A celebration of South American soccer in Boca Raton that drew fans from all over the Americas will wrap up this Saturday with two rivalry games.
The closing matches of the six-game, six-team “Copa Gigantes” slate of soccer matches held at the Florida Atlantic University stadium will pit two Uruguayan rival clubs against each other, followed by a face-off between two Colombian clubs.
Saturday's games were top of mind for the few fans who showed up to cheer on their teams during a Fourth of July match.
There were a lot of empty seats in the stadium for the face-off between Millionarios FC of Colombia and CA Peñarol of Uruguay. Both teams will play again Saturday – Millionarios against Colombian club América de Cali, and Peñarol against bitter Uruguayan rivals Club Nacional de Futbol.
Many of those who did make it Thursday were die-hard fans, banging drums and singing as their tattoos of the soccer clubs’ insignias baked in the sun.
Brian Gonzalez, 28, calls himself “part of the logistic” of Millionarios fans. He and a small group of fans from all over the Americas arrived more than two hours before kickoff to hang banners cheering on their team and repping their regional fan groups.
Gonzalez set himself up behind a banner that spelled out “WASHINGTON DC” in blue Gothic letters. He lives in Washington, but travels with the team to as many matches as he can.
“We have people coming from Bogotá, we have people coming from Cali, Medellín,” he said. “We are always with the team in any state, in any country, it doesn’t matter where the team plays.”
His support for Millionarios runs in his blood – his grandfather and father are both fans, and raised him to be one as well.
Across the stadium, fans of CA Peñarol – Uruguay’s top-ranked club – were hanging banners of their own.
Sebastian Bolle, 24, also came into soccer fandom through his family – his dad, particularly.
“In my family, there’s a couple fans of [Uruguayan club] Nacional that wanted to make me a Nacional fan,” he said, “but my dad did better.”
He and his family drove 16 hours from Virginia to watch Peñarol play. They arrived last Sunday to see the team’s first match, against a different Colombian team. They'll stay through Sunday, so they can catch the big Nacional-Peñarol match.
“I like all the matches, but Saturday’s where the rivalry is,” he said. “It’s gonna be a good match.”
The two top Uruguayan teams have an intense rivalry, even beyond Bolle’s family.
Turnout should be higher on Saturday, too. Juan Maspoli, who sells official merchandise for Peñarol, says his team is expecting some 12,000 fans, in a stadium that seats 30,000.
“On Saturday, we expect to explode on sales,” he said.
He added that it’s the first time the merchandise sellers traveled with the team, because fan demand was so high for club clothing, coffee mugs and other team swag.
After the two Uruguayan teams settle their score, Millionarios will take their field for their match against América de Cali.
Both teams are very popular in Colombia, though Millionarios’ rivalry with fellow Bogotá team Independiente Santa Fe, who didn’t play in the Boca Raton friendlys, is more intense.
Millionarios fans are hoping for a better outcome than Thursday’s match, which saw Millionarios FC fall to Penarol, 3-1.
A dispatch from my #FourthofJuly2019 — covering a match between Millionarios FC and CA Peñarol. This is the Peñarol side after they won. Tune in to @WLRN tomorrow for my story! pic.twitter.com/vjohSh6Izi
— Madeline Fox (@maddycfox) July 5, 2019