The country stopped. Ecuador was to play Bolivia in the Brazil, World Cup 2014, football
eliminations. Football (Futbol in Spanish) – You know, the game that you actually play with your feet. In North America, it is called soccer.
We drove and walked, drove and walked, asking the same question “Is there room inside to watch the game?”. It was easy for the mind to think of “Is there room in the Inn”, for in
Latin America futbol is a religion; and, no feeling is so passionate as when one’s country’s team is playing.
My lady, Monica, is a fanatic futbol fan. She knows all the players by heart, and nothing gets the way of watching Ecuador play. Nothing !
We had no reservations, Monica, her sister or I. In Cumbaya, we interrogated the doorman at every pub, bar and restaurant that was hosting the game on a large screen TV. Not accepting “No”, we returned to St Andrew’s Pub. In a compassionate moment, we were told that we could squeeze in; but, only if we could climb in through the window.
Across the country, people were gathered by television sets. No one was working, except those serving refreshments. In the crowded St. Andrew’s Pub, the tension was high as the game was crucial for the team to advance toward the World Cup. Before the starting whistle was blown, the noise of conversation was beyond loud. A couple of young ladies wearing skin tight short yellow dresses squeezed through the crowd promoting the local brand of beer. Then, silence.
The players seemed so young, or maybe, it was simply because I’m three times their age? This did not stop me, however, from becoming totally immersed, feeling the intensity of play, squirming in my seat, almost running for the ball.
Everyone knew each player’s name and position, screaming encouragement as if they would be heard.
My arm was gripped tight as my lady vented her tension, twisting and turning in her seat. Yelling and fingernails digging deep into my flesh punctuated intense moments of play. Throughout, waiters climbed in and out of windows to serve beer to the packed crowd. It was through those same windows through which smokers fled to feed their addiction at halftime.
Early in the first half, the referee gave a red card to an Ecuador player. No, this was not a prize. It meant that he was thrown out of the game and that the team had to play with one player less, a huge advantage for the opponent. Television replay clearly showed that there had been no foul. There was anger, for a few moments, and cries that it was, indeed, not a foul; but, the game moved on, as did the fans. The referee’s decision was final and no high technology was going to change that.
Both teams fought hard, and Ecuador gave us numerous tense, exciting moments as goals were almost made. If the thrill of the game is fan reward, fans were rewarded.
No one exited through the windows. Smokers did not rush out. Leaving was slow, solemn. Some stayed to finish their beer. Others just moved almost painfully to gather their belongings and shuffle out the door. Tired, drawn faces told the story. Ecuador had lost.
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