#VamosAlEstadio: fans bringing about positive change

Image of the #VamosAlEstadio campaign during the game between Universidad Católica and Universidad de Chile
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  • #VamosAlEstadio bring kids to stadiums in Chile
  • Fans of both teams supporting their teams together
  • Children occupying spaces previously left empty to separate rival fans

The phenomenon of empty buffer zones – or security ‘cushions’ as they’re known in South America – to separate rival supporters in the same stand was the catalyst for #VamosAlEstadio (Let’sGoToTheGame), a campaign aimed at generating a positive transformation at Chilean football grounds.

Vamos al Estadio is basically an initiative we launched in 2018 with the strong conviction that it could create new fans,” explained Sebastian Moreno, president of Chile’s National Association of Professional Football (ANFP).

“To do that, we’re looking to transform those grey and empty spaces that are synonymous with potential problems and crowd control into peaceful and positive spaces shared by young boys and girls. We’ve done it for classic games, like derbies or ones with the potential for trouble, to amplify the message that football must unite us."

The first trial was in May 2018 for the provincial clásico between San Luis Quillota and Union La Calera. Under the slogan #SomosHinchas (We’reFans), 100 young supporters from each club came together for recreational and educational activities monitored by coordinators, before watching the game together from the buffer zone.

“We want these young kids to feel that the stadium belongs to them,” said Moreno. "If we can imbue these children with football values such as respect, camaraderie and teamwork, then there will be no room for hostility. That change of mentality is achieved through them, the responsible fans of the future.”

The key protagonists

The campaign was in fact a joint project of the Federation and the Ministry of Interior and Public Safety’s ‘Safe-Stadiums' Department, and has the support of the clubs.

For Paulina Aguero, the ANFP’s Commercial and Marketing Manager, “the clubs are the real drivers of this activity”.

“Working with them has allowed us to carry out each initiative, leaving us to the role of producers. In that way, they joined with us in our goal of leaving a legacy in terms of the creation of fans. The institutions play a key role,” she outlined.

Activities were staged on six occasions in 2018, involving almost 3,000 children from all over the country. These were:

  • San Luis de Quillota vs Union La Calera (Clásico Provincial, May)
  • Union Espanola vs Audax Italiano (Clásico de las Colonias, July)
  • Coquimbo Unido vs Deportes La Serena (Clásico del Norte Chico, August)
  • Universidad de Chile vs Deportes Temuco (August)
  • Universidad de Chile vs Universidad Catolica (Clásico universitario, October)
  • Colo Colo vs Universidad de Concepción (December)

The initiative was not without its detractors, however. “The main obstacle encountered was the scepticism of people who believed we couldn’t sit together with kids from different clubs,” said Aguero.

“At one game, there were even those who insulted us and called us irresponsible, claiming that what we were doing could generate incidents. We showed them they were wrong. The kids celebrated the goals without any hint of aggression.”

Hence the importance of bringing whole families into the project, as Moreno explained. “It’s key for these good experiences to be the subject of daily conversation in their homes. The activity is intended to have as many points of contact as possible. It has to do with the essence of football, which is a sport open to everyone.”

The effects are therefore multiplied. “On one hand, those who are close to the children also respond positively. The [atmosphere] within what the buffer zone spreads to the other stands. And on the other hand, it’s bringing families back to football grounds, with public attendance in 2018 the highest it’s been for 20 years,” he adds.

Next steps

The first activity of 2019 was to paint a mural on the premises of the national team headquarters, with the content coming from ideas suggested by the children at the various events. The second activity took place on the opening matchday of Chile’s First Division at the game between Coquimbo Unido and Universidad Catolica.

“This campaign has no end date – education is a continuous process,” said Aguero. “Even so, we believe that monitoring will be less and less necessary: in so far as fans take on these values as their own, they themselves will want to protect positive spaces in stadiums, shutting out bad behaviour.”

“Our job is to collaborate so that these spaces are created naturally. We have to keep progressing in terms of delivering these concepts. That’s the overriding goal for 2019."

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