Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yellow American

If you find yourself needing to choose which side of a fanatical World Cup soccer match to root for - choose neither. Or either. Or both.

The United States national team played the Ecuador national team today in Tampa, Florida and dating an Ecuadorian requires attending all Ecuadorian soccer matches on the continent. Or at least the state. (They only come here once every four years right?). My knowledge of World Cup soccer is as vast as Ma-Le's knowledge of baseball so this would be a learning experience for me. I played for 8 years as a kid, but the rules seem to be different at this level in most aspects.

There are two halves in a regulation match and just like a cantaloupe split right down the middle, both halves should be the same amount. Halves last 45 minutes each and if the referee decides he's really enjoying the half, as with a cantaloupe, he can add more. If it's sweet and juicy he may add several chunks of time and if he's grown sick of the match, he'll abruptly end the game and presumably no one is aloud to eat the rest of the cantaloupe and under no circumstances should you eat the rind. (I was hungry when I wrote this.)

One thing that is similar to soccer from when I played is "faking it". If someone steals the ball from you, you pretend they tripped you and fall to the ground. If the referee sees you writhing in pain, and this part really sells it - covering your face, he'll flash a yellow card at the offending player which I think says "Community Chest - Pay each player $50". But I was far away and couldn't really see.
If you stay on the ground long enough, they send your mom out to make sure you're OK, which I think is nice. If the referee did not see you "trip" and stumble ungraciously, AND play has resumed without you, you need to get up, limp quickly until you catch up to the pack and then hope that thousands of fans have forgotten it was you that just intentionally face-planted yourself into Bahaman Sod.

A suspicious American asked Ma-Le who the "keeper" or goalkeeper for Ecuador was, thinking she would have no clue. But she quickly responded "Valencia". I asked her later how she knew that and she admitted to making it up. Garcia, Vasquez, Cabrera and Ramirez would have also worked apparently.

There are 34 million Ecuadorians living in the US. I just made that number up, but it felt that way driving to the game, parking in the lot and sitting among the Ecuadorian yellow and blue. The crowd was the largest to ever see a World Cup soccer game in Tampa and was made up of roughly 14,000 Ecuador fans and 17,000 American fans. The Ecuadorians were decked out in their yellow and blue jerseys and it was no coincidence that I was wearing a yellow shirt. If Ma-Le has to root for only the Cardinals, I'll sell out my country and root for the Ecuadorians. Their team lost today 3-1, but they ought to be proud. They played well and they have great fans. The typical cheer in Spanish is ECUADOR - SI SE PUEDE - translation - "Ecuador - you can do it" - compared to the Americans cheer - and sadly this is true - "Ecuador - you suck". After hearing that screamed by many fans in our section, it was hard not to get excited when Ecuador scored their first and only goal.

I must admit to having little interest in soccer, but watching it live among 31,000 fans and watching it on TV are two entirely different things. I'd certainly go again and recommend it to sports fans - if only they promise to cheer - "America - you can do it".

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