maintain a strong relationship with trustworthy and highly knowledgeable individuals dotted throughout the continent to accompany you to games if you so desire. This aspect of the package is crucial to its success and allows us to ensure your safety and enjoyment.
This is an entirely bespoke tour that we can arrange to fit your requirements, although it of course depends on the unpredictable world of South American football.
Brazil – you won’t lack for opportunities to witness a game in Brazil, with domestic teams averaging an impressive 65 games a year across different competitions. The biggest teams ply their trade in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
São Paulo, Santos, Cruzeiro, Palmeiras, Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama, Internacional
Argentina – Buenos Aires is the heartbeat of Argentinian football, home to eighteen professional clubs, and perhaps the epicentre of South American football. The Superclásico between River Plate and Boca Juniors is one of football’s titanic clashes, often posited as one of the sport’s greatest rivalries. Domestic competition is strong and can lead to some thrilling football throughout the season.
River Plate, Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing, San Lorenzo, Velez, Estudiantes
Uruguay – there is a rich footballing tradition in the tiny country of Uruguay. Two World Cup wins in the competition’s early years and numerous strong showings since pay testament to the fact. The domestic scene, whilst not as forceful internationally, is strong, with Peñarol and Nacional continental heavyweights.
Chile – a recent surge in the strength of the domestic league has complemented Chile’s late success internationally, which has resulted in two Copa America victories over Lionel Messi’s Argentina. The country has enjoyed little success in South America’s Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana throughout history.
Colo Colo, Universidad de Chile, Universidad Catolica
Peru – Peruvian football had its heyday in the 70s, led by the irrepressible Teofilo Cubillas. These days their ambitions are more modest – qualifying for 2018’s World Cup is a significant achievement. Domestic teams have made little impact continentally, although the passion for the sport is evident throughout the country.
Universitario, Alianza Lima, Sporting Cristal
Ecuador – perennially solid internationally if not spectacular, Ecuador punches above its weight. Its strongest teams have struggled to impact the Libertadores and Sudamericana but that hasn’t dampened the Ecuadoreans ardour when it comes to supporting their team.
Emelec, Barcelona, El Nacional, LDU Quito
Colombia – la selección has occasionally lit up the world stage with flair and unbridled joy whilst playing. The domestic teams – with the exception of Atletico Nacional – have yet to make an impact continentally, but the domestic competition can be electrifying, with strong teams all around the country and more rivalries than you can shake a stick at resulting in some cracking fixtures.
Atletico Nacional, Millonarios, America de Cali, Deportivo Cali, Santa Fe, Junior
Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay – these nations have made minimal impact on world football but it doesn’t lessen their appetite for the game. Although Venezuela is primarily a beisbol country, it maintains a feverous interest in the beautiful game and looks to it as a symbol of hope during trying periods. Each have clubs that have enjoyed rare continental successes, but accept that this is an exception rather than a rule.
Olimpia, Cerro Porteño, Bolivar, The Strongest
The following fixtures are some of the continent’s more entertaining rivalries, providing ferocious atmospheres and intriguing match-ups:
Blooming vs Oriente Petrolero (Santa Cruz, Bolivia)
Newell’s Old Boys vs Rosario Central (Rosario, Argentina)
Everton vs Santiago Wanderers (Valparaiso/Vina del Mar, Chile)
Bahia vs Vitoria (Salvador, Brazil)
America vs Deportivo (Cali, Colombia)
Alianza Lima vs Universitario (Lima, Peru)
Cerro Porteño vs Olimpia (Asuncion, Paraguay)
Barcelona vs Emelec (Guayaquil, Ecuador) – Estadio Monumental
Colo Colo vs Universidad de Chile (Santiago, Chile) – Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos
Corinthians vs Palmeiras (Säo Paulo)
Gremio vs Internacional (Porto Alegre, Brazil)
Nacional vs Peñarol (Montevideo, Uruguay) – Estadio Centenario
Boca Juniors vs River Plate (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Flamengo vs Fluminense (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – Maracanã
The following stadia are some of this publication’s favourites in South America:
Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado (La Casa Blanca) – Quito – LDU Quito
Estadio Nemésio Camacho El Campín – Bogotá – Santa Fe/Millonarios
Estadio Atanasio Girardot – Medellín – Independiente Medellín/Atletico Nacional
Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto (Mineirão) – Belo Horizonte – Cruzeiro/Atletico Mineiro
Estadio Diego Armando Maradona – Buenos Aires – Argentinos Junior
Estadio Presidente Juan Domingo Perón – Buenos Aires – Racing Club
Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti (El Monumental) – Buenos Aires – River Plate
Estadio Alberto J Armando (La Bombonera) – Buenos Aires – Boca Juniors
Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho (Maracanã) – Rio de Janeiro – Fluminense
Estadio Centenario – Montevideo – Uruguay
Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez (El Metropolitano) – Barranquilla – Junior/Colombia
Estadio Gigante de Arroyito – Rosario – Rosario Central
Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo – Guayaquil – Barcelona
South American fútbol will pull you in and give you a rollercoaster ride of emotions and experiences, bringing you as close to the local way of life as possible.