Thursday, October 20, 2005
dodging flying rocks and broken bottles, I stop to think, "wouldn't this make an interesting blog?"
i wasn’t scared until the end, when i was in a pascualeña bus full of yellow t-shirts, chanting soccer fans, and a pounding bass drum, and karen decides to tell the guy standing in the aisle next to me that i support the blue team. let me go back to the beginning i went to a soccer game today. not any old soccer game, a clásico del astillero, Barcelona (yellow)vs. Emelec (blue), the sworn rivals, the two local teams who hate each other to bits and whose rabid supporters get into huge brawls with each other at every game they play. i went with Karen (Barcelonista) her brother Ronald (Barcelonista), Rachel from Canada (timid Emelecista). I myself am also Emelecista, ¡DALE CAMPEÓN!, thank you very much. It was Rachel’s idea. She wanted “the experience”. I know what these games are like so I wasn’t gong to let her go alone, and I wanted someone street-smart like Karen and well connected like Ronald to come along, too. So, we hopped into a pick up truck on the highway, full of Barcelonista’s, and we’re off. Personally, I’m used to being in the minority. As a general rule, Barcelona is the more popular team, and definitely has the louder set of fans, so my reputation as an Emelecista has made me the butt of a lot of friendly or not so friendly banter over the years. But I had my blue t-shirt on; I wore it proud… and a white one on underneath…neutral. In case things got hairy. The game itself was quite the “experience”. On the way in, we saw a woman duct taping bottle after bottle of gin and firewater to her leg, under her pant-leg. Rachel was taking a lot of pictures…we sat in a middle section, no “barras” (fan clubs…though the image that conjures isn’t exactly the right one…when I think of fan clubs, I think Backstreet Boys concerts…you should think British hooligans, with beer and pot and fireworks…)…the Barcelona barra (Sur Oscura) was concentrated in the North section of the cheapie seats, to our right. The Emelec barra filled the section directly opposite us…an ocean of blue. When they came into the stadium, all together, running and yelling and pounding their drums, the police had to herd them away from the fence that separates their section from the Sur Oscura’s. They didn’t want trouble before the game even began. When the teams came in, the barra’s exploded, as they did for each goal, of which there were only two (it was a tie game…1-1…probably for the best…Emelec wasn’t getting many chances)…the foul language of the soccer songs wafted through the airwaves and made me chuckle pretty constantly. Karen knew all the words but mumbled the bad ones. Ronald was over in the thick of the Sur Oscura, pounding a drum and doing know knows what else. He lives for this. Our section wasn’t the organized riot that the Sur Oscura was, but it was definitely a sea of yellow t-shirts. I was sitting behind the only other two Emelec fans I could spot, and that was a little bit reassuring. I don’t know how we got away without being drenched by a cup of beer or piss, though. Lucky. When the game’s over and it’s time to leave, I can feel the pressure rising. That probably would have been a good time to take off my blue shirt and fade into the crowd. Karen is safe with her yellow one, and Rachel is wearing pink. But blue…is vilified. One the way out, we had to duck some substance being tossed between two warring factions behind us, and rush towads the door. Someone pushed. Someone pinched our behinds. Someone suggested ripping the t-shirt off by force. Outside the stadium, someone tried to steal my purse. I held on tight and they ran away empty handed. Ronald meets us ouside and tells me to quick, take it off, take it off, and everybody, put their valuables inside rachel’s bag, and he’ll hold it. we all grab on to each other and move with the crowd towards the road. Ronald leads us into the thick of the exiting Sur Oscura cheering mob..so it was a tie game, doesn’t mean they can’t have a good time, right?...Ronald knows everyone, everyone knows him…he leads us on…we’re walking on the highway with this mob of fans. The police crowd us along. Someone starts to run “The Boca del Pozo are coming!” The Emelec fans. They have a reputation for violence and vandalism beyond the Sur Oscuras, and that’s saying something. I felt so out of place with the Sur Oscura, even though my blue t-shirt was stuffed in the dark recesses of Rachel’s bag, I still felt conspicuous, and would have much rather been with the Boca del Pozo, who cares if they are violent? They wouldn’t do anything to ME, if I were on the right side of this brewing war. In a split second after the first person starts running, its mass panic. Everybody is running. The police are chasing us away, hurrying us, and at the same time trying to keep the Boca del Pozo people restrained for a little longer. If the two factions mix, it will be worse than panic, there will be blood. Were running, Karen is screaming, Ronald is saying “Just walk, just walk”…immediately in front of us, I see this guy smash a television-sized boulder onto the pavement, and dozens gather to pick up the pieces. Guys are stopping everywhere to pick up stones off the ground. I know what THOSE are for. The police don’t have riot shields for nothing. Two beer bottles smash to our left. We keep running. You have to hurry but be completely aware of everyone and everything going on around you at the same time...cars on the highway, rocks overhead, glass on the floor, the person next to you, and make sure Ronald still has Rachel’s bag! Suddenly, salvation! Karen has managed to convince one of the motorists to let us in to their van. We pile in quick. close the door on the crowd of people who also wants in, get safe from the growing threat of the police and the Boca del Pozo. We’re all panting. And laughing now. We have to duck in case of flying rocks breaking the windows, but we feel safe. Karen and Rachel hug. Ronald and I share a hearty hand shake. We watch the chaos out the window. Rachel tries to take a photo of a group of policemen. Phew, relief. The van drops us off and we travel a bit further with a gang of Bacelonista’s…climb into a bus that will take us across the city to our homes…climb into this bus, I must add, along with 40 Sur Oscura members, complete with drum and banners and whispered warnings to the bus driver, to turn the lights out and close the door else the Boca del Pozo spots us. That’s when the incident described at the beginning happens…and I want to kill Karen. More colourful soccer songs…I bite my Emelecista tongue the whole ride home, I’m petrified, but almost there. I swear, if the Sur Oscura had asked me then and there on that bus if I was Emelecista, I would have understood exactly how Peter felt the first, second and third time before the rooster sang.