Football can be divisive. Some rivalries have turned violent, with deadly consequences. But in Bogota, where two teams split the city’s allegiance, two fans are proving friendship can win out.
CGTN’s Michelle Begue has their story.
Jose Richard and Cesar Daza should be arch rivals, passionately supporting Bogota’s two opposing football teams. Cesar is a fan of Santa Fe, and Jose a lifelong supporter of Millonarios.
“Unfortunately in Colombian stadiums and around the world, we see aggressive behaviors, violence, and even deaths because of the color of a jersey,” Cesar said.
But the same passion that drives others apart is what united these two friends: the love of football.
Watching a game is difficult for Jose. He was born with a progressive genetic disorder that’s now left him blind and deaf.
Cesar first met Jose as a volunteer guide, to help him enjoy games. But the bond they’ve formed runs deep. Cesar describes what is going on in the field through signs that are played out on a board.
“This was a technique we came up with together,” Jose explained. “I taught him some things, and Cesar taught me. Together, we designed a football game on a board.”
This, of course, could be done simply in front of a TV, but Jose says he prefers being on the field, enjoying a game with all his senses.
“When I am in a stadium I feel everything through the board,” he signed. “It is like I can hear the screams through the board, the people’s energy, and emotions.”
His passion is contagious, and even during a tense “clasico,” where Santa Fe and Millonarios face off, Cesar can’t help but feel happy for his friend when the opposing team scores a goal.
“I think Jose Richard gets even more emotional than the people who are living it in the stadium,” according to Cesar. “It is incredible. I see him get animated and stressed when there is a corner kick or a penalty is lost. I love to see him react.”
Their relationship has drawn national attention, and they’ve even been tapped by Bogota’s mayor’s office to lead an anti-violence campaign in and around stadiums.
“We realized this was a call for tolerance and peace in stadiums, that I can serve my companion even though we are from different teams,” Cesar explained. “If he has a triumph I have to celebrate it, because we must celebrate the wins of others. That is the message we want to share.”
It’s an example to the world that in life, as well as in sports, the more we give, then the more we can receive.