A great year of football has begun with 2020 and this Saturday, the sharks of Barranquilla, aka Los Tiburones, aka Atlético Junior, play their first match of the season. It will be the first of many emotional matches at Metropolitano Stadium this year.
As a sports journalist from Sweden who has recently moved to Barranquilla, I can say that I’m in the right place in South America right now when it comes to covering football. Apart from Junior who has now played three consecutive finals in the Colombian championships and won two of them, (unfortunately, they lost the last final to América de Cali in December), this will also be a big year for our beloved ‘selección de Colombia’, this great country’s national team.
Why do I say “our”? Because I was born here in Colombia and despite having lived almost my whole life in Sweden I’m a devoted supporter to the national team of Colombia, and I’ve followed them to three Fifa World Cups, the latest two in Brazil and Russia and also the Copa América Centenario in the US in 2016, and Copa América in Brazil last year. As they say here, I’m a hincha official!
First of Libertadores
So what are we up for this year in Barranquilla? Apart from Junior chasing their fourth consecutive final they’ll also be playing in Copa Libertadores where the best teams from the whole South American continent come to compete. And what an opening match it’s going to be in March when the current champions, Brazilian giant Flamengo plays against Junior at Metropolitano in the first of six group stage rounds. It’s going to be a great year of football!
Also in March la Eliminatoria begins.. the qualification campaign where the 10 national teams from South America play each other two times over an 18 match-long tournament where the 4 best teams qualify to the Fifa World Cup 2022, and team number five gets another chance in a playoff. Colombia will be kicking off its campaign on the 26th of March here in Barranquilla against Venezuela. And then in September and October, we will see three of the best teams in the world with star players like Leo Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar when Colombia plays the World Cup qualification against Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil – all these matches will be played at Metropolitano Stadium.
The oldest tournament for national teams in the world
But the main event takes place in June when Colombia finally hosts the Copa América again. The last time we hosted the tourney was in 2001, and we were the victors. This time it will be a divided tournament where half of the team will play group stage matches in Argentina. The tournament consists of six teams in two groups where Colombia will play Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and the invited team Qatar, all based here in Colombia. Two of the quarter-finals and one semi-finals will also be played here as well along with the grand final at the Metropolitano on the 12th of July.
Welcome to a great year of football. And here on this site, you can follow me covering this event for Barranquilla Now.