The Journal / Body

The Beautiful Game

A football fairytale from the heart of the Colchagua Valley.

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It’s not a stretch to paint the parallels between football clubs and wine estates. They’re local. They inspire loyalty. They’re raised and sometimes run by their own people. They have their own insignias. And a lot of the work revolves around seasons. 

Much like winemakers, every club has a philosophy, a playing style that reflects its community’s identity and way of life. A lot of clubs are supported by a family of strangers and fans of a certain vintage. Club staff are like vignerons: picking homegrown players with immense potential, so they can nurture them into fine footballers. There are few places where this is truer than in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. Home to Viña Los Vascos and its local football clubs: Club Deportivo Los Vascos, Bodega Los Vascos and La Agrícola de Los Vascos. 

A football family

At Viña Los Vascos, the love for football runs deep. Every department here has its own micro squad of players. In their downtime, you’ll find these teams — the tractor drivers, the winemakers, the warehouse and the garage staff — engaging in informal yet intense sessions of pick-up football, or pichanga as it is known in these parts. Los Vascos has three teams.

The biggest one is Club Deportivo Los Vascos, the local sporting institution that takes the community’s passion for football to the next level. Established in 1989, the club plays in the amateur football league, kitted out in royal blue and gold. « I started playing for the club in 1995 » says Jorge Pérez, central midfielder and president of Club Deportivo Los Vascos. «There was a club called Santa Patricia and then they changed the name to Club Deportivo Los Vascos. The workers [from Los Vascos] got together and that’s how it all started».

Apart from Club Deportivo Los Vascos, there are two other less competitive teams within Viña Los Vascos: Bodega Los Vascos and La Agrícola de Los Vascos. Bodega Los Vascos is represented by the winery team. They sport royal blue kits. The people who work in the vineyards play for La Agrícola de Los Vascos. Their kits are yellow. It is tradition for the two teams to face off every year on the 18th of September, to commemorate Fiestas Patrias, which marked the beginning of the Chilean Independence process in 1810.

In these matches, it is participation that matters over results. « It’s more for people to move their bodies, to motivate them. It’s not so competitive » explains Patricio Barrera Ravelo, a member of the maintenance team, who plays for Bodega Los Vascos. « We’re inclusive, for all ages. There is no barrier to entry. Playing football and collaborating as a team appeals to everyone here ».

Barrera, or El ganso (The Goose) as he is known to his teammates, has been working in the winery at Los Vascos for 15 years. The squad is mostly made up of Los Vascos employees and an ex-pro in Manuel Plaza, our barrel and pre-bottling manager. Plaza played for the first division football club Deporte Santa Cruz from 1993 to 1998. 

Bodega Los Vascos
Player stats

Most skilful player
Most skilful player
Best penalty taker
Fastest player

Home Advantage

Every football club has its own spiritual home. A hallowed stretch of turf (sometimes) surrounded by seats and stands, gates and turnstiles. It is here that age-old songs are created and cascaded down from the terraces. It is in these arenas that you win, lose or draw — but you always go again. Liverpool Football Club has Anfield. FC Barcelona has Camp Nou. The local clubs in Los Vascos have La Cancha.

But what makes this space so special? « Everything » says Barrera. «The overall atmosphere, the field, is what draws you in, much like football does. I’ve also heard this from professional players who have made their mark for the Chile national team. It creates that sense of longing for experiences that fans and players often seek to encounter ».

La Cancha (The Court) was built in 2007, and its lush turf stands outside the entrance to Santa Lucia. The vision of La Cancha was brought to life by Oscar Guerrero. Guerrero, or The Mayor as he’s known in these parts, has been working in the administration department for 31 years. He is the president of Deporte Santa Cruz, a local football club that plays in Division B of the national league. He was also in charge of the construction of La Cancha.

According to Guerrero, La Cancha is « the best football pitch in Colchagua ». We know he’s not just saying that because his semi-professional team trains there once a week. In fact, some of his La Cancha-trained players have been called up to play for the national team. « It’s “the court” for the whole community » says Jorge Pérez. « It’s a very good pitch and everyone wants to go there. We’re always there ».

Campeones ! 

In 2017, La Agrícola de Los Vascos and Bodega de Los Vascos decided to come together for the first time. They represented Los Vascos as one in the inter-vineyard championship organised by Viña de Colchagua in Santa Cruz. The team went on to win the competition.

« On that day, we faced Siegel Vineyard, a difficult opponent » says Barrera. « Unfortunately, we had two of our players sent off. That’s football, there is a lot of passion and you get a little revved up because you want to win, not out of malice but out of enthusiasm. In the end we won on penalties. We came out of it very happy! The estate provided us with a bus to get to the various matches. In addition to the players, many people from the winery and the farm also got on the bus to go and cheer for the team. Playing in front of our home crowd was very nice ».

Football in the Colchagua valley inspires camaraderie and togetherness.

Barrera goes on to suggest that there are similarities between working in the winery and being a football player.
« They both foster the desire to be responsible » he says. « I take my job seriously and fulfil my responsibilities to the fullest extent. Just like on a football pitch, I make sure that my duties are not overlooked or compromised ».

Los Vascos united

What makes all of these clubs stand out is their unique relationship with the estate. Pérez alludes to this feeling of interconnectedness. « They [the players] feel well identified with the clubs. Because they work together at Los Vascos, they like to play as a team ». Most of the players either joined the estate because of the clubs or vice versa. « It was through the club [Deportivo Los Vascos] that I got to know the people here,’ says Pérez. ‘They invited me to work here and it was perfect ». While the clubs still strive to win trophies, it is the mere act of playing football with friends, relatives, and colleagues that keeps this community going.

 

And in football, as with wine, every season brings new hope…

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