This week is the first quarter final exams week at school and while I haven't had to teach at all, I've been swamped with test writing and grading. I thought I would take a break and go watch the Honduras-El Salvador game in the central park last night. This cute little restaurant next to the church projects it on a screen outside and folks can hang out and enjoy the fresh air instead of watching it at a bar.
Well, things were sort of uneventful until the second half when Honduras scored a goal against El Salvador... Woohooo!! I will say that even though El Salvador was our rival in the match, I'm still in love with one of their players, Alexander Escobar (he's the one on the left). There's just something about that hair... Anyway just winning against El Salvador didn't guarantee Honduras a place in the World Cup. Costa Rica would have to lose against the US or at least tie, and then Honduras would be in. Basically after we scored that goal, it wasn't up to us anymore--we had done all we could. So as Honduras's kickass goalie kept doing what he does best, the rest of us were trying to tune into snippets from the US-Costa Rica game, conveniently being played at the exact same time (I'm proud to say that some of my friends were in the stands of that game as it was being played in DC!!) Soon, the score was Costa Rica 2, US 1 (up from 0!). We kept praying that a) El Salvador wouldn't score a goal and b) that the US would tie it up. By literally a miracle from God, the US sunk another goal with, what... 2 minutes remaining?? 2 seconds? Something like that. Immediately the streets bursted with shouts of joy... "Empataron!! Empataron!! Vamos al Mundial!!" (They tied! We're going to the World Cup!!).
High on the energy, but knowing that it was getting late and we had to get up a 5am for school the next day, we caught a cab home. I changed into my PJs and watched the afterglow on TV with my roommates. Just as I was about to get into bed, I heard the silly, campy little music that comes across all the radio and TV stations right before the President or the Government is about to make a nation-wide announcement. (I recognized it because it was pretty much on 5 times a day during the curfew/political crisis a few weeks ago). The President came on and declared the next day a NATIONAL HOLIDAY in celebration of Honduras getting into the World Cup. Why is that a big deal? Because the last time Honduras went was in 1982. That's the year I was born, people!!
So being freed of our commitments for the next day, we changed back into our Seleccion jerseys and hit the streets. There were pickup trucks full of kids and fans and flags screaming and literally rejoicing (such a cheesy word but so appropriate here!). Because the US was the one that really decided our fate, everyone on the street was like "Gracias a los Gringos!!!" and was receiving us like champions (wow, I think that might be the ONLY time that happens, especially since we were trying to keep our heads down on Saturday during the US-Honduras game!). We just loved waving and cheering to all the passing cars and groups of fans. Fireworks were being set off in the streets of Comayagua, and even bigger ones were being set off in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. It was euphoric.
Again, just to emphasize how important soccer is in Honduras, "wars" have been fought over it
and here is an article from last week talking about the importance of soccer to the national psychii especially in politically troubled times.
I will have to say, this is pretty much the first time I have ever even remotely cared about sports in my entire life. It's hard not to get caught up in the spirit of things here. Viva Honduras!!!