What defines a fan ?: The unconditional love for the team's colors, a love that few would understand, a love that makes you want to travel without money, for long hours, crossing countries and reaching the "end of the world", from Colombia to Argentina. Everything to see a game, 90 minutes of football in which your beloved team, Deportivo Independiente Medellín (DIM) loses 3-0 against the local Boca Juniors, and for which, More than two months later, you still cannot return to your hometown because of a pandemic virus that closed the borders of the entire continent.
"You make those sacrifices to get to another court and see the team leave, that is very exciting," says Christian Ramírez, member of the Rexistenxia Norte bar, One of the 19 lucky fans of the DIM who managed to return to Colombia on May 4, after a real journey in which he had to pass two quarantines, sleep outside, suffer police abuse and moments of great uncertainty.
Christian is 30 years old and began to fully enter the bar at 17, he is part of the Supremacy of Bello, one of the patches that make up Rexistenxia, which has about 5,000 members and is the largest bar that follows to the DIM.
Remember that before entering fully, at the age of 15, he saw his first game on the rostrum where Rexistenxia meets, a 5-0 win that DIM gave Bucaramanga and in which each goal was celebrated with an avalanche . From there he was beaten, but in love with the energy and passion with which the matches were lived.
That passion was what brought him out Last March 1, Medellín, in nine days the DIM played against Boca Juniors, it was the group stage of the Copa Libertadores and Christian, who had already known the Monumental de River three years before when his team faced River Plate, wanted to fulfill the dream of entering the legendary Bombonera.
The tour was made by land, traveling by bus through Ecuador and Bolivia to finally reach Argentina, crossing the border through Bermejo to Salta and from there to Buenos Aires. During the journey, other members of the Bello Supremacy joined the group until they were about 13 fans.
They arrived in Buenos Aires the same day of the game, on March 10. That night, tired and sad after the defeat, they went to their hotel. They still carried on their skin the emotion that they brought from the court, from the atmosphere of the Bombonera, from the chants of the Boca fans and their burst throats, encouraging all lungs to feel that they were there, that they were part of the vibration that at times took over the entire stadium.
“It was a dream come true, one dreams of seeing games in those stadiums. Medellín has not played against Boca for 17 years ”he says excitedly.
The plan was to spend a few more days in Buenos Aires and start the return the following week, but from there everything would become more complicated and the drama for returning home would begin. On Monday March 15 they made the first attempt, but only managed to get to La Quiaca, Jujuy province, which is a border crossing with Bolivia.
“Just the day we arrived they tell us that the day before they had closed borders and no passage was allowed. In La Quiaca they did not have any open hotel because quarantine was already in place and no one could be accommodated. We are stranded on the street. ”
That forced them to camp at the bus terminal, where they sought refuge from the rain that fell in the border town. There, while trying to figure out what to do to return to Colombia, the police arrived announcing that they would transfer them to a health center to test them for the Covid-19.
"They separated the group, some took tests, and others took us to the border. They tried to make us pass illegally through a part of the river towards Bolivia. We tried, but on the other side the Bolivian guard intercepted us and forced us to return. When we returned we had to hide from the Argentine guard as well. The other comrades were released and they also tried to force them to cross into Bolivia illegally. " bill.
After a while they managed to meet up with the rest of their companions and return to the town, where they were left adrift, with no roof to sleep and with less and less money, they wandered around the plaza looking for where to stay and decided to camp in the park. From time to time they met with the police and although they showed their entry passports and the 90-day stay permits that they had been given when they entered Argentina, they were treated as illegals and suffered mistreatment.
A journalist named Fernando was the first to take an interest in them and thanks to the note he made and the help he managed, they were transferred to a school that served as a shelter. There they would spend their first quarantine of 15 days.
“With authority there was always a lot of abuse of power. They searched us two and three times, they kicked our bags, we couldn't go out, we looked like prisoners. There the quarantine began after noon, people did not go out. Only one for the whole group went out to buy the food items", He says.
The first five days were long, hard, and full of abuse, although they were lucky that they had a kitchen to prepare food and thus make money for food. Tired of the abuse, they recorded a video that denounced human rights, "in a matter of two days everything changed and it was easier."
Once the quarantine had been completed, they set out on their way back to Buenos Aires, with the support of the Colombian Foreign Ministry and the city government. On that journey, they also suffered abuse.
"We put only Colombians in a micro. They made a very humiliating search of us. They beat us, made us undress completely. Those who argued were hit on the elbow or shoulders. When the micro arrives in Buenos Aires it turns out that he did not have permission to enter the city. We had been traveling for 20 hours and they keep us there for 8 more hours ”.
In Buenos Aires everything changed, the mistreatment ended, they took them to a hotel where they spent a second isolated quarantine, only two per room. There they had the three meals and the problems with the police did not return. Later, the Colombian consulate took care of them, took them to another hotel, and repatriation began, which occurred in the first days of May.. The directors of the club helped with the money for the tickets, since it was time to pay tickets, and finally they were able to return to Medellín.
"We were a travel group that was stranded on the street, so I think they helped us come back first."Concludes Christian, who already in the quiet of his home says without hesitation "For the DIM I would do it all over again, that is a very great love."
Those who stayed in Argentina
Andrés Agudelo is 24 years old and since he remembers supporting Deportivo Independiente Medellín, he is part of the "patch" Demencia Miramar, also from the Rexistexia Norte bar.
They call Andrés “Lito” and like Christian, he left Medellín a week before the game against Boca, but he has not yet been able to return and every day he searches for subsistence in Tigre, province of Buenos Aires.
There he is with three other friends, who are part of the 19 barristas who are still in Argentina trying to survive day by day because the money they brought for the trip has long since run out.
“This is not an impediment to follow the team as many times as it is and even more so if it is on the outside. If we get to give the opportunity to play the Copa Libertadores again, we would be on the routes again ”, he says convinced.
He and his friends, in the midst of great difficulties, have had some luck. For the trips following the team that have taken them to countries like Bolivia, Ecuador or Peru they have been gathering friendships, other barristas who also understand the love for the shirt, the one that makes them venture many times without money to chase the team just to see it play and encourage him those 90 minutes stronger and with more encouragement than in any other game.
Three years ago, for example, Andrés was in Buenos Aires, at that time DIM faced River Plate, and from that trip to Argentina he had good friendships that became his support to get around his complex current situation.
He tried to return to Colombia in the week of March 20, but each attempt was unsuccessful, they could not get tickets and the news that came from the border was that his fellow bar members could not cross into Bolivia and, without being clear on where to sleep, the they were having a very bad time.
"Since I had come here three years ago I made a good friendship and spoke before arriving and asked to be accommodated for a few days, they agreed and gave me an inn for the friendship we had. It was a roof and it was a bed to sleep in because you didn't have enough support to pay for a hotel. Since then I have been in Tigre. We resigned ourselves to not being able to travel and we began to look for the way to survive the time here "Andrés comments.
The little money is their main drawback, in the house where they live are four DIM fans plus the family that lodges them and getting food is the main concern, it is a long time and they did not plan to bother for months.
Still they rummage around and share the supplies they manage to buy. They say that the currency exchange does not favor them either because the Colombian pesos in Argentina do not last very long, so their families have also stopped sending them money.
But they have also had good times, because “the people of the neighborhood collaborate with everyone and make popular pots every week. They help us get a plate of food, they are all very friendly and always want to collaborate. ”
Andrés and his friends have entered this community dynamic and when the popular pots arrive many times they are the ones who cook. They also dig through recycling, working in construction activities or providing any services to neighbors in exchange for some remuneration with which they can buy food.
They say that they have had contact with the Chancellery and that they have been told of a possibility of returning, but the tickets must be paid for by them.
“When you are adrift you don't know anything, any help you receive is highly valued. Clearly we want to return as soon as possible, "he reiterates concerned.
In Bolivia, stranded halfway.
Perhaps the most complex situation is faced by those who were stranded halfway back to Colombia. Such is the case of Valentina Patiño, Yoa Saldarriaga and Stiven Tamayo, three of the seven Colombians who were stranded in Bolivia when their return trip to Medellín was cut short by the closing of borders in almost all the countries of South America.
The three of them are part of the “Banda Caminante” patch, from the Rexistexia Norte bar, and They have been out of Colombia for almost three months since they left in mid-February for Bolivia to watch the DIM match against Atlético Tucumán, which was played on February 25.
"We arrived four hours before the start of the game, after passing through Ecuador and Peru and being stranded for three days in Lima because we had no money to go on," says Stiven Tamayo, who is nicknamed Mogollo at the bar.
That match was won by the DIM 4-2 on penalties and they qualified for the group stage of the Copa Libertadores, whose first match would be against Boca Juniors on March 10 in Buenos Aires.
After spending a few days in Bolivia the group followed Rosario and there they waited for the date of the meeting against the powerful Argentine squad.
"It was a dream that I fulfilled, that I made a reality, I have already entered the Monumental and the Bombonera to see Independiente Medellín play, which is the greatest for me"Stiven says.
However, when they started to return to Colombia another was the story.
The first border was passed without problems. Of course, as they went by land to get to La Paz, they had to cross Lake Titicaca by boat, to continue by bus to the capital.
In La Paz they were totally quarantined and the hardships began. Up to that point, every time they ran out of money they had managed to earn a few pesos selling sweets on the streets, saving to get tickets and food, but with the restrictions due to the coronavirus, selling was increasingly difficult.
They decided to continue to Cochabamba and there they stayed for 8 days staying in a hotel until the money ran out. Without money, without being able to sell, and with nowhere to stay, they were literally about to be left on the street, at the mercy of the cold and the pandemic virus.
"When we saw that we were going to be completely on the street, a friend from a local bar received us at his house, but the situation is hard because we are 20 people at the house and we have been here for more than two months," says Valentina.
The young woman points out that they have managed to contact the Colombian Foreign Ministry, but beyond the exchange of some emails, few responses have been obtained. The last thing they knew was that in order to return they had to pay around $ 1,300 each, in addition to the quarantine in Bogotá, which is completely impossible for their media.
According to the Chancellery, in total there are about 7,600 Colombians who are stranded abroad, for them to return the Government is coordinating humanitarian flights with the governments of the countries where they are located, however, it is a long and complex process.
According to Emergency Decree 439, among the exceptions to enter the country are these humanitarian flights, To request them, Colombians stranded abroad must contact the respective consulates of the country where they are, but as they are commercial flights, their cost is borne by the citizen.
Thus, the outlook is not encouraging, especially for the group that is in Bolivia. They ask for support to return, but above all to endure in Bolivia if it is time to wait until the quarantine ends.
Stamina, that is another of the qualities that define the good fan, the one that like Yoa travels halfway across the continent following the DIM where he plays, who excitedly affirms that for him "traveling is everything, because if Medellín plays in the sky, I die and encourage it there. "
Yoa says that they have lived through the last three months, enduring hardships from country to country, but for them that is nothing, because that is how they spent years encouraging DIM without winning championships until the victories came.
For all these fans, being stranded by a shirt will be just another feat that will count as proof of love for the team, as well as remember the joys that it has made them live from the field. So everyone, without thinking, would subscribe to Yoa's words: “Where the Red plays again, where it touches us, we will always be. Repent ever, never in life. This will make us stronger. ”
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