After Riots, Bogotá Fútbol Hooligans Leave Their Mark

A protester attacks riot police in Bogotá, August 2013

Newsbreak. Part of the TK/American Fútbol now lives in Colombia. Has done for almost seven months. Most of which was spent on rural farms or in coastal hammocks.

But now, living in Bogotá, the surprisingly modern, nearly 1st world capital city, I'm much more connected, and can hopefully broadcast more of what this amazing South American 'capital de fútbol' has to offer. Here's a quick snippet.

You may or may not have heard about the national agriculture strike that has basically crippled Colombia in recent weeks.

Well a few days ago, protests finally erupted in Bogotá.

Thousands of college students and vigilantes marched in droves to show their support for the farmers who have been struggling for years due to credit and infrastructure problems, and most recently, impossible competition due to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

But like most South American youth, young Colombians love a rowdy protest. And on Thursday, heavy riots broke out in the city's central Plaza de Bolivar.

Chaos ensued. Vandalism. Tear gas. Two dead. There's even a viral video floating around of a kid who got his upper lip ripped off.

Yesterday, I went in to check out the aftermath. All is pretty much back to normal, thanks to the military presence. But amongst all the shattered windows and "Viva el paro! (Long live the strike!)", "Fuera Gringos!" and "Without the potato, there is no peace!" graffiti, something else caught my eye.

The local soccer rivalry here between Independiente Santa Fe and Millonarios FC is as heated as any in the world. It's rare to see young supporters of either club mingling with one another. There's Red, and there's Blue.

And the entire city is pocked with graffiti tags supporting either club. Quick, simplified versions of their crests, sometimes replacing letters in phrases.

So I guess it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see the allegiances of the young protesters infiltrate their anti-authority graffiti. But still.

Independiente Santa Fe tag found on a fence protecting a statue of Simon Bolivar.

Thousands of anarchic protesters fighting police, breathing tear gas, breaking shit, and yet, the presence of mind to make their football clubs a part of their spray can rebellion. I found it pretty remarkable.

Another Santa Fe, but part of a "Mucha Policia, Poca Diversión" ("Lots of Police, Little Fun") tag which, in itself, was a light diversion from the more angry messages.

Here's a Millonarios tag on a nearby street. Amidst all the others, this is just an outright advert for an ultras group:

OK, this wasn't such a snippet. But here's one more pic of the damage left from the protest and the recently deployed military troops.

Last thing - these strikes have Colombia in a sadder state than it's been in a number of years. However, a reported agreement between the government and the farming industry is expected next week that would end the protests and mark a win for Colombia.

Then, on Friday, a different win for Colombia could make this country happier than it's been since 1998.

If Los Cafeteros beat Ecuador on Tuesday, then win in Uruguay on September 10th, it will virtually guarantee their place in the World Cup for the first time in 16 years.

Now, that's one looong overdue party Colombia could really use right now.

Peter KarlComment