>Growing up in the U.S., I was not destined to be a soccer fan. Soccer, in the realm of professional sports, is not popular. I would say it comes in a distant fifth behind Football (American), Baseball, Basketball and Hockey. It wasn’t until we got a satellite dish when I was 13 that I actually watched a professional game on TV, because none of the major networks carried the games. I found it confusing and hard to watch, mostly because the players were so tiny on the screen (I found out about a year later that I needed glasses…maybe that has something to do with it!)
My first real experience watching soccer was in 2006. I was in El Salvador, and it was the World Cup. I fully admit, my knowledge about the World Cup before I arrived was nil. I knew it had to do with soccer. That’s it. But, everyone was talking about it when I got there, so I asked lots of questions and started to understand more. I don’t remember in which round I started religiously watching the games, but I mainly started watching them because the guy I really liked watched, and I did it spend time with him.
I remember when Mexico lost. It was horrible. Y. (the guy I liked) cried. Why so much emotion? Well, if you all think that Chile has had some bad national teams, you should see El Salvador. It’s way worse. They’ve only ever qualified for two World Cups, once in 1970 and the other time in 1982 (thank you, wikipedia.) So Salvadorans tend to support Mexico during in the World Cup. But I digress.
Once Mexico was out, it was Italy all the way (I don’t know why, but I suspect it was because Y. owned a tee-shirt that said “Italia” on it). The day of the World Cup Final came. It was a Sunday. Usually on Sundays Y. and I taught catechism classes in the afternoon to small children from their community. I assumed that we wouldn’t be going that day because of the game. We settled in to watch. Half time came. Y got up and said, “Are you coming?” I asked where. He responded, “To teach catechism. Like every Sunday.” So off we went, to catechism class. The whole time I couldn’t believe people were missing the game for catechism. In the middle of teaching the little ones to cross themselves, a yelp went out from a house nearby. “ITALIA GANÓ!!!!!!!” (ITALY WON!!!!) It was so anticlimatic for me. I had watched countless games, but I missed the most important one.
So now, almost three years later, I’m in Chile. Obviously the World Cup isn’t until next year, but right now are the classifying games. Last night, the Chilean national team beat Peru 3-1. Now they are number three in their division, behind Paraguay and Argentina. It is so exciting because Chile has historically not been a great team, and has only qualified seven times for the World Cup. But now they have a really good chance.
And on Wednesday I’ll be there in the Estadio Nacional, cheering them on as they play Uruguay, hopefully bringing them one step closer to South Africa and World Cup 2010. And you better believe that I’m not going to miss that for a catechism class. 😉