A Peñarol Fanatic’s Journey Back to Montevideo

June 15, 2011 — by Suman

Two weeks ago, storied Uruguayan club Peñarol stunned Argentinian Clausura table-toppers Vélez Sársfield to set up a historic matchup against Brazilian side Santos for this year’s Copa Libertadores (1st leg tonight is tonight in Montevideo; 9pm ET on Fox Deportes in the USA).  A couple days later we received this message from a Uruguayan friend–born and raised in Montevideo as a supporters of los Aurinegros, los Peñarolenses:

Can you take 3 days to go to São Paulo?  I am in some state of delirium.

Here is the story, still in progress, of where that delirium has taken him:

Forlan's Wall Photo - June 2, 2011

After that initial message, our friend (let’s call him Forlán, after another lifelong Peñarol supporter and prodigal son of Montevideo who has gone abroad to pursue his craft; the real Forlán, btw, is a newly inducted honorary member of the club ahead of tonight’s game*) was looking for someone to accompany him on a trip to São Paulo for the 2nd leg (which is next week–Wednesday June 22). But then Monday we received this via email:

date: Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 4:23 PM
subject: drama begins

I’m at the Philadelphia airport.
The tickets went on sale this morning at 9 and they were gone in 15 minutes.
(Some 24 thousand had been sold before to club members. The stadium fits
around 65 thousand.)
As of now, I’m without a ticket. But there’s always hope.
On top of everything, all flights yesterday and today in and out of Montevideo
have been cancelled because of the volcano in Chile. Looking at the
wind forecast
for tomorrow, I’m wanting to believe my flight tonight won’t get cancelled.
The game itself might get postponed if Santos cannot fly in.

Presumably he’d travelled to Philly from Ithaca (where he summers, playing the beautiful game and doing his mathematics) by either plane or automobile.

We next heard from him later that evening, via IM:

date: Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 10:35 PM
10:35 PM Forlán: i’m in miami. they canceled the flight to mvd, but luckily i knew just before leaving phl. So now i’m flying to Sao Paolo and sometime tomorrow from there to Mvd.

10:36 PM My brothers were able to get 2 tickets. Need one more for my niece, will try to get it a travel agency in sao paulo (from the tickets for Santos)

And then back on email the next day (yesterday):

date: Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 2:35 PM
subject: Re: drama begins

Stuck in Sao Paulo. Will fly to Porto Alegre and catch a bus from
there (12 hours).

He left us in suspense overnight–would he make the flight to Porto Alegre and catch the bus? 12 hours on a bus?? Would that even get him home in time for the game??

But then this email arrived just a few minutes ago:

date Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 10:29 AM
subject Re: drama begins

At home in Montevideo, ready for the game in 12 hours.
A bit rainy and cold. The city awaits the big moment.
Vamos Peñarol!

So the initial leg of the drama is successfully completed–prodigal son of Peñarol completes the odyssey home in time for the next leg..the 1st leg.  Stay tuned..

*: From that article about (the real) Forlan and tonight’s match–read to the quote at the end:


Matches Today: Intra-Portuguese Europa League final, Copa Libertadores quarters

May 18, 2011 — by Suman1

We lamented a bit last week over the close of the (European) club season, with most of the big leagues decided (and after the weekend, France (Lille) and the Netherlands (Ajax) also crowning champions). So what else is a CultFootball fan to look to, aside from the upcoming Champions League final (10 days away!)?  Well, just today there are three tasty matches to watch.

First, there’s the Europa League final taking place in Dublin between two Liga Sagres sides–the nearly Invincible Porto against Sporting Braga.  And later in the day, two Copa Libertadores quarterfinal 2nd leg matches– Brazilians Santos hosts Colombian Once Caldas (Santos having won the 1st leg 1-0 on the road), and Paraguayan side Libertad hosts Argentine Vélez Sársfield in Asunción (Vélez Sársfield won the 1st leg 3-0 in Buenos Aires).

(US TV coverage is as follows: the Europa League final is at 2:15pm ET live on DirectTV and rebroadcast on GolTV in the evening. The Copa Libertadores matches will be on Fox Deportes.)

Regarding the Europa League final, here is the Guardian’s Sachin Nakrani intra-Portuguese

The first European final to be played between two teams situated less than 50km apart is noticeable for the sporting chasm that exists between them. Porto, two-times winners of the European Cup and 25-times winners of their domestic championship, face a club whose proudest moment in their 90-year history came last season, when they finished second in the Primeira Liga.

That changes in Dublin on Wednesday evening, however, as Braga look to defy the odds again and win their first European trophy (second if anyone is counting the 2008 Intertoto Cup). Few give them a chance against André Villas Boas’s rampant champions, but within a squad whose home ground is built in a quarry there is a belief that they can unearth a golden moment for themselves.

Not sure where Porto and Braga are located? Neither were we:

View Larger Map

Porto in particular is worth watching.  They’ve had a remarkable season: they won the Liga Sagres going away, going undefeated in the process (27 wins, 3 draws, 0 losses).  They were also undefeated in their Europa League group, and marched through the knockout phase, beating a couple Spanish and a couple Moscow clubs along the way: Sevilla, CSKA Moscow, Spartak Moscow, Villareal.  (Braga dropped down from the Champions League after finishing third in their group behind Shakhtar Donetsk and Arsenal, although they did defeat Arsenal 2-1 at home in November. In the Europa knockout phase, they beat Polish Lech Poznan, before upsetting Liverpool, then Dynamo Kyiv and finally another Portuguese power, Benfica, in the semis.)

Another squad of Invincibles?

For today’s match, keep your eye on the handful of rising stars on their squad, quite a few of whom are South American: the Brazilians Fernando and Hulk (yes, the Hulk); Colombians Falcao and James Rodríguez; Argentine midfielders Fernando Belluschi and Nicolás Otamendi; Uruguayan defenders Fucile and Álvaro Pereira. They also have a few Portuguese internationals (midfielder João Moutinho, winger Silvestre Varela, the Cape Verdean-born defender Rolando).

"I'm a Special One!" "I'm Special Too!"

And of course there’s 33-year old first-year manager Andre Villas Boas–who everyone is hyping up as another Special One.

Here is the Guardian’s Dominic Fifield posting yesterday on Villas Boas:

His coaching career is not yet two years old but already his reputation precedes him. The domestic Primeira Liga title is his. This club’s first European trophy since 2004 and the Portuguese Cup could both have been hoisted by Sunday. These days he spends his time attempting to shrug off constant comparisons with Mourinho, the mentor under whom he cut his teeth but with whom he no longer speaks, and the links with Chelsea, Juventus and Roma which refuse to go away.

And here is Michael Cox (aka Mr ZonalMarking) contributing a column on Villas Boas to

The similarities are clear — like Mourinho, Villas Boas is young, Portuguese, had no professional playing career to speak of, and is making his name at Porto. He is effectively Mourinho’s protégé, having worked under him at Porto, Chelsea and Inter.

Of course, Cox blesses us with detailed tactical notes on Villas Boas’s squad: