Groundhopper Alethea, our Operations Manager, lives in Ecuador. She recently went to a FIFA World Cup Qualifier featuring Ecuador vs Bolivia at Estadio Monumental in Guayaquil. This is her groundhopping experience.
While I have been to dozens of Ecuadorian parochial league games since the pandemic started, I haven’t attended a professional soccer game since February 15, 2020 when I saw Club América host Atlas at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City in a Liga MX fixture. Thus, I was super excited to get tickets to the World Cup qualifying match on October 7, 2021.
Ecuador National Team History
While other countries in South America have a long history of prominence in football, with famous players such as Pelé and Messi, and Brazil’s record five World Cup titles, Ecuador is a relative minnow in international competitions.
The national team, commonly known as La Tri for the tricolor flag, made their first appearance in the 2002 World Cup in Japan. That year also coincides with the first signing of an Ecuadorian player to an English Premier League club. The team’s best showing was in the 2006 World Cup in Germany where they made it to the Round of 16.
There is only one Ecuadorian national team member who currently plays at any level of English football as of this writing — Jeremy Sarmiento of Brighton & Hove Albion. Others playing in the top divisions of European leagues including Pervis Estupiñán (Spain’s Villarreal), Moisés Caicedo (on loan to Belgium’s Beerschot from Brighton), Enner Valencia (Turkey’s Fenerbahçe), Piero Hincapié and Carlos Gruezo (Bundesliga), and Gonzalo Plata (Spain’s Real Valladolid, on loan from Portuguese Sporting CP).
Estadio Monumental, Home of Barcelona SC
The Ecuadorian national team usually plays their home games at Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa in Quito. However, for this matchup with Bolivia, the game was moved to Guayaquil so the players could avoid the effects of altitude as the stadium in Quito is situated at 2,782 metres (9,127 ft) above sea level. Note that Bolivia plays their home matches at Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz at an altitude of 3,637 metres (11,932 ft), making it one of the highest football stadiums in the world. Thus the move to sea level may have been a strategic maneuver as well. This occasion was the first time since 1997 that the national team has played a World Cup qualifying match in Guayaquil.
Officially known as Estadio Monumental Banco Pichincha for sponsorship reasons, the Monumental is the home of Barcelona SC of the Ecuadorian Serie A (LigaPro, the top league in the country). Barcelona’s founder was a Spanish immigrant who named the club after his home city. The stadium has a seated capacity of 59,283 which makes it the largest in Ecuador.
When Pelé visited the stadium for its inauguration in 1987, he said, Se o Maracanã é o maior estádio do mundo, o Monumental é um dos mais belos. (If Maracanã is the largest stadium in the world, Monumental is one of the most beautiful in the world).
Game Day Tips at Estadio Monumental
The stadium is located in the northern part of the Guayaquil, just over 4 km from the historic city center. There is only one main access road from the center, which is closed to through traffic an hour or two prior to the game, so if you come by taxi you must be prepared to walk at least 1 km to reach the stadium. Attendees who have prepurchased a parking pass are allowed through the police barricade. There are also a couple of direct buses, but as public transport is not up to U.S. or European standards, it is advisable to take a private taxi to and from the game. In addition, the area surrounding the stadium is considered unsafe, especially at night, so even though there is a significant police presence at every game, it is highly recommended not to walk too far from the stadium after the game, and to prearrange your return transportation. An Uber to/from the city center will cost less than $5 USD.
There are street vendors selling a variety of drinks and snacks outside the stadium, but there are no restaurants or bars in the vicinity. Due to Covid protocols, nothing was available inside the stadium either (and there is no potable water, as all city water in Guayaquil comes from polluted sources) plus no food or beverages of any kind can be brought in so, for now, you must be prepared to go a couple of hours without nourishment.
In addition, to avoid large groups congregating during half time, all restroom facilities were closed during the break.
Each section of the stadium had a different exterior entrance and the tiered seating areas were barricaded to prevent any crossover between sections. All away fans were banned. When we purchased our tickets, the seating chart had every other row and every other seat blocked off for social distancing, but it was a total free-for-all once we got into our area with everyone crowded together.
Masks were required at all times, but this was lightly enforced despite the frequent, threatening announcements of possible expulsion for noncompliance.
As this was only the third professional soccer game played in Ecuador with spectators since the pandemic started, all of which have had capacity restrictions, the overall environment is still far from normal.
World Cup Qualifier: Ecuador vs Bolivia
The game kicked off at 7:30 p.m. and Ecuador was the stronger side from the beginning. The first goal came at the 14′ mark and was followed in rapid succession by two more in a span of five minutes. The bewildered Bolivian side never recovered and the game ended 3-0 without a single card being shown. The result lifted Ecuador to third place in the qualifying table.
As capacity was limited to 40% and only ~13,000 tickets were actually sold, the environment was much more subdued than a typical match at Estadio Monumental. Still, it was an entertaining game, with the hardcore fans in the General Sur (South) stand adding a musical backdrop to the action on the field.
Here’s a clip of the fans chanting before the game:
And here’s the crowd reaction after the second goal and during the third:
Groundhopping at Estadio Monumental
While this was just my first foray in attending a professional soccer game in Ecuador, I am hoping that the government will soon allow fans to return to stadiums for LigaPro games. There are four Serie A teams in Guayaquil, which makes it an excellent place to go groundhopping!
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Tickets for Football Games at Estadio Monumental
We purchased our tickets directly from the FEF (Ecuadorian Football Federation) website. Prices for this World Cup Qualifier ranged from $30 general admission (North or South stands) to $160 in the Palco (longside middle/upper tier). We were required to upload proof of vaccination when we purchased our tickets, although a negative PCR test result was an alternate option for the non-vaccinated. At the gate, our photo IDs were checked against the name on our tickets, which were e-tickets with a scannable QR code that I downloaded to my phone.
While we haven’t partnered with ticket brokers in South America just yet, Groundhopper Guides can help you get to football games in the UK and Europe. Click here to learn more about the services we offer, or just fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you shortly.
How to Watch or Stream the World Cup Qualifers
You can watch the FIFA CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers on fuboTV in the U.S.