Arrival in Uruguay was sweet. I arrived in Montevideo in November 2010, just 4 months after Uruguay had finished third in a World Cup they really could have won. I supported them in the World Cup that year and loved the history of it all – two World Cup wins – back in 1930 and 1950. I actually arrived in Uruguay about 12 hours earlier than expected thanks to a fuck up by Aerolineas Argentinas, something which worked in my favour in the end, as it meant I saved money on a night’s accommodation, met Wesley from Macao and got to see Penarol live that night! I should have been still on a flight!
I met Wesley Tang by chance while walking alone round the Old City late morning/early afternoon and we hung out. I told him I wanted to go to watch some football, so I went back to the hostel (Che Lagarto by Plaza Independencia) to check when the matches would be and indeed if there were any local that night.
Wesley was staying in another downtown hostel called El Viajero, a hostel I would by chance later call twice at! We caught the number 64 bus towards Portones from near Plaza Independencia, as you can see it says “Por Estadio” on it.
Uruguayans are all football mad. Penarol and Nacional are the 2 biggest clubs. Tonight I made Penarol my team to support, they play in yellow and black and were playing against the purple team Defensor Sporting, who were top of the league before the match.
Our walk to the stadium after exiting the bus passed many souvenir stalls. I bought a hat and a match programme.
The fans were very welcoming and I wore my green Northern Ireland shirt and flew my flag without any hassle.
Match ticket was in the Colombes end behind the nets.
The match was played in Estadio Centenario, where the first World Cup was held. Amazing just being there.
Flying the flag and enjoying the history outside this famous stadium.
Uruguay claim to be World Champions FOUR times, having twice won the World Cup and twice won the football Olympics. Plaques mark all four achievements, which are all more than 60 years ago now…
The football museum was closed on match day – but I had a month in Uruguay anyway living with a local family from the following week so would have plenty of time to see that!
The sun was beating down hot, the stadium was immense. The buzz inside was fantastic.
The Penarol hardcore in the stand opposite. Bizarrely also a guy right in the middle with an emerald green shirt.
Defensor Sporting were actually more of a “local club” to me, as they play their home matches in Parque Rodo, the district where I lived with Perla. Though they had a much smaller stadium and less fans. However they were top of the league.
Their fans in purple and white enjoyed lighting up flares pre-match.
As a football fan, just by looking at these photos you can get a realisation as to how great this really is.
The Penarol hardcore in true South American style fire up some pre-match flares in bright yellow. A great spectacle.
The packed hardcore opposite us, we were also in the hardcore on the other end.
Funny the stands to either side were more empty, and those behind the nets were full. In the UK it tends to be the opposite.
Some of the local fans near us.
Wesley and I with our hats blending in!
The colourful match gets underway. Defensor in purple start the attacking.
And soon Defensor go 1-0 up, an excellent chip from a free kick on the edge of the box catches the defence and goalkeeper unaware and is headed past the keeper. Penarol keeper could have done better mind you. It would be some result if Defensor could pull it off and stay top – making them favourites for the title.
Try as they may, Penarol couldn’t get that equaliser and I have to say, Defensor’s defence looked pretty handy as they steered clear at the top of the Uruguayan League. As they are a small club, I compared it to the year when Blackburn Rovers triumphed above the millions of Manchester United and won the English League.
In the hot sun, Penarol’s fans looked dejected as they wandered out, leaving them in 4th or 5th place in the league and the title dream all but over.
Wesley and I hung around for photos of the empty stadium and we had planned to head to Pocitos for a night out down by the beach. We worked out we could walk there in about 30 minutes and try some Uruguayan steak and beer.
Naked Uruguayans hold aloft the World Cup, this statue sits in the foreground of Estadio Centenario, a replication of a photo from the 1950 World Cup win, where Uruguay famously beat Brazil 2-1 in the final in the cauldron of Brazilian football – The Maracana.
The Jules Rimet trophy, which Uruguay won in 1930 when they hosted it, and again in 1950 when they defied the odds and beat Brazil. The nearest they have come since was 4th place in 2010.
Adding some Northern Irish ness to the monument. Northern Ireland beat Uruguay 1-0 in 1990 at home, and lost 1-0 in a neutral venue in 2006. There was also a 3-0 Northern Ireland win years and years ago. We play them again in May 2014 as a warm up for the Brazil World Cup.
The footprints of Ghiggia, conqueror of Brazil in 1950, and national hero in Uruguay, for life.
Uruguay list every World football champion from 1920 until 1990. The first winners were Belgium (1920 Olympics) with Uruguay winning four titles (2 of them World Cups). This means Uruguay have won 4 World football titles, one more than Brazil by their reckoning…
BUT only because the Uruguayans have refused to fill in this monument from 1990 onwards, I worked out it must be because in 1994 Brazil won it, for the fourth time, drawing them equal with Uruguay on titles. In reality though, Uruguay have only won 2. We all know only the World Cup counts. As Wesley and I left Estadio Centenario that night, I knew I’d be back, and made 3 more trips during my time in the country, making Penarol my local team to support and becoming quite impressed by the Uruguayans love of the beautiful game.
Wearing my Uruguay shirt. I’m a converted fan. They’ll never be as good as Northern Ireland, but sure they can dream… Vamos Penarol!! (Come On Penarol!!)
Nationalities Met – Uruguayan, Macaoese
Who Went – Jonny Blair, Wesley Tang
Footnote – Defensor went on to win the league, clinching it with a 3-1 win at Tacuerembo on the final day of the season. However the Uruguayan season is split into 2 parts and the second part was won by Nacional who beat Defensor in the final play-off.
Match Highlights I Found Online –
My Videos From The Day –
PRE MATCH DANDER TO THE STADIUM:
PRE MATCH FLARES INSIDE THE STADIUM:
ACTION FROM THE MATCH ITSELF – PENAROL 0-1 DEFENSOR SPORTING:
OUTSIDE ESTADIO CENTENARIO AT THE WORLD CUP MONUMENT: