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.

My Chicharito

My youngest son watches fútbol with me, and he likes to play. His favorite futbolista, (and mine) – is the ever popular “Chicharito” of El Tri (Mexico’s national team), who also plays for Manchester United.

During the World Cup, I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between the footballer and my son. You can let me know if it’s my imagination, but I think it’s muy obvio. Now we call our son “Chicharito” – (one of about a dozen nicknames which seems to be the birthright of every Latino child.) … He’s totally embraced it. When I cut his hair, he tells me, “Cut it like Chicharito’s.”

So, if anyone out there is planning on making a movie about Javier Hernandez’s life, now you know where to find the actor who will play him as a child.