Today was so amazing. I went to a soccer game at the Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz, Bolivia. I mean, you always hear about how important soccer is in popular culture in Latin America, but there is nothing like being there and experiencing it for yourself. Imagine 42,000 people screaming fans in the seats and another 5,000 fans who couldn’t care less that they don’t have a seat. It was exhilarating!!!

I’d heard about the controversy involving the stadium in 2007. FIFA said the Bolivian national team had an unfair advantage because they were used to the high altitude in the stadium and the other teams didn’t have enough time to get used to the altitude hike. I can definitely see why the visiting team would say that. The merchant who sold us the tickets said we had great seats at mid-field. What he failed to tell us was the seats were in the top level at mid-field. My ears started popping as I was walking up the steps to the top. I’m in pretty decent shape, so I knew if I was hurting, then everyone else would be in serious trouble. And I was right! When I looked back, everyone else looked like they could have benefitted from an oxygen mask. At almost 12,000 feet above sea level, I guess it is justifiable to be out of breath in the thin air.

La Paz Stadium

We got used to the altitude as the game went on. I almost forgot the altitude was a problem until I jumped up to celebrate a goal and got light headed. At that point I had to use the bathroom, so I took the opportunity go downstairs and get out of the crowded stands. As I was walking down, my stomach started to growl, so I made the decision to visit the concession stand too. Unfortunately, the stadium isn’t built like the stadium in the U.S. I found a bathroom just fine, but I didn’t find a concession stand. I walked for what seemed like forever and just gave up. So I made the hike back to my seat.

I’m proud to say I’ve attended several events in the Andes. I’ve been immersed in Andean culture through sports, festivals, and traditions. But my all-time favorite was the soccer game at the stadium. Although I found this experience to be a personal high, I was glad to share it with almost 50,000 people.

Activities:

  1. What was the controversy involving the soccer stadium in La Paz?
  2. Do you like to play or watch soccer? Why or why not?
  3. Watch the Bus Tour around La Paz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ueWBLdHIDk Describe the city of La Paz.