Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wide, WIDE World of Fútbol

Hey fellas and fellettes, Rosco reporting from the small Central American nation known as Gua-te-mala (which means, " Baby, you're bad" - in a Richard Roundtree sort of way). More specifically, I am hollerin' at you from Xela (Quetzaltenango to all you Geography majors).

Well, last night, I went to a local soccer match. And I think I can afford to tell you in unconvincingly suspensful writing about the match - as I am pretty sure the result wasn't staring at you in the face from the cover of the New York Times.

So here's the setup - this was a major league game - well, as major league as they come around here, which is apparently not major enough to share webspace on or Yahoo's soccer coverage. This is La Liga Primera (Liga Mayor) of Fedefut Guate - and if at this point, you haven't coughed up phlegm, I would suggest inquiring your doctor.

So here's the matchup: Xelaju M.C. v. Zacapa (a regular group of roustabouts ready for a little soccer with their fighting). The result means the world - that is, the world in as much as being in the beginning of the season with so many games left to play can be. If Xela wins (or as the lobbyists who prefer longer names but not TOO long - Xelaju), they capture first place. If they lose, we'll they won't be in first place, but they won't be too disturbed. I would say however, if they lose, I wouldn't want to be Zacapa...

Prior to the game, they played a game of the minor league affliates of the two clashing teams. Well, that was a beautifully-crafted vision of partially-retarded soccer players (or, 22 Roscos playing on the pitch). Xela's winning goal came on an errant cross that happened to find the post and the net. So the Xela Lobotomy Babies won 1-0. So that got everyone pumped up to actually SEE some soccer.

A few things to mention before the game begins. A few little observations about the stadium. It seats a cozy 7000 fans, most of them on the goal lines. The Xela team is known as the Super Chivos (take THAT, Mexico!). A banner hangs that reads:

La Muralla Chiva
No Se Deribba

Which, roughly translated (how else does Rosco roll but roughly?) reads: The Chiva wall, will never fall.

Finally, the game was about to start, and on the end where we sat, was literally a pit out of which the players emerged. First came the Zacapa team clad in their ketchup and mustard uniforms to hisses and boos, and to the not-so-occassional-actually-quite-frequent "¡HIJO DE PUTA!" Which, I frankly won't roughly translate.

The Xela mascot, a very crude attempt at a ram with a papier-mache-like head wearing the Xela home jersey over a pair of sweatpants, elated the crowd and got them to, temporarily, stop swearing.

Then came on the good guys, The Xela boys in red and blue (doing Uncle Sam and Tío Ricardo well). There were cheers, confetti, fireworks, and smoke. And I think one of the drum guys in front of us suffered an aneurysm after he clobbered his drum. Between that and the drummers/horn section attempt at the Atlanta Braves/Florida State Seminole "Chop," they didn't make any aspirations towards a record contract.

And the game was off. And let me tell you, sure this was no Premiership. In fact, this wasn't even Eredivisie fútbol...but... was good. Surprisingly good.

At about the 10 minute mark (keep in mind there was no real scoreboard with time, etc. There was a little league like scoreboard with manual control needed, so all my times are very approximate), was the first goal. It was as beautiful a thing as I had seen during the entire World Cup (well, that's an overstatement, I know, but I saw this live, and that adds a certain amount to my hyperbole). Sergio Morales, midfielder, accepted a short cross from the wing with his right foot, settled it, and blasted a left foot looping shot from about 30 yards over the keeper's head into the back of the net.

Xela 1 - 0 Zacapa

And the crowd went wild.

At the 20 minute mark, a counter-attack saw Xela with a nice 4-3 advantage coming down the pitch. Jhonny Cubero made a nice cut off-the-ball in front of the defender just at the box, and received a nicely placed ball putting him at a tough angle in the box. He fired a corker of a shot and slipped it under the keeper into the opposite corner. (For the record, when one reports about soccer, one is allowed to sound like an English tool.)

Xela 2 - 0 Zacapa

And the crowd went wild. (Side note: Xela's keeper, 36-year-old Costa Rican Fernando Patterson, takes the team's free kicks.)

It was readily apparent that Xela far overmatched the feisty, as yet unskilled, group from Zacapa. This lead to some frustrations on some of the Zacapa players, and unseen to the refs, a defender elbowed one of the Xela wingers, this only made the guy next to me spit as he said, "Miguelito, ¡Hijo de Puta!" It was pretty clear that once a fútbol match began, fans' vocabularies decreased to about eight words:

- Hijo
- de
- Puta
- Eso
- Es
- Olé
- Gol
- Mierda

Shortly after that elbowing confrontation, Miguelito was carded, and rightly so.

And, shortly after that, at the 36 minute mark, Zacapa played the ball stupidly back to the keeper who was quickly swarmed by three Xela players, conceding the third goal and the second for Jhonny Cubero...

Xela 3 - 0 Zacapa

The crowd went wild. It was about this point that we heard another of Xela's infectious chants - The charge chant we know and love in the states, but since in Centroamerica, they would probably pronounce it "char-he," they changed that part to "Xela." Original. I know.

Halftime, 3-0, and the police flooded from the corner to defend the players.

Bags of urine thrown at this point: 1.

The second half calmed down a bit, as both sides were playing pretty sloppily. The one highlight was at about the 56 minute mark, when five of the Xela offensive players put on a Globetrotter-like clinic on the defense, one player juking and faking his defender onto the ground - ¡Eso es! Olé! - passing to another, fake, pass, pass, fake... Finally, the fourth man with the ball with clear shot at goal, faked the shot, drew the defense and laid it to his left to an open Israel Silva for a nice looping shot into the opposite corner of the net.

Xela 4 - 0 Zacapa.

The crowd went wild.

Finally, something went in Zacapa's favor, more than it should have. The little bald pit bull of a forward for Zacapa, scrappy and feisty as he was, never was able to get a good shot off. But a BS penalty call against Xela at the 70 minute mark, got Gastón Linares his goal for the night.

Xela 4 - 1 Zacapa.

¡Hijo de Puta!

And some new words: ¡Matelo!

That's how the game ended, with the crowd more unhappy about the police presence on the field than happy about their team's victory.

Bags of urine thrown at this point: 2.

Thus ended a fun night at the Estadio Mario Camposeco, and everyone had a good night's sleep.

Until next time, kids, where I will be covering some other weird ass sport played in the middle of America, keep your urine where you can see it, and never, never look up.

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