Villains around the world! South American football atmosphere - how does it compare? 

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest - Premier League
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest - Premier League / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

As a Villa fan of 20 years now I can safely say that the atmosphere at our beloved Villa Park is something that we as a club and set of fans can improve. 

The Holte End is one of the most famous and prestigious stands in English football and when the crowd is rocking it is a big place that away teams don’t want to play (nowadays anyway!). However, from my own experience and from listening to the thoughts of fellow fans on social media and podcasts it is obvious that this incredible atmosphere doesn’t occur as often as it maybe should. Why is that?

I am currently traveling South America with my partner (who is not a huge football fan but of course now loves the Villa. Love in the loosest form of the word) and we have had the pleasure of attending a couple of football games along the way. 

Our first game was in Medellin, Colombia. The level of football probably was on par with the Championship at best back in England, something the locals certainly didn’t disagree with. When I told them how good the atmosphere can be at Villa Park and in English football grounds in general this was laughed off by those same locals. Comments such as “kids are born to support our football teams” and “going to the match is our weekly family party” left us very intrigued as to what exactly this atmosphere would be like.

The match saw a crowd of less than 18,000 for this top flight fixture and despite the lack of size in terms of crowd, what wasn’t lacking was the noise. It was electric from start to finish despite the terrible standard of football on show. Families were jumping on each other's shoulders partying and chanting away, sometimes not even watching the game, the “ultras” were making a huge cauldron of noise with drums and other bizarre instruments that I wouldn’t be able to tell you the names of!

Our second game, which we attended just a few days ago, was in Buenos Aires to watch Boca Juniors at the famous La Bombonera stadium. With Edinson Cavani up top and Sergio Romero in goal it again was not the best in terms of footballing quality, although better than we saw in Colombia. The atmosphere was like nothing I had ever seen before. The noise simply doesn’t stop from the moment the players start the warm-up. 

When I think of the best nights at Villa Park in recent years I think of examples such as Everton at home at the start of our first year back in the Prem in 2019 and the 4-1 demolition of Wolves back in our Championship days. The Villa Park crowd were in fine voice on those occasions, but it didn’t even come close to the noise that came from the Boca Juniors faithful on Sunday evening. It was intimidating. It was powerful. It was an away team's worst nightmare and the crowd played its part as Boca came from behind to win 3-2. We talk about the need for the 12th man to give the team that much needed boost when times get tough, and they certainly were and it was too much for the opposition to handle.

What is it that makes the atmospheres at these South American stadiums so different? My partner has been to Villa Park three times since we met and has seen us hammer Brentford 4-0, demolish Newcastle 3-0 and seen us qualify for Europe with the final day win over Brighton. The feeling around the ground on those days were so positive. So energetic. And yet, it still didn’t compare to what we saw this week. My partner said:

"If all Villa games were like this then I’d be there every week!"

That was certainly not to disrespect the Holte End faithful, but these games certainly make for a more family orientated, feel-good affair. Local families grouping together in the streets before the game to play the drums, chant and dance together and enjoy the beers for hours on end prior to kick off. It’s a real occasion for these families and is never just another game. They party as though it’s the last game they’ll attend and that ends long after the game has finished! The football by the way, means absolutely everything to the Boca community so don’t think they aren’t bothered about results whilst they enjoy themselves!

Now don’t get me wrong, the experience was great but I would always rather be at Villa Park supporting the team from the Holte End but one of the big questions lots of our fans want answering is “how do we improve the Villa Park atmosphere?”. Having read many views and opinions on ‘X, listened to ‘VillaSpaces’ and spoken to fans myself it is difficult to know what needs to be done. It is great to see groups like the “1897 group” (@VP1897 on X) trying to encourage a better atmosphere and it will be great to see what ideas they create. Go and show them your support!

In my opinion, a South-American-like atmosphere could be great for VP. To potentially be more inclusive for people like wives, girlfriends, children that may not have a great love for football or regularly attend, to create the noise and the buzz around the ground before the game with things like street concerts might just go a long way in creating this more intimidating noise when the game starts. I’m not saying it’s definitely the answer because of course many wouldn’t approve of this style, but it may be one option.

The noise at Selhurst Park from the “Ultras” behind the goal in the Holmesdale Road Stand is probably the closest the Premier League gets in terms of noise from the main stand on a regular basis and with the Holte End being the best stand in the country (obviously!) then why can’t we replicate that?

It would be great to gather more opinions and thoughts so if anyone has any ideas do feel free to share and it would be great to discuss! 

Up the Villa.