Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I am a soccer hooligan

The tickets were purchased. The trip is pretty much finalized. On September 3rd I will be in Columbus, Ohio to watch the U.S. National team play Mexico in a World Cup Qualifier. We will be driving. Probably not the best idea, but what else do I have to do? This will be my third time to see U.S. vs. Mexico, but my first where it actually counts.

The last time was at the Cotton Bowl. Shockingly, 4/5 of the fans were not rooting for the home team. It was almost scary. I learned that day, that unlike the normal American fan, international soccer fans show up early and begin cheering and chanting even before they get to their seat. It was already deafening 20 minutes before kickoff. Though the U.S. dominated throughout, the first (and only) goal was not scored until very late in the game. Luckily, it was by the red, white and blue. There’s something very satisfying about watching your team disappoint over 30,000 people.

Another difference I learned that day is that Mexicans don’t quit cheering when the final whistle blows even if their team lost. Dancing, chanting, drums and horns. None of it abated. This was reason one that my hooliganism began to brew. As we attempted to exit—me and my ten gringo friends and 35,000 Mexicans—it became apparent that there was a problem. For reasons I can’t fully explain, the main thoroughfare from the south end of the Cotton Bowl to the main parking area was blocked. Thus smashing us all together and forcing us to actually re-enter the stadium to cut across to the other side. This was reason two.

The main reason (#3 for those scoring at home) was the Mexican fan about five feet from me who whistled repeatedly for the entire time (about 20-30 minutes). This grated seriously on my nerves. This was no normal whistle. It was loud. It was piercing. I was literally getting a headache. I gave the guy dirty looks, which he definitely saw, but no effect. Then my friends and I tried vocally encouraging him to stop. Nothing vulgar, no profanity, just "DUDE, STOP IT." When finally I had had enough, I resorted to "scoreboard" tactics. In between each of his whistle blasts I would chant, "Un a cero." That’s "one to zero" in Spanish (yes, I know my linguistic skills are impressive, try to focus) and also the score of the game we had all just witnessed. This, unfortunately, had little effect. Well, actually the whistles might have picked up a bit. So, I was forced to go to the nuclear option.

I feared somewhat that the other Mexican fans might turn on me if I tried it, but I was now in a fight and I’m a man dammit. I had to win. So a slight modification to my previous chant was made and the result was "Dos a cero." Yes, that’s right "two to nothing." I hoped my friends had my back, but since they didn’t join in on my previous chant, I wasn’t so sure. For those with the question marks forming above their heads, 2-0 was the score of U.S. defeat of Mexico in the 2002 world cup. "But," you might be saying, "That was in 2002 and the game you were at took place last year, 2004, what does that matter?" Well, I not completely sure, but as best I can tell, this was a particularly painful loss for them. Your most hated rival on the world stage in the world’s most important tournament that only occurs once every four years. Ok, maybe I do sorta understand. I guess it would be like some sorry San Francisco fan bringing up "The Catch". Bastards.

So anyway. I said it. "Dos a Cero". Actually, I kinda sung it. Well, at the first sound of this the whistling Mexican switched up his MO a bit, too. His response was to flip me the bird, and better yet, to punctuate the breaks in my chant with "F*** YOU!". After a couple a more rounds, I stopped and so did he. But more importantly, no whistling. The way I see it, the U.S. had two victories that day.

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