Win or Lose, a Day to Remember

I’ve now had two days to recover from the Copa Oro games we went to on Sunday, pero todavia estoy completamente rendida.

The night before, I couldn’t sleep, half from excitement and half from anxiety about the tickets. Following the wise advice of a friend, we arrived hours early at the stadium. (Gracias to Rudy, who we actually got to meet briefly at the game.)

We went straight to the “Will Call” window and I gave them my I.D. I watched them shuffle around and come up empty-handed. I watched them check and re-check. I knew this would happen. They apologized that they didn’t have tickets for me under my name. I called the number of the on-site manager that State Farm had given me in case I ran into problems – he assured me he had the tickets on him. When we met him in the parking lot where State Farm had set up, true to his word, he had the tickets. I resisted kissing him and instead let him tell me about some of the fun things they were doing there.

I talked with someone about the sOccket ball and she showed me how it worked. I also got to check out the State Farm iPhone app, Kick4ACause which allows you to donate electricity just by playing the game. [See video of me playing]

As Carlos and I decided what to do next, a mini-Salvadoran pride parade broke out. Of course we joined in.

The parade went around the parking lot making all kinds of noise. At one point we clashed with a group of panameños, but after dancing with them for awhile, the parade continued on, much to the bewilderment of gringos trying to tailgate in peace.

When gringos tried to interact with Salvadorans though, the Salvadoran response always made me smile. When gringos shouted “U.S.A.!” – the Salvadorans didn’t feel threatened – they joined them in chants for the red, white and blue. I wonder if this made an impression on anyone in that parking lot who had expected a different reaction – to realize that it’s possible to have enough love for the place of your birth, language or culture – but feel equally proud of the country you now live in.

After the mini-parade we sought shade and a late [very expensive] lunch inside the stadium. We found our seats and waited.

Salvadorans seemed amused by my "Guanaco Pitbull" shirt, but I didn't realize how confusing it would be for non-Salvadorans, who seemed to puzzle over what it meant.

While waiting, I observed a lot of Salvadorans who came prepared to not only cheer on El Salvador, but the United States as well. Many wore La Selecta T-shirts, but carried American flags. The “U.S.A.!” chant was alive and well in sections full of Salvadorans during the U.S. vs. Jamaica game.

The game itself was great, but the sky was so cloudy that I wasn’t able to access Twitter on my phone which was frustrating.

After the United States won, we were all full of happiness and hope for El Salvador.

Hearing the crowd sing the Himno Nacional de El Salvador made me tear up a little. To look around and know that all these Salvadorans were here together even though many, like Carlos, were far from their homeland… It’s difficult for me to put in words.

Being at the actual game instead of watching it on television is a unique experience. I’ve watched a lot of Salvadoran fútbol games on T.V. but never heard the crowd whistling in unison. Salvadorans have a unique way of whistling, (I wish I had caught it on video), but when you have thousands of people doing this, it sounds sort of like a forest full of parrots.

Speaking of whistling, at one point in the game, a Salvadoran player fell on top of a Panamanian player in a position that looked somewhat compromising. This got some funny responses from the crowd which I won’t repeat, but you definitely don’t get that on T.V. either.

As for the game – La Selecta missed a lot of opportunities on the field, but they did get this penalty shot which was very exciting.

Another highlight for me was seeing a guy run across the field with the Salvadoran flag. I know that’s frowned upon but it amused me, (and he was really fast. Maybe La Selecta should draft him?)

An unidentified man carries an El Salvador flag as he runs on the field during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Panama and El Salvador. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(You can’t see on my video, but you can see in others that the Panamanian goalie threw the U.S. flag out of the goal. That’s what the booing was about at the end of the video.)

El Salvador was ready to win… and then Panama scored a goal in the last minute… at least they say they scored a goal. I’ve watched the replay two dozen times and can’t decide if it was good or not. If only there was video of it from the other side – pero ni modo, what’s done is done. There’s no use being bitter about it.

Okay…maybe a little.

Cover of El Diario de Hoy / Deportes

Here are some of my favorite photos I took during the game:

As you see, some guys had a banner that proclaimed Zelaya to be better than Chicharito. While I was there to support La Selecta with all my heart, I’m not so sure I agree. My Pitbull didn’t do much better. The game was full of excitement, tense moments, joy, disappointment – the poor Salvadorans around me went from elated to crushed over and over again. One guy often took his frustration out on the empty stadium seat in front of him. By the end of the game I was kind of surprised he hadn’t managed to rip it out as he repeatedly pounded on it screaming “P*TA! P*TA! P*TA! HIJUEP*TA!”

Carlos was calmer than that though I heard him say a few choice words under his breath after the final penalty shot shoot-out decided our fate.

Win or lose, it was an amazing experience. I know it was particularly special for Carlos. I asked him what it felt like being in the stadium surrounded by so many Salvadorans. He said it reminded him of home and the games he used to go to with his friends. The good thing about Salvadorans is that even though Carlos didn’t have his old friends with him, the guys seated around us were more than willing to fill-in for the day. I know Carlos to be a mostly quiet guy, but when he’s with other salvadoreños he opens up and is actually quite talkative. I love to see him uninhibited like that. [ Read Carlos's post about the day here.]

The game came to an end, but the brotherly love was far from over. On the way out of the stadium I was nearly crushed, (this panicked me for a minute but I knew Carlos would throw people left and right if I were in any danger.) … Then we missed the first Metro train because it was impossible to fit anymore people on it. We waited twenty more minutes for the pleasure of being crushed on the next train. Besides myself, I think there was only one other woman on the train – it was packed with young men wearing blue, and all of us, (myself included), were in serious need of some deodorant after a long day in the sun.

Despite the heat, lack of personal space, exhaustion and loss of the game, the group on the train remained in good spirits.

“Yo soy salvadoreño!” shouted one man still full of pride and warrior spirit, “Soy guerilla!”
A man from the other side of the train answered him back,
“Guerilla mi c*lo!”

(Don’t ask me to translate it to English. Somehow, it’s not as funny like that.)

Disclosure: I attended the Gold Cup games at the invitation of State Farm. All opinions are my own.

Pitbull (not that one)

Tomorrow we go to the Copa de Oro (Gold Cup) quarterfinal games in D.C. – That’s right, plural – games! … I totally didn’t even realize that it was a doubleheader, which means two games one after the other at the same venue which are attended with the same ticket. So not only will I get to see the U.S. team play against Jamaica, I get to see the game right after it. Do you know whose playing?

EL SALVADOR vs. Panama! … I’m freaking out. The only way this could be more chévere is if Chicharito showed up and bought me a beer, but let’s keep things realistic, shall we?

Our tickets are supposed to be at “will call” which makes me nervous, but I’m told this is a reliable way to do things and I don’t have a choice in the matter, so primero a Dios and fingers crossed. The reason it makes me nervous is because these games are todo sold-out. I have a feeling it’s going to be crazy getting in. A friend who will be at the game advised us to arrive hours early, partly to avoid a really long line and also to enjoy the pre-game atmosphere. You’re going to have a parqueo full of guanacos, panameños, Jamaicans, gringos and a mix of others … I don’t know how hard everyone else parties, but the Salvadorans alone will make plenty of noise and fun – not to mention that they’re clever business people and I’m sure a lot of ventas will be going on. If Suegra were coming, (which she’s not!) I know she’d be out there hustling, selling pupusas, hand-embroidered delantales, joya, and whatever else she could carry.

Like I said, Suegra is staying home to watch the cipotes so it seems we’re ready for the games – except what to wear?

Carlos and I have been looking everywhere for a shirt to wear to the game. You would think we owned a La Selecta shirt but every time we asked Suegra to bring us one, she’d come back with tourist T-shirts. One time she got closer and brought us a team shirt for Chalatenango, but purple stripes are not as cool as “La Azul” – (not to mention, the shirt is too small – the chorizo look is not a good one.)

So we went to various sporting goods stores. One store we went to I asked where their soccer shirts are and the guy said, “Um, we don’t have… soccer…shirts… We have soccer balls?” … The other store had a U.S. MLS shirt, but it was $50… So not happening.

We tried department stores, where I found a really cool shirt for El Tri, which, (while I still want it), would have been an inappropriate choice for the game. (I may wear my “Mexico Numero Uno” shirt here at home and deal with the wrath of Carlos and Suegra, but I’m not tonta enough to wear it in a stadium full of Salvadorans.)

Wally World was also no good. They have a lot of patriotic shirts due to the season, but not anything I would be caught dead wearing. (Glittery kittens with fireworks? Seriously? People like this?)

Finally I had the idea to make a shirt. I bought a nice bright blue T-shirt for $3 and some iron-on letters… but what to write?

That’s when I remembered my new favorite player – Salvadoran, Dennis Alas.

While I was watching El Salvador play Cuba on television, I noticed that the commentator kept referring to one of the players as “Pitbull.” I thought this was just a silly, quirky thing that this particular commentator had come up with, but after searching the internet a little, I found out that Dennis Alas is known as the “Salvadoran Pitbull” – (I’m thinking it’s the shaved head.)

"Salvadoran Pitbull" - Image source: Guillermo Estrada/elsalvadorfc.com

After reading more about the player and looking up video of some of his past goals – I’ve really come to like him.

He actually didn’t score any goals against Cuba. Here’s him missing one though. Oops.

No me importa. His nickname is too chivo for me not to like him and I think he has potential.

So anyhow, Dennis “Pitbull” Alas inspired me to create a camisa for the game. I think I will be the only person in the stadium, (or in the world), with this one-of-a-kind shirt. If you watch the games mañana, look for me.

Disclosure: I will be attending the CONCACAF Copa de Oro/Gold Cup games at the invitation of State Farm. All opinions are my own.

Copa de Oro + sOccket balls

I’m getting really anxious for this Sunday because I’ve been invited by State Farm to a 2011 CONCACAF Copa de Oro (Gold Cup) quarterfinal game in D.C. where I’ll get to try out the new sOccket™ ball! … I’ll be sure to take plenty of photos and video to share, and I’ll also be live tweeting. Until then, here’s a preview of the ball:

State Farm has partnered with sOccket™, (a soccer ball created by Uncharted Play, Inc. that generates and stores electricity via physical play) – and launched their new program, “Juega Hoy. Ilumina El Mañana” – which gives electricity to those who lack access in Latin American and Caribbean countries. (31 million people in Latin America and more than a quarter of Latin American rural communities have no electricity.)

Want to help?:

• Click the Juega e Ilumina tab on the State Farm Latino Facebook page, where you’ll have the opportunity to generate and donate over 2,000 sOccket™ balls.

• “Like” the videos of Futbol Freestylers on the Facebook page and you’ll add one minute of light to the represented country.

• Play the featured game, Play & Illuminate, where you can choose the country you wish to send sOccket™ energy balls and then play to donate. (I chose El Salvador!)

• Download a brand new iPhone app, Kick4ACause, which is a virtual soccer game you can play to help donate sOcckets. Every 15 minutes of play collected will result in one sOccket™ ball donation. The more you play, the more sOccket™ balls State Farm will donate.

Disclosure: I will be going to a Gold Cup game at the invitation of State Farm. All opinions are my own.