Cartagena: Future stars in The Old City
By Chris Macchi
The Old City of Cartagena, Colombia is a fortress on the beach. After a history of naval invasions and plundering pirates, Spanish settlers built towering walls and bastions to keep the gold in and the guerrillas out.
These days, though, the walls proudly fly Colombian colors and teem with tourists bustling to catch the warm sun set over the Caribbean Sea. It’s from these walls that some of the best views of the city can be found, as well as its football.
It's a far cry from the world stage, where the crowds watched their playmakers and that Puskas Award-winning volley. But here beside the monumental walls and vacant cannon outposts you’ll find dusty football fields and Colombia’s future stars lining up for the beautiful game.
No field lights, no proper goal nets, nor seating. These fields are more sand trap than manicured pitch, yet they efficiently represent fútbol in Colombia. The absence of discernible touchlines is almost to say that their game exists to not be boxed in. It’s as if the magical play of Carlos Valderrama highlighted the Colombian standard for trying new things and thinking outside of the box.
It’s the same standard that James Rodriquez took full advantage of in Brazil, banging in six goals including that unthinkable volley against Uruguay. It’s also the same standard that Marcos Coll upheld over 50 years prior at the 1962 World Cup in Chile. Coll scored the only olímpico goal in World Cup history, against the Soviet Union and heralded goalkeeper Lev Yashin nonetheless.
The kids here play with unmistakable imagination; hoping to mimic the magic of their heroes in the shadows of these old walls. They’re hoping that one day, they are entrusted with upholding the Colombian standard of creativity on the world stage, an archetype as iconic as their yellow shirts.
So then, where is football? Where is Colombian football?
It’s all over the country, but specifically it’s right next to the towering walls of Cartagena's past.