Bolivia

24th March 2019 – Bolivian Primera Division (Tier 1) – Jorge Wilstermann 2-0 Nacional Potosi - Attendance, N/A.

A slightly bizarre end to our Bolivian run of games. Time to leave Cochabamba behind but not before one last visit to Estadio Felix Capriles. In a fairly run of the mill game, Wilstermann ran out 2-0 victors but we could have sworn it was actually 2-1. A third goal was definitely scored (via a freekick off the underside of the bar) and both Mel and I were convinced a goal was given and the teams kicked off again. Alas, it couldn’t have been so as the game has gone down as a 2-0 home win. Perhaps we both got distracted at the same time.

17th March 2019 – Bolivian Primera Division (Tier 1) – Aurora 3-2 Oriente Petrolero - Attendance, N/A.

Our return to see Aurora in action a week later was greeted by a rare good performance and win by the home team. Again, it was a slow first half with only one goal before the break, but the second half saw the floodgates open with Aurora bagging a last minute winner.

The best of the action was happening off the pitch though. We were joined up in the stands for this game by a tiny puppy that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Maybe this little mascot was the good luck charm the team needed. In addition to luck, perhaps they were also helped to victory by the fraudulent ball boy (‘boy’ being a stretch as this guy was at least in his late teens) who took to throwing extra balls onto the pitch during injury time in an effort to stop the flow of the away team’s attacks.

10th March 2019 – Bolivian Primera Division (Tier 1) – Aurora 2-3 Royal Pari - Attendance, N/A.

A couple of weeks after seeing a Jorge Wilstermann match, we returned to the same stadium to witness Cochabamba’s other (and significantly less talented) top tier team in action. Going into the game Aurora were already 5 points adrift at the foot of the table and things would not improve by full time. The lowly league position seemed to contribute to a much smaller attendance than seen at a Wilstermann game with parts of the stadium not even being opened in order to keep costs down.

After a poor first half it was goalless and the fans let their anger known as the teams trudged off for the break. The second half however sprang into life with an immediate reaction from the home team who headed in to take the lead after 47 minutes. Aurora’s fans dream of a long awaited victory were dashed just 5 minutes later when their team gave away a penalty and had a player sent off.

Remarkably, Aurora managed to grab an unlikely lead for a second time, hitting Royal Pari on the break, but with only 10 minutes to go hopes were once again dashed as their defence crumbled twice late on, the 90th minute winner sparking yet more protests from the stands.

27th February 2019 – Bolivian Primera Division (Tier 1) – Jorge Wilstermann 3-3 Destroyers - Attendance, N/A.

Three days after our first visit we were back for a mid-week game under the floodlights.  Due to getting delayed at our volunteering project we entered the stadium 20 minutes into the first half, missing the opening goal by a couple of minutes.  At this point the home side were 1-0 up, but this didn’t last long as almost within minutes of us sitting down, Destroyers made it 1-1 with a scintillating strike from a long range free kick.  Perhaps we are bad omens.  Things duly got worse in the second half when Wilstermann’s right back somehow managed to get his own legs in a tangle and gave the ball away to an onrushing striker who passed to his teammate for a simple tap in.  Despite a fine equalizer just minutes later, Wilstermann would soon fall behind again after a blistering header at the back post from a corner.  The fans were incredibly unhappy, and not even a last ditch leveler to make it 3-3 in injury time could prevent them from once again calling for the coach’s head.

24th February 2019 – Bolivian Primera Division (Tier 1) – Jorge Wilstermann 0-2 Guabira - Attendance, N/A.

Whilst volunteering in Cochabamba for a month we had the opportunity to attend a few Bolivian Primera League games as the Estadio Felix Capriles was only a 20 minute walk from where we were staying.  Fortunately for us the ground is shared by two top tier teams so most weeks there should be a game on.  First up was a trip to see Jorge Wilstermann, historically one of the top teams in Bolivian football.  Formed in 1949 by a group of employees of the then main airline of Bolivia, the team was named in honour of Jorge Wilsermann, the first Bolivian pilot who tragically died in a plane crash aged only 25.

Unsure about how easy it was to acquire tickets we arrived at the ground over an hour early and were delighted to discover that it would cost us only a little over $3 each to gain entry.  The ticket booths were not yet open but there were a couple of touts selling tickets for a slightly higher price (about 50 cents more) so we snapped them up. 

The stadium’s capacity holds about 36,000 but on the night there must have been about 5,000 in attendance.  There are no seats in the stadium, just dirty concrete terraces to sit or stand on.  As kick-off approached, we could start to hear the faint noise of a band in the distance.  This noise steadily grew louder as the game began and about 5 minutes the band finally emerged into the stadium with a couple of hundred hardcore fans in pursuit.  They’d play and sing for almost the entirety of the game no matter what was happening on the field.  The home side went into the game as huge favourites so it was somewhat of a shock when Guabira took the lead after 14 minutes.  This must have rocked Wilstermann as for the rest of the first half they struggled to put many passes together.  Their main attacking threat came from their pretty decent looking left-back, but unfortunately for him he was right footed so all his fine build up play was often marred by a terrible cross on his weaker foot. 

At half time we popped out to the concourse to look for a snack, but all we found were meat sandwiches similar to which are sold by street vendors around the city.  They looked tasty, but we didn’t want to risk getting dodgy stomachs so gave it a miss. 

Throughout the first half Wilstermann’s striker, a lanky looking guy wearing number 18 had been well and truly marked out of the game by the much more physical centre back he was up against.  He’d had one good chance but had fluffed his lines at the crucial moment.  10 minutes into the second half he had a chance to redeem himself when the home team was awarded a contentious penalty.  I say it was contentious not because I saw the incident but because the penalty kick was delayed by at least 5 minutes by the away side furiously surrounding the referee in disagreement.  Eventually, the kick was taken but the number 18 fluffed his lines yet again.  Looking dejected, he was substituted shortly after to the sound of a few whistles from the crowd. 

With 20 minutes to go, Wilstermann had a corner and committed too many men forward.  The ball was headed clear and the away side scored on the break to make it 0-2.  That was pretty much the end of any football played as from here on out the game descended into a farce with non-stop time wasting and play acting being the tactic of choice as Guabira cemented their first win of the season.  This didn’t do too much for their coach though, who was sacked a week later after another poor result.  As for the home fans, they were left chanting for their manager to be sacked when the final whistle was blown.

Pete Mel