Still Here- Clark Family in Uruguay travel blog

Graham with the Penarol fans

The Nacional fans grow desperate

Penarol fans exit blocked to allow for Nacional fans to leave peacefully

SAAC finals- Graham shooting free throws

Graham playing in the basketball finals

Victory for UAS!

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Penarol soccer fever

Uruguayans can be characterized by many things; whether they like maté, if they go to Punta in the summer, if they belong to the Frente Amplio or the Colorado party. There is one question, however, which defines Uruguayans above all else and that is; are you for Peñarol or Nacional? These soccer clubs ignite a passion, the likes of which we didn’t understand until we went to a soccer game between these two teams last week.

Tradition holds that Peñarol is the team of the ‘people’, supported by the masses while Nacional, in contrast, is supported by the middle class. Their rivalry, the Uruguayan Derby dates back to the year 1900, which makes it the oldest football rivalry in the world outside Great Britain. Over the years the two teams have clashed 511 times and Peñarol holds a slight lead in games won. Quite simply, these two teams split the country in two.

Never have we witnessed such fervor, such passion, such over the top gonzo spirit, as we did upon first entering Centenario stadium for the game. Graham had chosen to sit with the people’s team- Peñarol, who easily won the game 3-0. Throughout the game, the fans kept up a near continuous chorus of raunchy songs- sung with thousands of voices in unison- educating us on the many ways the word ‘whore’ could be combined with female body parts.

When the game finished, still exhilarated from the win, we were forced to cool our heels for almost a half hour on the exit stairs, blocked by the Guardia Republica, while elsewhere, the Nacional fans were allowed to exit the stadium, thereby avoiding potential conflict, which has characterized these matches. Upon returning to our car, someone, perhaps a Nacional fan, knowing where our loyalties lay, had broken into our car to steal the stereo, an unfortunate damper to the evening.

From April 11-13, I was in charge of organizing the South American Athletic Conference basketball tournament at UAS, which hosted 100 students from 5 sister schools in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. Though the Uruguayan American School is the smallest by far (300 students from grades nursery to 12th) versus anywhere from 750 to over 2000 for the visiting schools, our boys team, including Graham and Peter, triumphed in the finals, winning their 5th championship in 6 years. Our little UAS gym was bursting at the seams during the final Saturday game with screaming fans of every age and nationality as they watched a classic match of David (UAS) versus Goliath (Nido de Aguilas, Chile). As team captain, Graham helped lead the team to a brilliant finish, coming from behind at the half to win by 5 points. Though Peter had little playing time during the tournament, he, along with the entire school, luxuriated in our win for days afterward. Never has such an event united the school in so many ways.

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