"The Best Place In The World": Lions, 'Life' and Libertadores in Bogotá
Miguel Morales Celis is a 22-year-old artist from Bogota. He splits his time studying film and cinema with sitting in seat J-178 of the El Campín Stadium, “the best place in the world” and home of football club Independiente Santa Fe, Copa Sudamericana champions in 2015. Miguel tells us about his photos and why his team bought a real lion.
Who is in the photos?
The photos are of my team Independiente Santa Fe in the El Campín Stadium - a little stadium in the National University. The park is near of my house in a middle class neighbourhood and the players are construction workers and builders during their lunch hour. The photos of kids are from my school when I was a child, Colegio Unidad Pedagógica. I also took one photo of Torcida Jovem, the barra brava (supporters group) of Santos Futebol Clube from Brazil during a Copa Libertadores match.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I want to show different views: the splendour and industry around football, the feelings of the people who do not have resources but love the sport and the folklore around teams.
What is your favourite shot?
My favourite shot is the photo where we play cards. I have a flag that says “SUPPORT CISF” and for security we arrive to the stadium 3-5 hours before the match, so there is a lot of time. If I am alone I read a book or lose time with my phone, but if I go with my friends we play a game of poker called "Vida" (Life). It is a curious personal photo because it is weird, but it is real.
There was also a player fixing his shoe while he is on the bench and I can feel this man thinking how he can be a better player!
Why is football so important for Colombia and Colombians?
It doesn’t matter who you are on your CV, when we talk about football or we play we are all the same... we have feelings, it is very normal to talk about the last match in a taxi, in an office with strangers to break the ice. And if you don’t support a team you probably have a history of a person in your family who does...
What role does football play in Colombian society?
If you feel passion, you feel it like an Argentine or like an English passion. But Colombia doesn’t have the stadium culture, because we have only two professional leagues and a lot of schools. I also think if the DIMAYOR (the football institution organising the Colombian league which is very corrupt) made more professional leagues maybe the people would identify with local teams. Now of 40 professional teams, 13 are from the three principal cities (Bogotá, Cali, Medellin) so you don’t gone feel this identity if you don’t see the love in your neighbourhood for a team!
Who is the mascot?
The mascot is a lion; his name is "Monaguillo". The lion has been our mascot since 1941. In the 1970s a crazy President of the team bought a real baby lion. Obviously at this time nobody in Colombia knew how to care for a lion, and when it grew we saw that it was a female lion. This man had to take care of this lion in his house, but then later a zoo adopted it. Now we just have this costume of a lion (for more security!!).
Is there a specific person you took photos of that has a good personal story?
I do not know the person wearing the #10 shirt, but it is the shirt of Omar Perez, our big idol and the #10 of the last 9 years. I have two big idols, Omar Pérez and Léider Preciado (I have a tattoo with his number) and there is a lot of history around these two players.
What is the future for Colombian football?
Now we are growing up, after Brazil 2014 the world sees the potential of the Colombian players, and clubs in every part of the world are buying Colombian players. In the last year the Colombian teams have had good international participation - Atlético Nacional were Copa Libertadores champions in 2016 and Santa Fe were Copa Sudamericana champions in 2015. All these things get a lot of attention.