‘Every moment an explosion of joy’: Colombian fans drive their team’s World Cup quest with unbridled passion | Women’s World Cup 2023

‘Every moment an explosion of joy’: Colombian fans drive their team’s World Cup quest with unbridled passion | Women’s World Cup 2023

When Isabel Gomez walked into the stadium to watch Colombia’s first match in the World Cup, she braced herself to see just a handful of her compatriots dominated by fans of the opposing team, South Korea. But it was the opposite.

There was a sea of yellow jerseys, Colombian flags and traditional Colombian clothing. When a South Korean player got the ball, it felt as though the entire stadium was booing, Gomez recalls, and when Colombia had the ball the stadium erupted in joy.

“I was overcome with emotion,” says Gomez, who has lived in Australia for six months. “Even the crowd in the opening match for the Matildas hasn’t compared to any of the Colombian matches.


“Being there in the stadium watching Colombia made me feel a lot closer to home.”

Few fans at the World Cup have brought as much charisma and unbridled joy as the Colombians, who have chanted, drummed and danced as the team made its way to the quarter-finals for the first time.

In Colombia “football is religion”, says Gomez. But fans say the hype is about much more than a regard for football.

It’s about taking advantage of a platform not often afforded to many of the diaspora communities in Australia: the chance to celebrate their culture in front of millions of Australians, and also to feel closer to home.

Isabel Gomez at one of Colombia’s games
Isabel Gomez, right, says the atmosphere created by Colombian fans has been better even than that for Australia’s games

As Sandra Lucas says in a raspy voice from cheering so hard during Colombia’s 1-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday: “Our team is important because we are thousands of kilometres from home.


“We are a proud people, a resilient people, we take pride in our culture. It’s important for us to come together and show Australians who we are.”

Lucas, who has lived in Australia for 15 years and attended all Colombia’s games, has been one of the driving forces in making sure that chance is not wasted.

As founder of the Colombian Cultural and Folkloric Organisation, Lucas has organised a troupe of Colombian-born people who arrive two hours ahead of each match and perform a choreographed dance to get the party going well before kick off.

The troupe dress Carnival-style: adorning animal-inspired head-dresses, colourful skirts, painted faces and, of course, a Colombia jersey.


“We chose tigers for our headpieces because we feel it represents the girls,” Lucas says. “They are ready to attack, and dominate the game.


“Everyone follows and cheers, some bring instruments … every moment is an explosion of joy. Sometimes I cry because it’s so emotional.”

It’s not just the people from, or with roots in, Colombia who feel it. One Australian who watched Colombia sensationally defeat Germany says she was floored by the energy of the fans.

“It was the best crowd I’ve ever been part of and it wasn’t even my team,” she says. “I didn’t know that many Colombians lived here, but it felt like every one of them had come to watch the match.”

At the 2021 census, there were more than 35,000 Colombian-born people living in Australia. Enosky Agudelo, who moved to Australia 17 years ago and owns Tentaciones Latin Restaurant in Sydney, says many Colombians visiting for the tournament have come to his restaurant to feel even more at home.

The restaurant has come alive even more than usual, he says, as fans play music and dance together.


“Music is in our blood,” says Agudelo. “It’s an expression of when we are happy.”

Gomez says a friend who was running late for the Jamaica match told her the fans were singing the Colombian anthem with such passion he could hear it from the street outside the stadium.

Is this spirit playing a part in the team’s success? Gomez thinks so.

“In football there’s always the 12th player,” she says. “That’s the audience and the fans.

“I think the Colombian fans have really helped to carry the team into the finals.”


But as the Colombian team – dubbed the Powerpuff Girls – ready themselves to take on England in the quarter-final on Saturday, the fans will also have their work cut out for them.

“The England match is going to test the Colombian fans for sure,” says Gomez. “[England] have such a strong soccer fan culture, they’re the only ones that stand a chance of outdoing us.”

‘Take the cup home’: Colombia fans eye Women’s World Cup glory after last-16 win – video

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