Colombian sports are a way of life and a connection to Colombian culture. But, do you really know what the most popular Colombian sports are? Everyone knows about football, but there are so many more that play an important part of life in Colombia.
Colombian sports have counteract the negative image of the country internationally – one that doesn’t involve politics, violence or drugs. Sport has been a distraction, provided pause to the national conscience, and provided a collective goal to rally behind.
Regardless of how you view it, one thing is for sure: Sport continues to have a profound influence on Colombia. Learn more about the top most important Colombian sports! (and if you want to take any of these activities join our community at Colombia Immersion!
Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Colombia. The national team has its most successful era during the 1990’s when they qualified for 3 world cups. They topped this off with their victory in the 2001 Copa America, their only success in the competition. Despite the relative lack of success internationally, participation levels are above 3 million players. It is the one sport where the collective gather around a tv set. You will find football everywhere you go – from the kids who kick a ball around in the meshed wire Cancha to the liquor stores that broad the local club’s game to pedestrians. Colombians consider the current crop of players as a Golden generation, and they remain positive about the national teams potential. We have a wonderful football stadium nearby our Spanish school at our Envigado Colombia Immersion.
For many, club football is more important than the national team. The ‘Categoría Primera A’, or Liga Águila – as it is colloquially known due to its sponsorship by beer brand Aguila – is considered one of the best in South America. It is lesser only to those of Argentina and Brazil. Atletico Nacional of Medellin have won the Copa Libertadores twice and are the most successful domestic team. Other notable teams include Millionaires and America de Cali. For tourists visiting Colombia, attending a football game is a must. For approximately 20’000 pesos, you can experience this old favorite of pastimes, and the electricity inside the stadium that the fans create.
Bogotá started a worldwide phenomenon in the 1970’s when the municipal government decided to close down 120km of the city’s streets to cars for cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians. These ciclovias operate on Sunday mornings and national holidays. They are present in major Colombian cities including Cali, Medellin and Bogota between 7am and 2pm. Ciclovias are the perfect way to explore the city without the danger and pollution of automobiles.
Successful Colombian cyclists include Victor Hugo Pena, who used to ride with Lance Armstrong’s team, and Nario Quintana who recently finished second in the Tour de France and lifted the 2014 Giro d’Italia. Heavy investment in the road network and a perfect cycling terrain is what makes Colombians such great competitors in cycling. Some of the steepest, longest climbs in the world are home to Colombia with thousands of meters higher than the greater ascents on the European circuit. One called La Letra is 82km long and measures 3300m in altitude. Cycling is for tourists who are in the higher Andean parts of the country and is a great way to get out in nature.Medellin has qualified as most biking friendly city in Colombia. You want to combine Spanish class with a cycling tour through the beautiful landscape of Antioquia? Get inspired by the most spectacular places to cycle in Medellin.
Tejo is the national sport of Colombia, as designated by Congress in 2000. The game isn’t unlike ‘horseshoes’, in that it involves throwing a metal object – in this case the puck-like Tejo – about 20m at a target. But, there’s a catch. The target consists of Mechas or folded triangles containing gun powder, that explode upon impact. The participants greet each bang with a loud cheer.
Tejo is played in teams up to 6 people and historians believe it dates back at least 500 years to the indigenous people of Cundinamarca and Boyacá. Today, it’s the second most popular Colombian sport in the country, and it cannot be separated from the beer-drinking culture that coincides with it. You will easily find a Tejo court in Colombia. Your hostel or hotel should be able to point you in the right direction. Grab some friends, a few beers and get playing.
You need more information about the most explosive sports event? The only foreign international competitor of Tejo, Chris Cajoleas, and our coworker in Tejo, summarised the magic about Tejo here: TejoinMedellin.com
Rana translates literally to ‘Frog’. Opposing teams of two usually play the game. In Rana, each team is given 6 brass rings or gargollas as they’re called in Spain. The objective is to land these rings inside the mouth of one of the metal frogs that sit atop the Rana box. While few beginners have this accuracy, you can also score points by landing the rings inside one of the holes beside the frogs. Many Colombians have a Rana box inside their homes, and many bars have them too. Similar to Tejo, it is a fun way to spend the evening with a beer and some friends.
Chaza or ‘National Ball’ is a primitive form of modern-day tennis, and dates back to the Incas. As well as being the national sport of Ecuador, it is popular in the Nariño department in South-West Colombia. The teams are made up of 4 players that rotate after points, similar to volleyball. Chaza can be played with racquets, but the Colombians often whack the goatskin-lined ball with their hands. If you happen to be in Narino, you will likely see it being played on the streets, with bigger matches being watched by large crowds from the street window.
Bullfighting is one of the most controversial ‘sports’ in the world. In the ongoing debate the conflicting parties argue between the mistreatment of animals and the cultural heritage of the sport in Colombia. The sport became popular in the 1800’s and reached its peak in the middle of the 20th century. Thus, many Colombians see the sport as a longstanding tradition. The public opinion is so divided that when the Mayor of Bogota tried to outlaw the sport in 2012, the constitutional court overruled his decision, arguing it inhibited “cultural forms of expression”. Since riots in 2018 the national court discusses and implements a law to ban bullfighting.
If you want to read more about the recent events, click here to follow the link to the Guardian.
Today there remains over 60 bullfighting rings in the country. Tourinos pay homage to the current crop of matadors. They hope to catch a glimpse of the next Cesar Rincón, a rolo once an icon in Spain. Some of the grandest stadiums in the country include the Plaza de Toros La Santamaria in Bogota and the Plaza de Toros La Macarena. Both hold in the region of 15’000 seats. The bullfighting season is between January and February.
Bonus Sport: Roller Skating
You can’t talk about sport in Colombia without mentioning roller skating. After inline skates arrived in the country in the 1990’s the sport took off. Colombia has held the overall title at The World Roller Speed Skating Championships for 9 of the past 12 years. At the World Championship’s this year the team took home 20 gold medals. To put this in perspective, France and Italy placed second and third, with 6 and 5 gold medals respectively. This is undoubtedly the sport that Colombia has succeeded in most internationally.
When in Medellin, stop by Estadio Atanasio Girardot to find Colombians playing traditional and modern sports. You’re sure to find one of your liking!
Want to learn more? keep reading!
…about Colombian Culture
… about Learning Spanish
- Two Projects to Jump Start your Spanish
- Oops! False Cognates to Avoid
- Ser and Estar: What’s the difference?
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