I came across five Brits in the Estadio Metropolitano last night, Copa America aficionados one and all. I’d seen them in Paraguay in 1999 and wasn’t surprised to bump into them again, with their faded Paraguay 1999 tshirts and old war stories.
Kevin, Paul, Dave, Richard and and Peter might sounds like a dodgy 60s pop group but they are actually die-hard football culturalists who spend summers at the Copa America and winters at the African Nations Cup.
Ever since the 1991 Copa in Chile, some or all of them have been crossing the Atlantic to visit far away nations and catch the exotic local footie. They’ve seen things change over time, with Dave telling me the biggest difference is that the football has become a lot more homogenous as all the decent players move to play in the same leagues.
They’ve enjoyed Venezuela but also winced at how commercial the whole venture has become. “In Ecuador, housewives in aprons handed out tickets to fans, here it’s all computerised and a lot more hassle.”
Ecuador was perhaps the highlight of the last 16 years, because “one day we’d be at sea level and the next day up in the mountains,” Dave added. Not to mention the culture. While Peru in 2004 featured Machu Picchu, Colombia in 2001 had the walled city of Cartagena and Paraguay 1999 had a trail of Jesuit ranches, Venezuela has nothing to compare.
“There’s not a lot to do culturally here, it has lacked that and not been as interesting for it, there’s no temples or anything like that, nothing that you think, we have to see that,” Dave said, before recounting his winter trips to Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and South Africa.
They were off back to Blighty today, no doubt hoping to catch a pre-season tour in the Faroes or Finland or somewhere. In case you were wondering, most of them are Dulwich Hamlets supporters. And if you’ve never heard of them, then join the club. Educate yourself here.