At the sound of the fireworks Xela and Guate City jogged onto the field, the entire team nearly wholly obscured by the smoke billowing across the slick and grassy football (soccer) field. Some were the pretty and colorful fireworks you’d expect but the vast majority of the fireworks were actually more akin to a huge flare and they let off huge quantities of smoke. Not one single Xela fan in the audience seemed to mind the mere outlines of players and the first several minutes of play were essentially indistinguishable as the misty rain mixed with the white smoke to create a heavy layer sitting over the field.
The rain had hung low and heavy over the mountains surrounding Xela all day, deterring most of the Spanish language students, but our teachers assured that rain or shine Xela was coming out strong tonight to support their team. And just as the last fans squeezed into the benches mere minutes before the game was due to start a soft rain misted the field slowly soaked me over the course of two hours.
The game had only just begun but the home team, Xela, was already jostling, joking and shouting encouragements. In fact, the buzz humming from all of the Xela football fanatics was so strong that I was even drawn into the game—and that takes a lot because I do not follow sports at all! This particular game was a doozy tough because Xela and against Guatemala City were facing off and the a huge rivalry between the two teams generates a true spectacle at the stadium.
Once the smoke cleared it was obvious that for all of the honest and heartfelt enthusiasm from the blue and red clad Xela residents, these were not very skilled football teams. But it actually didn’t matter that much as the team progressed because although it was no World Cup action, every single goal from the opposite team was met with the ever-present “boo-hiss” and a string a very interesting Spanish expletives.
Xela really displayed its true colors on the first Xela goal of the game, however. After several near goals and “just misses” Xela knocked one right in; at that point the fans were so ecstatic that a group of men ran to the fence and jumped up into a straddling position and then began to ride the fence like a bull with their shirts pulled off and circling over their head.
And this was just the first goal of the game!
Xela has its own dance section of the audience and the fireworks, I soon had the pleasure of learning, are not merely an activity reserved for the beginning of the game. There are actually several occasions and reasons for the loud flare-like fireworks:
- A goal
- A near goal
- Moral support
- A non-goal
- A goal from the other team
- Why not, there still a bunch left
And though the fireworks were prone to go off at any given time, the creative amalgamation of Spanish curse words was much more predictable – every time the other team got control of the ball you could expect to hear several very vocal rants issued from passionate fans.
As the game winded down Guate City was up by a goal and my teacher sitting nearby was so upset he couldn’t sit still. There’s this huge aura of mystery around the last five minutes of the football game because the huge and fairly new electronic scoreboard does not actually count out the last five minutes of the game.
That’s right. For the entire last five minutest the scoreboard does not work. Apparently a wealthy local donated the scoreboard to the team…except he thought all boards are created equally and bought a basketball board that ends five minutes sooner than a traditional footy match!
I couldn’t help but laugh at that; oh, Guatemala, only in Guatemala.
With the clock *not* counting down the entire stadium held their breath for the five minutes mentally urging Xela to make a goal.
They did. We won. Everyone went crazy and streamed into the streets to celebrate! And I learned that sporting matches are pretty much an awesome way to spend an evening in a new city. Who knew!?