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.

  • It’s just a game. Really.
  • Celebrate every goal, but don’t keep score.
  • Do not, under any circumstance, spit on the field.
  • While you may live the rest of your life glued to your cellphone, you will leave it on the sidelines. If Claudia Schiffer is calling, you will let it ring.
  • If a player is of lighter persuasion than others, it is permissible to call him “blanca,” “crema,” or “gringa” (taking care to use only the feminine permutation).
  • If a player is perhaps not as rail-thin as the others, it is permissible to call him “gorda” (taking care to use only the feminine permutation).
  • It is advisable to take a header early on in the game, even if it seems unnecessary, so as to eliminate “timida” from the catalog of nicknames.
  • If a player botches a play, he may be heckled once. If a player whiffs the ball, he may be heckled until he lies in his grave.
  • Check your Catholic sensibilities at the gate. Within 10 minutes there will be no saint, apostle, or prophet left un-cursed.
  • Useful vocabulary:
    • dela (short for adelante) – forward
    • tra (short for detras) – backwards
    • yera (complete bastardization of izquierda) – left
    • recho (short for derecho) – right
    • boray (guarani word) – unprintable
    • japirona (guarani word) – unprintable
    • puta (madre, hijo de, a la gran, or all by itself) – unprintable
    • pinche – unprintable
    • chinga – unprintable
    • carajo – unprintable
    • hora – time’s up, we’ve got to go home
  • If you see something sharp on the field, stop and pick it up – even in the middle of a play.
  • Boca are gods.
  • If somebody falls down, stop the play and help them up. If there is an accidental handball, play on. Just because you can belt it down the field in one kick doesn’t mean you do. Play in the spirit of the game, not by letter of the law – it’s just more fun that way.
  • Never fight. It was probably an accident.
  • Laugh when you score. Laugh when they score. Laugh when you fall. Laugh when they fall. Laugh when a ball goes through somebody’s legs, even if they are your own. Shake hands frequently.
    • It’s just a game. Really.

Andrew Kindman

I would like to follow up Zena’s post with a similarly sentimental discussion of the work I always thought I would be doing.

I love this office, and they do tremendous work, but I never thought it would look quite like this…

the scene at the office right now

Paraguay is playing Bolivia in futbol right now.

and i’ll give you a hint – these people aren’t watching a powerpoint presentation.

also, you can probably tell the score by the face of the guy in the middle

i am slowly augmenting my catalogue of guarani swear words