Saturday, June 30, 2007

Maracaibo to Merida

Maracaibo is Venezuela's second largest city and is the center of the Venezuelan oil industry. Our day to do touristy things in Maracaibo got off to our late start after our extended night out. The first order of business was to acquire a new camera charger for me so Roger and I headed out to a store we walked past on a prior march called "Digital Depot." Turns out the warehouse that is DD only sells shirts (like 7 of them). Obvi.

This necessitated a trip to the Maracaibo Mall. We wondered around much the same as an American mall. The appropriate level of air conditioning was a welcome relief as well. I ended up buying a new camera (a semi-fortuitous decision or maybe a jinx-causing distinction if you're a half empty kinda person) and somehow Roger's pants fell down.

On our way out of the mall, we met Carla, a girl who recently graduated from high school and worked for the Maracaibo tourist agency. Carla graciously helped us acquire an SUV taxi and agreed to be our personal guide for the day. At first we were a little hesitant becuase we knew we couldn't be worthless shits all day if she came with, but she was very insistent so we relented. Turned out to be a great decision. We drove all over the city and Carla convinced the cabbie to drive onto the premises of a condo complex so we could take in some great views of the lake. We then proceeded to the city park, where residents engage in all sorts of exercise. There was a gym set up in the same fashion as the outdoor equipment at venice beach. There was also a separate setup for ellipticals and steppers. Interesting to say the least.

Carla had the driver take us to the plaza Bolivar. - every city in Venzuela has a Plaza Bolivar. Simon Bolivar is a god down here. He led the Venezuelan fight for independence from the Spanish and Gran Colombia. The money is named after him and his effigy can be found in any place of significance. Chavez appears to have bastardized his loyalty and calls his brand of lunacy bolivarism.

We visited the city Cathedral and I'm pretty sure my attire booked a seat in hell for me - flip flops, cargo shorts, and a t-shirt with the slogan "Viva Las Vegas" and featuring a voluptuous naked woman. Oops. On the way out, a young Venezolana curiously approach Luis and I and asked us where we were from. When we responded "Estados Unidos" she curiously pointed to her skin and said "pero, no blanco". We had to explain the immigrant culture of our country. You would think she would know this given the venezuelan love for beisball (more popular than soccer) but that would be asking too much.

We also drove across the nearly 5-mile bridge that spans lake maracaibo. It is the only reinforced concrete bridge in the world. We drove over it merely for the sake of driving over it so we immeadiately drove back.

After winning the war of attrition with the prostitutes last night, we flew to Merida this morning. First time I've ever been on a plane that was not pressurized. Merida is a city in the Andes mountains that is nestled in a valley. It is well known for its eco- and geo-tourism activities.

We were greeted by Joelle from Guamanchi Tours and went straight to our posada (an upscale hostel). We are meeting up here with a total of 7 other gringos to go canyoning and paragliding. We spent our day today riding the world's longest and highest cable car up to an Andean peak that sits over 15,000 above sea level. It was freezing at the peak (there was a little snow). First time I've sweated from the blazing sun and shivvered from the freezing cold in the same day, much less within a 12 hour span. Other tourists also thought we played for the team but did not bother us for autographs.

I am currently writing this from a hammock on the roof of our posada. My view consists of my feet and the cloud-peppered Andes in the offing. Amazing.

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Stardate 30.06.2007

On one of the smaller planes I've ever been on, a Beechcraft series 1900. I think the pilot is hungover from his 8th grade graduation. It is very loud in here and I feel like I have to type fast.

A Merida!
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Losing cameras is for pussies

Yup, it happend. From the comments of my compadres, I gather I look like somebody took my dog, kicked me in the junk, skewered my dog, backhand slapped me and then grilled my dog.

Consolation loser = roger because he no longer gets a sweet camera at a discount. Bollocks.
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Americanos: 1 Prostitutes: 0

One thing you need to know right off the bat is that on weekends I will blog about events in an order that is not necessarily in the order they occured. And by weekends, I mean, any night we decide to take our faces off by drinking cerveza and singing "vamas a matarnos en la raya!".

So, we are back in the hotel room formerly known as the icebox. I say formerly because the room is so hot that is causing me to sweat more than a virgin's (thank you mick and larry anning). We spent the noche at alvarito's where the slogan is "if you don't know alvarito's, you don't know maracaibo"

Another night hitting the town in latin america brought my worst fears (no drama this time) to mind: every chick is either a prostitute or a man with a good, cheap surgeon. Tonight, I successfully managed to get the hottest girl in the bar to dance with me (read, all over me). It was pretty amazing, I managed to not fall over or step on her feet! Trouble is, all the while (45 - 50 minutes) I'm dancing with her, I am en guard against her being a prostitute or a man (the surgeons down here are amazing so piss off). I never got the chance to find out as some croatian men caught my attention after a quick bano break (not really hans).

The whole night, our drinking habit was suported by some prostitutes who thought that equipping us with beer goggles would help them earn our business. Uh, no, but thanks for the beers. Skanks.

After leaving, we stopped at whopper express where luis and turtle (aka roger) acquired some nocturnal, drunken nourishment. One of the cooks clearly smoked too much (insert local drug of choice here - I bet there's more weed in washington sq park than all of maracaibo) because he picked mexico to win and actually believed it. Whata douche.

After leaving the whopper express, we stopped in at Mumba where nobody wanted anything to do with us. I danced like it was Stanley's in chicago on saturday, june 24, 2007. Yes, I did some pushups for the crowd.

Off to Merida this morning. Hopefully we arrive in time to ride the world's longest cable car.
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Put your hands up for Detroit!

So, here is what happend in chicago. At about the 73rd minute mark, a douchebag from Monterrey security (irony should not be lost here- US vs. Mexico, security from Monterrey) entered our section and attempted to displace me with the people who had the tickets for the seats which I was occupying. Now, I'm sure most of my uninitiated readers think that was a perfectly reasonable request. Thing is, in the sam's army section, as a general policy, we ignore seat assignments and operate under a general admission regime. The people who were being moved because the security guard was forced to move them from the seats they were occupying, most likely at the behest of some people who bought scalped tickets from someone else who had tickets for the SA section. For the record, people who sell SA tickets to non-SA members are colossal dochebags and should be kicked in the face by Taylor Twellman (kid's got a rocket).

Anyway, I tried to explain the situation to the Monterrey db, as me moving to my assigned seat would have a catostrophic effect on several people's ability to watch the game. So, I took one for the team and told the db off. He took offense to my words and gestures, but the rest of the section was spared from his dimwitted reign of terror. He cuffed me and escorted me to another security guard. I visited the soldier field penn for all of 90 seconds, gave the stadium security a sweet shot of me sticking out my tounge and flipping them the bird for their records, and then made my way to the front of the stadium. There, I started the celebrations outside the stadium before the police made me stop b/c there were probably 60,000 mexicans in town who would likely stab me upon sight (they really said this).

Was I pissed that I didn't get to see the trophy, yes. But, I have a feeling that me charging up the stairs with the giant db in tow created the perfect air displacement for benny's shot to metamorphosise into a golazo. That coupled with me sparring my compadres from further douchebaggery is enough.

Thanks Amy were you there?
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Friday, June 29, 2007

I am a giant douchebag.

So, being cocky usually bites me in the ass. This time, I was overly confident in my camera's ability to function on a single charge for the duration of my trip. Had this trip solely consisted of the copa america, I think we would have made it (the 100 snaps from chicago were not a huge help). As it stands, on I'm one bar. None of the electronics stores at the Maracaibo mall sell chargers so I was forced to purchase a new camera just for its charger. Roger has graciously agreed to purchase said camera from me for 60% of the cost. I am dumb.
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USA vs. Argentina - match report

We arrived at the stadium in Maracaibo and received a pretty tranquil reception (read: nobody spoke to us and pretty much ignored our reception). We quickly learned that we needed to enter the stadium on the opposite side from where we were so yet another Bataan death march (mick, here is your s-o, now piss off) was in our future. Along said march, our experience transformed into my ususal expereince when soccer-travelling: other fans wanted to take pictures with us and pretty much every news crew wanted to interview us. Here was a problem - we speak limited spanish. Here was a solution - Luis aka C-3PO. Luis became the official translator and consequently should have been on every news channel in the spanish speaking world. My buddy Joe from Nolita House sent me a text saying we were on fox sports espanol.

The paraguay-colombia match was pretty awesome. 5 solid counterattacking goals. That scares me for our match against them. The result was much to the dismay of the then pro-colombian crowd.

By far, the biggest highlight before the Argentines took the pitch was the arrival of Diego Maradona. He was less than 100 feet from us. It was amazing. To be near to arguably the greatest jugador of all time definitely stirred something inside me. Turns out, that feeling was something else. The toilets in the stadium did not come equipped with seats. Or, alternatively, they did and some englishman took them and put them around his head.

Key thing I've forgot to mention up till this point is that it is illegal to sell beer anywhere near the stadium. I blame the loss on sobriety.

Apparently the national anthems are not that important as they cut both the Argentinian and US anthems short. The bombs did not burst in the air (shouldn't they be bursting on the ground anyway?). I went batshit when we scored, much to the amusement of several other spectators in our VIP section. By the time I finished popping up the 1-nil post, we were level.

After the match was decided (re 2-1), the venezolanos broke out with chants of "Libertad! Libertad!" which means "Liberty" and something that meant "the government will fall". A venezuelan who lives in Alabama explained to us that the state of Zulia, the state in which Maracaibo sits, is very much anti-chavez and that the chants were triggered by the prime minister's arrival. It was one of the more amazing experiences I've had - to be in the midst of people openly demanding revolution. The alabaman could not help but to join in passionately, despite his parents trying to silence and protect him.

Ben olsen was the MOTM for the US boys for me.

On the way out, we celebrated with some Argies and did more interviews, one with a Thai tv station that Luis thought was from Korea. The look on the reporter's face when I let out a "Dae Ha Min Gook!" was priceless.
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Pasame la botella!

Back in the icebox aka our hotel room at the Hotel Gran Delicias (fortunately, they have AC, unfortunately, the rooms are connected to the same thermostat that regulates the hotel's restaurant's freezer). I'm not going to blog about the match right now, b/c it is far too meaningful (for a number of reasons) for a 4:30am post.

After returning to the hotel post-match, we decided to lift our spirits at the hotel bar (pun intended beeyatches!). There, I met Carlos. Carlos is a venezolano who lived in nueva york para catorce anos (that's 14 years you silly kazakhs). Carlos was also very insistent on taking us to a club - la termernita - despite the fact that he was in town to visit his novia (girlfriend) for his once per month visit (and the last chick I dated complained about the lack of attention I gave her!).

La Termernita turned out to be much like clubs in the US; they had little interest in admitting 5 dudes accompanied by no chicks. Upon securing entrance through Carlos' efforts (he told the doorman we played for the US team), we walked in to a pretty unique reception. People kept looking at me. I could not figure out if it had to do with my good looks or my good looks. The owner of the club quickly approached us and offered to buy us drinks, well, roger f'd that up by paying for them anyway. We quickly found ourselves occupied with taking pictures with and dancing with several hot chicks

These chicks, confirmed one of my worst fears (lie for dramatic purposes), I am a piss poor dancer. Somehow, I got stuck dancing with a chick whose hair (think jersey circa 97) barely broached my nipples. Although Luis, Roger and Kotas were definitely dancing with bona fide hot chicks, I could not decipher if the chick I was dancing with was even remotely attractive. Worse, I could not even avoid stepping on her feet while attempting to dance becuase her boobs were very large and constantly in my field of vision. She had the audacitiy to tell me to move my hips more and that I could do so by moving my feet (people in venezuela do not believe in toe safety).

Obviously, since I'm blogging right now, things with smurfetta did not work out. Much to the dismay of lily, the non-english speaking chick in a couple that I met, we decided to make the 5 block walk home. Lily, her boyfriend and three other venzuelan girls walked us home to our decent looking from the outside, but crappy from the inside hotel. One of the three insisted that the US was very safe after her experience of studying abroad in Utah.

The night ended with us signing autographs for the three chicks (I kid you not, they still thought we were on the team) before we sent them packing. Afterall, we do have to train today!


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Keller, please retire.

Wow, not terrible by our youngun's, but this could have been an amazing match to see if our top squad was here. Oh well. Fuller match experience report to come later.

Flatlander, as soon as I hit send, the score changed.
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Holy shit!!!!! Maradona is less than 100 feet from me!
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Before the match

We successfully picked up our match tickets after employing both methods. Luis stood in the traditional box office line after cutting the line. Roger and Kotas did their best to fend off the giant wildebeasta (female wildebeast) that tried to overcome Luis from behind much in the same fashion as an amoeba acquires its nutrition. Luis succesfully balanced negotiating in spanish and feigning ignorance in english (his parents are from argentina). He sucessfuly received (either there are limited synonyms for "picked up" or my brain is saturated with polar ice) Kotas' tickets but was directed to method two with respect to my tickets. We moved to the refugee camp fans and found out that they had finally arrived at the "r's" much to the delight of the crowd. The problem with this was that they had already passed my name and were preparing to return the r's to the box office. Gringo ignorance to the rescue! I took over and played helpless American. The lead cop in charge of calling out the tickets from the speaker of his crown vic (they use them here too) paused after a selfless venezuelan gentleman assisted this helpless gringo. Great success! Big ups to the guy who helped me. Either I really smelled bad or you are a great guy.

Our hotel is peculiar in that the doors to our room employ some unique safety mechanisms - the keys do not unlock the door unless you jiggle the keys with great vigor. This renders me unable to open the door. Fortunately, luis is latin and was born knowing how to jimmy a door open (his words, not mine). Roger is also quite adept at this. The hotel staff is also very welcoming, especially the barmaids, despite the fact that the front facade is adorned with the slogan "Gringo Go Home!"

Today, we took a Bataan death march around Maracaibo in search of nourishment. More delicious arepas satisfied that need. People have been pretty receptive to the idea that there are girngos in their country, openly rooting for the US and A. This is good. I am predicting a 3-1 loss for our boys.

Argentine lineup is supposed to be: abbondonzieri, milito, ayala, heinze, zanetti, veron, cambiasso, mascherano, riquelme, messi and crespo. Mother. Of. God.

We are supposed to field: keller, wynne, demerit, conrad, bornstein, mapp, olsen, feilhaber, clark, twellman and johnson.

Come on usa - pull a portugal!

FWIW, I am going to attempt to make friendly contact with the ole ole ticket touts who are stationed in our lobby.
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Match tickets.

We successfully survived the flight from caracas to maracaibo and found a hotel room thanks to a tip from some fellow american fans.

We are currently trying to pick up the match tickets we purchased over the internets. The will call area at the stadium is reminiscent of the scenes from Blood Diamond where Dijimon Honsou's character is pounding on the fence of the refugee camp trying to locate his family. I have the sense that most people here, myself included, feel just as passionately about their match tickets.

There appear to be 2 ways to recover tickets. The first is by standing in highly unorthodox lines and walking up to what resembles a traditional box office. The alterntative, albeit more popular system, as it has been explained to me, works as follows: the people without the tickets smash up against the fence and the people with the tickets call out names in alphabetical order. Upon hearing your name called, you pass your confirmation printout through the fence and your tickets are passed over a barbwire fence to you. This "system" has resulted in people openly rooting for letters of the alphabet. The current fan favorite is letter "r". They are on D. I feel like I an embedded reporter right now. The safety of my toes is questionable.

I am very tempted to say this to a security guard: "Si un otro line para los gringos."
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hasta Luego Caracas

In a cab on the way back to the caracas airport right now with Roger, Kotas and Luis. We suffered our first casualty when Kotas's buddy bailed on the trip after he ran into some flight cancellation issues. Erin, I don't know you but you'll be missed.

Caracas is a pretty bustling city with people on the streets from sun-up to well after sun-down. After I spent the day exploring the sabana grande (central shopping area), I met up with the crew during the venezuela-bolivia game - after my experience with Mary.

Close to the airport, there are a couple of billboards that have mural-esqe pictures of Chavez that are definitely not election advertisements. Overall though, you do not see an overwhelming number of Chavez images or other indications of socialism. For instance, there is a healthy balance of luxury cars, new cars, middle-of-the-road cars and bona-fide hoopties. When there are blatant references to socialism, they stick out and I will let the pictures tell that story.

By far, the most annoying thing about Caracas is the altitude of the sidewalks. They are elevated nearly 1 foot over street level. They also have sudden drop-offs. When you are constantly distracted by the beautiful Venezuelan women, your toes are in constant danger of being stubbed. Its hostile on those streets.

Off to Maracaibo today! Not sure if we have a place to stay. The adventure continues.

Oh, and a shoutout to people leaving comments, wish you were all down here with us. I can't respond to the comments for some reason.
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Just paid a 47,229.07 bar tab. Just realized that I make 5.78 e8 bolivars per year. Woah.
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Please do not call me!

I keep getting phone calls. They cost me $5 a minute and I may not be in a place where I can hear you. Also, it is difficult to check voicemail. Entonces, please shoot me an email or a text. If it is urgent, ill call you as soon as I can. Now please return to your regularly scheduled tuesday evening. Gracias.
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Holy Shit.

So, I'm sitting in a bar in caracas watching the peru - uruguay match. I should start thsi by describing my attire, jeans, flip flops, amazing hair and a venezuela t-shirt that has the number 2 on the back along with the name "el gordo." I am keenly aware that it means "the fat guy". My other options were number 10 (el rey), number 8 (los 8 pulmones - which I think means the 8 lungs) and a host of other combinations that could not compare to "el gordo".

Anyway, people are looking at me and I think its either the amazing hair or the t-shirt. A lady, by the name of Mary, decided to approach me when she heard my spanglish. It is Mary's 38th birthday and I told her that she didn't look a day older than (cue lie machine) 28. Mary is a doctor here in caracas and has family in boston and miami and in my parents domiciliation of Weston, FL. That fact alone probably caused the conversation to go on longer than necessary. Mary told me that she had to go, but informed me that caracas is very dangerous and that I am probably going to die. Bollocks. She then recommended some clubs and informed me that Venezuelan girls are very pretty. So far, this conversation was full of facts that I already know. I mean, I did walk around all day with sunglasses on.

Mary then offered up some knowledge. I think b/c she knew that there was no way I was going to be her birthday present, she decided to either give me advice that may or may not get me killed. She told me to tell venezuelan girls "yo quiero cogerte". Pretty sure if I said that to a girl in any other part of he world in english, it would get me slapped and/or laughed at. (Flip, please translate in the comments). She also told me not to give girls money when they asked for it (pretty sure that gets you killed in other parts of the world) and that I should not touch paper that people give me because it probably has LSD on it.

Holy Shit.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

If you are reading this,

My ability to blog via crackberry is confirmed. Just touched down in caracas. There is a mexican sitting in the exit row in front of me who is absolutely incredulous of the idea that an american would leave his house to watch soccer, much less embark on a trip such as this.

I must go now. Time to get off the plane. I hope this proves to be the correct decision. I am encouraged by the fact that almost everyone I've encountered since I got to houston as approached me in spanish. I think that somehow means I am less likely to be sniper fodder.
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A little nervous

I'm sitting at Pappadeaux's at Houston International right now. Just ate a dinner of shrimp cocktail, blackened mahi mahi and cheesecake. All excellent.

I'd be lying if I did not admit that I have contemplated cancelling the trip over the last few hours. I have received many emails and calls alerting me to the new news reports coming from Venezuela and the apparent increase in tension between Washington and Caracas. After such consideration, I have decided that not going to Venezuela is, in the words of Mick, for pussies. If the US bhoys are there, ill be there supporting them.

Such aformentioned consideration revealed to me that I have never previously set foot in a country that is not capitalist. I have always blindly accepted that the market is the answer to all, so it will be enlightening too see a culture that is not designed to be capitalist to the hilt.

Anyway, the flight leaves in an hour. To George W. Bush, please do not do anything to get me killed. To anyone who may be hostile against my person, please don't hurt me. I am jolly and will buy you a beer. Godspeed.
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Monday, June 25, 2007

The trip is off to a solid start.

For no apparent reason, I bought a new phone.
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Pretty amazing stuff at Soldier Field (aka Azteca Norte) yesterday. After initially toying with Mexico, Benny Feilhaber's blaster of a volley solidified the US's position as the kings of Concacaf. Our crew consisted of Myself, Brian, Mick, Hans and several of Hans' buddies. We tailgated in the parking lot before the game and realized that the Mexicans outnumbered us by a ratio of at least 10 to 1. The Mexicans were very hopeful before the game and were generally very gracious opponents, even sharing their delicious tailgate tacos with us. Inside the stadium it was business as usual. If you watched on TV, you may have seen us unfurl the flag after each of our goals. We did that part in celebration and part for protection. Mexican fans in the sections above us hurled beer, soda and smoke bombs onto us. Never thought we would be capable of coming from behind, but the bhoys showed true heart and never stopped fighting. Not sure how Landon Donovan did not get names to the tournament's Best XI. He was the best player in the tournament for me.

After the game, we continued the tailgate for several hours. Some Mexican fans across from our parking spot had some jalapeno peppers they were grilling. Instead of a hot dog or a sausage, they would put a grilled pepper in a bun and eat it. One of the guys offered to funnel a beer if I ate a pepper. Being a good sport, I obliged. Rule Number 1 when handling jalapeno peppers: wash your hands before you touch your, er, sensitive parts. I vomited immediately after ingesting the pepper, much to the delight of the Mexicans. After I violated Rule Number 1, I basically had to relieve the burning by washing with beer. Not sweet.

Anyway, after the game, I'd say 80% of the Mexican fans took the loss in stride and acknowledge that the US is the true leader of CONCACAF. Still, some were pretty bitter and I definitely was spit upon by a few people. Good thing I got the Hepatitis B vaccine! For many Mexicans, and other immigrants, cheering for their country of origin is one of their ways of remaining connected to their past. That desire stirs up some pretty intense emotions because it is forced to compete with their want to connect to their new homes and the future. It is always heartwarming to see a Mexican family completely kitted out in El Tri's colors, and then to see the children openly rooting for the USA.

Hans definitely wet his bed toniight

T, t.  Amazing result in chicago.  Full report tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Initial Report from Venezuela

A fellow BigSoccer poster is already on the ground in Venezuela. His initial report: Beer costs $0.40. Good Lord. You've seen the pictures when you mix me, soccer and beer when beer cost approx. $7 per. Anyone know how I get on a liver transplant list? I kid. I kid.

The Crew

So, thought I'd introduce you to the band of idiots that will be joining me for the trip down to Venezuela. We've got 5 in our group, plus we are meeting up with other US fans along the way. I basically posted our itinerary on a message board and said "Who's coming with us?" People from California, Texas, Minnesota and Colorado responded favorably so we should be meeting another 10-15 in Merida. All in all, I think we'll have around 40 US fans (aside from players' families) with us.

First off, we have Roger:

I met Roger in Germany last summer. He traveled over with Mike (as defined below) and was described as part of the Atlanta crew - though he's actually from San Jose / San Francisco. Roger enjoys long walks on the beach and Jagerbombs. His buddy Luis will also be with us.

Next, we have Mike:

I met Mike in Mexico in 2005. He led the Atlanta crew to Germany and did an amazing job planning and organizing a very well put together trip for 12 people. No small task. Mike is actually from the ATL. Mike's buddy Erin from Wisconsin will be joining us as well.

The Trip looks like this: USA --> Caracas --> Maracaibo --> Merida --> Barinas --> Barquisimieto --> Caracas --> USA. Very much excited. Leaving for el aeropuerto ahora!

Two Weeks, Two Tournaments

This Sunday, June 24, marks not only the anniversary of the best goal of world cup 2006, Maxi Rodriguez's cracker to knock out Mexico, it is also the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. For the uninitiated, CONCACAF is the Confederation of North, Central American and the Caribbean Association Football (I know, it really should be North and Central American - it just seems stupid the way it is). The Gold Cup is the biennial tournament where the members of CONCACAF compete for the regional crown. In the past, guest teams from other regions have been invited to provide for a more competitive environ since the US and Mexico are pretty much head and shoulders above the peer nations. However, this year the tournament has been limited to CONCACAF teams and that almost produced a championship matchup of Canada vs. Guadeloupe. Instead, we have the United States and Mexico.

For me, there could be no better matchup. I love watching the US play Mexico. The rivalry has evolved from one of quizzical neighborly battles to one full of sheer rancor and palpable vitriol. After the world cup qualified in September 2005, a Mexican journo asked Landon Donovan what he though of Mexico. His response: "They Suck." After the US defeated Mexico in a friendly in February of this year, Oswaldo Sanchez, the Mexican keeper had this to say about the US team "Chinguen a su madre." Basically, we hate them, and they hate us.

So, this Sunday, Gold Cup final - US vs. Mexico. Soldier Field will be the place to be. Hopefully, we make the Rats and Idiots cry again. I'll be there and this kicks off the two weeks of soccer that I will be living. I leave for Venezuela directly from Chicago.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Copa America 2007 Roster

After keeping us in the dark until the last possible second, Bob Bradley has announced the following roster for the Copa America. Bob Bradley is currently 9-0-1, yet much of the soccer community, and the sporting community at large, have been questioning his tactics and openly calling for his head. My guess is that this roster is not going to appease anyone:

U.S. Men's National Team
2007 Copa America Roster By Position
Goalkeepers (2) – Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

Defenders (8) РJonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Dan Califf (Aalborg BK), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Jay DeMerit (Watford FC), Drew Moor (FC Dallas), Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjælland), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

Midfielders (8) – Kyle Beckerman (Colorado Rapids), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Benny Feilhaber (Hamburger SV), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Lee Nguyen (PSV Eindhoven), Ben Olsen (D.C.United)

Forwards (4) – Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Herculez Gomez (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution)

Wow. Never thought I'd be disappointed to not see Landon Donovan's name on a roster.

I'm sure Argentina is trembling in their boots right now.

Monday, June 18, 2007

365 Days Later

Ahh, just a year ago we were drinking our days away in Deutschland, cheering on the stars and stripes in what amounted to a disappointing finish to the 2006 World Cup. Looking back on the trip, I am very grateful that I kept this blog as I probably would have lost so many of those memories to the drunken abysses that formed in my brain. All told, I spent just over four weeks on the road in three countries with many of my closest friends in tow. Along the way, we saw familiar faces and made new friends that will be involved in the shenanigans to come.

I know that I promised to update this blog with a reflection of my experience. I apologize for not doing it sooner, but four weeks of heavy drinking will generally leave you with a mean hangover, and I'm pretty sure mine lifted sometime last weekend after I saw the US defeat Panama in the 2007 Gold Cup Quarterfinals. Some might think that looking back on a trip like this would leave me with little worthwhile reflection given all of the tomfoolery that accompanies soccer and beer.

I disagree.

Through the bier-fueled lenses that focused my eyes, I saw the world come together to celebrate the sport that the world loves, during a time in which the world is as divided as it ever has been, at least if you're an American. I conversed with Dutch, Germans, Croatians, Swedes, Iraqis, Iraqi-Swedes, Persians, English, Trinidadi and Tobagoans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Ghanaians, Ukrainians, Ivorians, Irish, Spanish, Polish, Serbians, Czechs, Italians, Icelandicans, French, Aussies, Koreans, Canadians, Mexicans, Ticos, Left Coasters, Southerners, people from Jersey and even some Texans. The only people that I truly argued with were the French, and one thing is clear, the world hates the French more than they hate Americans.

I also came to know Germany. The Deutsche Bahn allowed us to criss-cross our way across the country to visit Dusseldorf, Gelsenkirchen, Berlin, Mainz, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, Munich, Nuremburg, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dortmund. One of the highlights of the trip was watching the Mannschaft's performance transform the prevailing German attitude from one of cynicism and unnatural self-loathing into pride and hope. A bitterly divided people united and proudly supported their national team with Germans from all walks of life singing and chanting to help Klinsi's boys to their surprise semifinal finish. The band, Sportfreunde Stiller, dominated the airwaves with their hit: '54, '74, '90, 2006 - which has now been changed to '54, '74, '90, 2010.

In Korea in 2002, the US Supporters section numbered up to 1000 people per match. In Germany, we had at least 5,000 people urging the Red, White and Blue on at each match. While the US bhoys appeared to regress in their capabilities shown in 2002, Sam's Army certainly did not. From the massive rally greeting passengers as they exited the DB station in Gelsenkirchen, to the city-encompassing streetfest in Kaiserslautern, to the march into the stadium in Nurmeburg, my fellow Americans demonstrated that they love soccer, beer and being loud as all hell - in other words, they are just like me.

I would be remiss if I did not spend a second waxing poetic on the actual play of the World Cup. As is typical of any big tournament, we saw brilliant performances (Argentina, Zidane against Brazil, Germany's impressive and youthful run, Luis Figo playing like the Luis Figo of 2001 and the impenetrable Italian defense), complete failures (the USA, Brazil, Zidane against Italy, and the officiating), several amazing goals (starting with Philip Lahm's opener, the crackers from Frings and Rosicky, the looping upper-90s from Joe Cole and Maxi Rodriquez, and the brilliant team goal scored by Cambiasso), the emergence of Lionel Messi, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and who will ever forget Italy's late win over Germany in the semifinal and Zidane's moment of lunacy in the Final.

In all, the highlights of the 2006 World Cup trip for me were:
  • German people and German Bier.

  • Irish Car Bombs. 3 car bombs, no, make that 5 car bombs, i mean 8, fuck it, 15 car bombs - This interchange occurred in Nuremburg, between myself and the bartender at O'Shea's. I looked around and saw more and more friends and realized that we all needed car bombs. Getting to go on a trip like this was pretty special, but getting to do it with my closest friends made it that much more so.

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers in the backwoods of Berlin.

  • Schlemmer Pavillion.

  • Not working. The trip started out with a bang as I left my old firm. What a great feeling to be free from the trappings of reality for four weeks. The complete lack of responsibility let me focus on the two most important things at a World Cup - partying and soccer.
Oh yeah, I also promised pictures. Check them out here: