Friday, August 24, 2007


The other night, my Spanish school took a group of a couple dozen students to the Ecuador vs. Bolivia soccer game. It was fun, but I'm afraid every professional sporting event I ever go to will be judged against the Flamengo vs. Vasco game Kerri, Eileen, Kristin, and I went to at the world's largest stadium in Rio, where the fans stood on their seats from the beginning of the game to the end, police continually battled with fans in the standing-room-only front section, and a bonfire was set in the seats of the upper deck. This was not that crazy.

Quito's "Estadio Olimpico" is pretty small for a city of more than a million people. It seemed to be a little bigger that OU's football stadium, and it was only about two-thirds full. The crowd stayed seated, except to do the wave. They don't boo here, but instead whistle, although they whistle a lot more than Americans boo, at every mistake their team makes as well as the opponents' good fortune.

The half-time entertainment consisted of a giant 40-foot Pilsener bottle being inflated and erected in the middle of the field. It stood for about 10 minutes, then they deflated it so the game could continue. I'm not exactly sure why they advertise Pilsener, since it's the only beer available most places. Pilsener is cerveza.

When they sold it in the stands, they'd pour it from the over-sized bottles into big plastic cups. The technique was interesting: they turned the bottle upside down and stuck it all the way down in the bottom of the cup, raising it so it stayed in the foam just above the top of the beer. There's no pouring a beer here without it getting really foamy--a symptom of the elevation maybe--so the foam was sucked up into the bottle as it drained of beer glug by glug.

I was sort of disappointed in the first half that nobody was shooting off fireworks, as we'd seen in Rio, but as the second half got underway, somebody lit a bright-as-a-welder sparkler, and soon roman candles started shooting from the crowd. As it turned out, there were people walking through the stands selling the roman candles, so there was a non-stop rain of fireballs throughout the rest of the game.

There were at least 50 police in grey camouflage and bullet-proof vests around the field, with four in full riot gear positioned at each corner of the field. The stands are separated from the field by a deep moat and a high barbed wire fence, so I wasn't really sure what their purpose was. There were another several dozen cops in the stands. In the last minutes of the game, however, they did get some action. What appeared to be a minor fight broke out between players, and soon everyone on the benches was running over to join in or break it up, I couldn't tell. The nearby cops took their time getting involved, but the ones from the other end of the stadium sprinted over to get in on the action. Soon there was a mob of more than a hundred people, half of them police. By the time it broke up, time had run out and the game was over.

When we left the stadium, we were actually able to catch a bus after waiting in line only a couple of minutes--unbelievable efficiency compared to the mess you find after a sporting event in the US.

Oh, and in the end, Ecuador won 1-0. They got a direct penalty kick in the first half, and Bolivia never managed score, despite having much better control of the ball, and making several more shots. So Quito went to bed happy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a lot easier to play a 9000 feet when you are used to it...