Two days ago I witnessed an event that can capture the essence of almost any country outside the good ol’ USA – a national soccer game.

This one didn’t disappoint.

Ecuador took on Bolivia in one of their first qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. My host brother Martin lamented the quality of our “Selección” and told me that his Tricolor, as the yellow, red and blue clad squad is lovingly referred, had to capture a win against one of South America’s historically poorer teams to remain in good enough standing to be able to hope for a spot on the world’s largest futból stage.

This was the first time I donned Ecuadorian colors (bright, but badass) after a summer vowing a Guatemalan identity to anyone who would listen. But for a game of this level I had to throw away pretenses and get on the right side – I saw what happened to the few Bolivians who showed up and cheered for their loan goal, and it wasn’t pretty.

“Si se puede”, or “yes you can”, is the go-to cheer after any nice move, and its proliferation throughout the game definitely fixed it as the national team’s motto. As fond as the Ecuadorian fans were of this one, they were just as, if not more ecstatic to chant “hijo de puta, hijo de puta” (translation inappropriate) at the referees after any even marginally questionable call. Bolivians, bad calls and misplayed balls were all to be showered with imaginative and impassioned expletives.

Goals for the Ecuadorian side were magic – and there were three of them. Horn-shrills, high-pitched whistles, beer, arms, toilet paper, and newspaper shreds shot through the air during exceedingly extensive periods of chaos steeped in elated joy and sound.

3-1 Ecuador. I can get used to this.

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