Friday, January 30, 2015

Club Deportivo Palestino – Club de Deportes Cobresal (11-01-2015)

After the disappointing first try at seeing a game in Chile we took no chances for the second game. During the day we purchased tickets for Ps 5.000 (ca. $8) at a Ticketpro desk in a big department store in downtown Chile. Normally I hate to do this, as it means you get a standard ticket, but I did not want to take any risks with this game, as on the program was my most anticipated visit of the whole year: CD Palestino.

I had come across CD Palestino a couple of months earlier, when they got into trouble with the Chilean Football Association over the use of the map of Palestine as the number one on their jerseys. As there is little that I like more than the interplay between football and politics, I had to go and see a home game of CD Palestino. We took the metro from downtown to La Cisterna, a commune in the south of Santiago. From the metro station we still had to walk a good 15 minutes through the blistering heat.

After walking another 5 minutes around the grounds, we finally arrive at the entrance of the Estadio Municipal de La Cisterna, a peculiar looking site. We are greeted by a huge Palestinian flag. After the obligatory check of identity papers, and confusion about my foreign passport, we enter the ground and the clubhouse with the club logo and map of Palestine.

Excited we get to the small stand, which is old and at best half full. The eat is brutal so I buy a CD Palestino hat. Inside the clubhouse they also sell the now infamous CD Palestino jersey and although they don’t have XXL (virtually no store in Chile has XXL), I buy a too tight XL just as a souvenir (and an encouragement that one day I should fit in this shirt).

Despite the poor attendance and infrastructure CD Palestino plays in the highest division in Chile, the Primera División del Fútbol Profesional Chileno. Today they face CD Cobresal, which comes from the small copper mining town of Cobresal, located at an elevation of more than 2.400 meters in the Andes mountains, ca. 1,000 km (0r 600 miles) north of Santiago. Fun fact: although Cobresal has only 7.000 inhabitants, its football stadium can hold almost three times as many people. Guess it is never sold out.

I estimate that there are ca. 1,000 people in the stadium, of which some 200 are away fans (who probably live in Santiago). The people are mostly working class, but have no specific ethnic background. So, while the club itself is run by Chileans of Palestinian descent, the fans tend to be primarily ‘ordinary’ Chileans, who probably support the team because of the location. Many seem to know each other and come with the whole family – there are a lot of women in the stadium. 

Incidentally, the Palestinian community in Chile is the largest outside of the Middle East and is relatively old – the first Palestinian immigrants arrived in the 1850s (!) and well-off. Most of the original Palestinian immigrants were Christian, which makes the relationships with contemporary Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict complex. Moreover, despite the conflict with the Chilean Football Association, there were no indications of a political agenda in the stadium. No slogans, no flags, not even the routine Keffiyeh (or ‘Arafat scarf’).

The level of the game is not bad. The movement is slow, but it is extremely hot (at least 35 degrees and sunny). The visitors are the better team even though the hosts get the better half-chances in the first 30 minutes of the game.

In the 30th minute a Palestino corner leads to several almost shots. Five minutes later a great through pass puts a Palestino striker alone in front of the goalie, but he saves. Two minutes later there is a much needed drink break, after which Cobresal has a great through pass, but their strikers lobs the ball over the goalie… and over the goal.  Half time score: 0-0.


After enjoying some Arab music during half time, the only 'Palestinian' aspect of the game, we start the second half with more pressure from Palestino and less effort from Cobresal. This notwithstanding, the first chance is for the visitors, in the 60th minute, when a short from the edge of the penalty box is well placed and well saved. Five minutes later they head a corner just wide.

Around the 70th minute a Palestino counter attack almost leads to a Cobresal own goal. In the next two minutes the hosts have two more chances, but no goal. Palestino is by now dominating the game, without creating many real chances. The strikers are getting more desperate and a Schwalbe (dive) in the box is met with a free kick against them. Five minutes before the end the visitors get a rare break, after a defender badly misses the ball, and score from 12 meter: 0-1 (Cobresal’s second shot on goal in the second half). Despite another Schwalbe in the box, this time punished with a yellow card, the hosts loose the game. The fans seem unbothered by it.

In the end the most extraordinary thing about this game was that it was so ordinary. CD Palestino is just another small football club in the relatively poor Chilean First Division. While its colors, flag, and name have huge significance around the world, they seem devoid of any political meaning in Santiago itself. Still, definitely worth a visit, if you ever find yourself in Santiago!

No comments: