The inaugaral Colombian National Championships wrapped up in Medellín yesterday.
This is the first time Colombia has had an official National Championships, and the tournament followed on from the series of Regional Championships held during the previous weekends.
The playing venues were across three locations: a university, a public recreation centre and the big sports stadiums of the city. Half were grass, half were astroturf (sintética).
Word of mouth culture is strong here. I briefly glimpsed a draw once, but otherwise it was a case of ask someone what the games were (much like driving around the city - you don't use a map, you just stop and ask for directions from strangers every few blocks).
Day 1 saw my team, Comunidad de Oso, win its two easier pool games. One comfortably and in the other we fell across the line to win. Playing time was shared reasonably equally across the team, so I got a lot of chances to get my frisbee legs in gear.
Every team seems to have 2-4 excellent throwers who can get open, and put up decent hucks or big hammers, plus lefty backhands. Its the quality of the upfield cutters and the consistency of execution that often determines the game.
Day 2 started well. We defeated another Bogotá team, Matanga. Their poaching was quite effective, especially that of one of their key defenders who got two blocks and was inches from two more. Personally I connected on a number of good breaks and hucks, so it was rewarding to make a big contribution to a team I was so new to.
Then came the quarterfinal. Oso were matched up against key Bogotá rivals, Euphoria, who we had beaten by a point in the Regionals final. In front of a vocal crowd in the stadium, Euphoria grab a lead early. Then trouble starts. One captain calls back-to-back travel calls on hucks from the other captain. The game is held up while one captain demands observers.
Almost ten minutes later the game restarts with the TD pulled in as an observer (he has never been one in his life - no Colombian has). But the calls and argue rain down with the actual rain that arrived. Fouls, yelling, travel, and no respect for the opinions or decisions of opponents. The issues derived from a few key players on each team, but no-one made any effort to cool down any of the hotheads.
Oso claw back to 12 all. However my interest in winning this game has dwindled. What incentive is there to win an arguing competition? I wanted to compete at ultimate. My thoughts circled around the question of what small contribution I, an Australian in Colombia, could make to address this abysmally spirited match. I resolved to talk with the teams post-game and see if they needed to talk to each other.
Euphoria win the last point, and celebrate with gusto, as Oso despondently leave the field. I asked a few Euphoria players post-game if they were happy to talk with Oso and they said yes. But Oso were scattered to the winds of dismay and the key players I found were in no mood to converse, as I judged it.
So I put my feet up, watched some ultimate, and pondered what I had just experienced. The game I watched was another quarterfinal: Matanga vs Aire. Unfortunately this was another poorly spirited game. The last two points took 20 minutes in total, and Aire won the game by a point, mostly because Matanga lost the competition of "who can call the disc back the most times with a dodgy call".
To top things off, there was no party at this tournament, unlike the vast majority of tournaments in Australia.
Day 3 was at least a new day.
Oso played off for 6th vs Mamuts, but we lost in a lacklustre effort.
The finals were in Estadio Atanasio Girardot (pictured), where Colombia had played Chile in the FIFA World Cup qualifying match the night before. It was a great venue but a crowd of 200 ultimate players in a stadium of 53 000 seats rattles around like a handful of marbles in a bathtub.
Revolution defeated Waijra in the women's final, while Euphoria toppled Kie, the top team in Medellin to take the men's title. Both games had decent spirit.
So the theme uppermost in my mind here in Colombia is Spirit of the Game. My next post or two will offer some more optimistic thoughts on spirit, and reveal some amazing work being done here in Colombian ultimate.