How to join in Colombia’s legendary football fever

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Passion and pride in the Colombian football team is par for the course in Colombia. The country’s fans do everything they can to watch matches with their families and friends, supporting their side with every fiber of their being. It’s not unusual for a game to turn into a full-on party, even if the result hasn’t gone the country’s way.

 

Colombians are always in favor of celebrating the things that make them feel proud as they take every opportunity to enjoy life to the max. Every time the Colombian football team plays, especially in a World Cup tournament, it’s an opportunity to unleash a little sabrosura. Colombians celebrate with those they love the most, and are not above embracing strangers who are celebrating too, united in the joy of their beloved ‘Selección Colombia’.

From birthdays, First Communions and long-awaited weddings to family members’ achievements, new cars and the goals scored by a favorite team, parties are part of Colombian life. Football offers the perfect excuse to break with the routine and come together to laugh, dance and support the team that makes the entire nation feel proud of being Colombian.

These are some of the things every good Colombian does when ‘football fever’ strikes, so you know how and where to watch and celebrate a game.

Plan a party

Colombians are always ready to go big with celebrations, especially to watch football, and parties tend to be organized whenever the Colombian football team plays in the World Cup. The best parties involve friends and family.

It’s important to know where to watch a match, but that’s rarely a problem in Colombia where there is always a friend or favorite relative willing to lend their home so their guests can watch a game. The host is usually the person who has the biggest television or the latest technology so not only do those invited feel at home – they feel like they’re among the fans in the stadium too.

Once the party plan is put in motion, most guests will arrive hours before kick-off and debate the Colombian football team’s prospects. Some fans are more optimistic than others but no-one can resist trying to predict the outcome of a game, as well as dissecting previous matches and discussing the team’s chances of advancing. Music will play, the tables will be filled with food and the tension and excitement will bubble hours in advance. The Colombian soccer team aren’t the only stars of the show either. There is also a surge of pride in the country itself.

Wear the Colombian t-shirt wherever you go

The t-shirt worn by the Colombian national side is impossible to ignore. Its bright yellow fabric stands out in the crowd. Colombians can spot it from miles away and, on game days, the entire country dresses to impress in the colors of the flag.

Children, adults, students, executives, manual workers. From making the t-shirt part of school uniform to pulling it over the top of a business suit, anyone who loves soccer wears their jersey with pride. Colombian football fever is infectious and no-one will complain if you ignore the dress code for the day. It’s all part of the atmosphere.

Sweepstakes

Sweepstakes, known as making a polla in Colombia, are a common way to make a bet for fans who plan to watch a match. Each person adds a stake and either predicts, or is assigned, a result. That can mean some fans end up winning when their team loses, especially if results are assigned to ensure no player has the same outcome.

These pollas, a form of football betting, are generally made with small stakes and the idea is to have fun and add a little extra drama for those who gather to watch a game. The person who has the correct result wins a small amount of money. If no-one wins, the stake is either rolled over to the next match or used to buy drinks or snacks.

Food, food and more food

Besides football, food plays an important role in any celebration of Colombian football. According to Colombian tradition, the host provides part of the meal but it’s common for their guests to arrive with a little extra. Fried chicken, pizza or any kind of takeaway and drinks would be the easiest options here.

Although the above are popular, committed fans often prefer a Colombian feast, such as empanadas with ají dip, and enormous plates of finger food, known as a picadas, with chopped beef, potato, plantain and chorizo, washed down with a refajo (a mix of beer and Colombian soda) Typical treats such as these are likely to put the smile on every supporter’s face and bring a little sabrosura to the celebration.

Colombians are proud of their way of living and celebrating every moment of the football experience. It doesn’t matter where in the world they are, fans of Colombian soccer exalt in the pride and passion aroused by their team’s performance of the beautiful game. Why not join Colombians in some of the most joyful moments of their lives as they live every kick of the World Cup with the Colombian football team, and inspire the world with their sabrosura?

 

10 Dishes to taste on a trip to Colombia

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The best way to embrace the tastes of Colombia is to book a flight to Bogotá and set off on a culinary adventure around the country.

Packed with rich flavours, hearty ingredients and unusual taste combinations, Colombian food is as diverse as it is dazzling. Although it’s yet to really shine on the international stage like the cuisines of some its near neighbours like Brazil and Argentina, the food scene in Colombia is exciting and unique.

The best way to embrace the tastes of Colombia is to book a flight to Bogotá and set off on a culinary adventure around the country. The friendly locals are proud of their local dishes and will happily assist hungry tourists navigating their way through the options, of which there are many.

But it always pays to do some forward planning, so here is a list of 10 dishes you should sample:

01 – BANDEJA PAISA

The jewel in the crown of Colombian cuisine, this is the much-loved national dish, and an absolute must try. Bandeja Paisa is basically a selection of local flavours, a taste of Colombia on a plate, and generally features rice, avocado, plantain, beans and a LOT of meat including sausages (both chorizo and morcilla, or blood sausage), chicharrón (fried pork rind) and minced beef. It’s nourishing and delicious – but be warned, you need to bring a good appetite to the table.

02 – EMPANADAS

On the snack end of the spectrum, the delicious South American pastries known as empanadas are particularly good in Colombia for one simple reason: they’re deep fried. Think flaky pockets of pastry filled with a range of fillings depending on the region, including various meats, potatoes, rice, vegetables, crispy fries, different kinds of peppers and even peanut sauce. They are often served with a squeeze of lime and a spoonful of the spiced relish known as ají, making it the perfect quick bite, provided you can stop at one…

03 – FRITANGA

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and in a carnivorous mood (vegetarians, look away) then fritanga is the way to go. A great big plate of various types of grilled and fried meats all mixed together, it often features a variety of offal and is terrific for sharing. Not for the faint of heart, it’s a true Colombian experience and best enjoyed with toothpicks (to pick up the juicy morsels) and an icy cold local beer.

04 – SANCOCHO

For something a little lighter but just as full of meaty goodness, try a bowl of sancocho. This soup is full of treasures, usually chicken but often other meats as well, plus corn on the cob, plantain and beans. Like many Colombian dishes, it varies depending on who is making it, so you can enjoy different versions around the country, all served with rice, avocado and ají dipping sauce on the side.

05 – AJIACO

An alternative and equally excellent local soup is ajiaco, which is particularly popular in the central region of Colombia. Made with three types of potatoes from the Cundiboyacense Plateau, it also features chicken, cream and capers, as well as a special daisy-like grassy herb known as guascas that is found in the mountains and is high in minerals, giving the soup a distinct and delicious flavour.

06 – AREPAS

Another excellent snack option, often enjoyed for breakfast, are the cornmeal pancakes known as arepas. Frequently served on the side at meals, they can also be picked up at street stalls throughout the country where they are split open and filled with a tasty mix of cheese, meat and fried eggs.

07 – PATACONES

Colombia has a wide and glorious array of bananas and the locals are incredibly creative in their uses, making them an essential item to try when you’re travelling around the country. A popular way to eat them is as patacones, which are green plantains flattened and twice fried then served as little patties topped with anything from beans to meat or the tomato-based relish called hogao. Bananas are also often transformed into cayeye (a breakfast dish made from mashed guineos, a type of green banana), as well as little fried plantain balls known as marranitas when stuffed with pork and aborrajao when filled with cheese.

08 – LECHONA

For a feast, try ordering the fabulous lechona, a luscious pork roast filled with rice, onion and vegetables. The slow cooked meat and spectacular crackling, combined with the deeply flavoured rice, offers an epic dining experience usually reserved for special occasions and feast days, and best shared with a large group.

09 – FRUIT CANDIES

Sweet treats are an important part of Colombian cuisine and there are plenty of sugary delights from which to choose. Due to the vast array of fruit available in Colombia (supposedly enough to enjoy a different one every day of the year) it’s not a surprise that they feature highly in desserts and are particularly popular when made into “candies”, which are a reduction of candied fruit and sugar. The best flavours include papaya, breva, blackberry, cape gooseberry, coconut, rhubarb and guava – and working out your favourite one is the best part.

10 – OBLEAS

This street stall staple is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth: thin brown wafers (a bit like flat ice-cream cones) are sandwiched together with gooey fillings including arequipe (the local version of caramel), jam and chocolate. The flavours and toppings are laid out at each stall so you can mix and match to create your very own tailor-made Colombian dessert.