Thursday, August 21, 2008

Los Conquistadores del Estadio Mateo Flores!

My oh my, what a wonderful day! After successfully evading miss Fay, Rob, John and I made our way to the hotel to meet up with the crew. Brian, beth, winney and I grabbed some cigars and headed off to the world famous "Taco Inn." Turns out, the word "taco" actually means "gringos eat here" as we ran into several other Americans while scarfing down some tasty alambres and Gallo cervezas.

A crew of about 20 of us met up at the Intercontinental and, on the invaluable advice of my buddy Doug (be safe in Iraq), we arranged for a bus to take us to Cuatro Grados Norte, which featured a street-fair like atmosphere to get match fit.

We bought enough Gallos from Guatemala's version of a Chinese gymnast to feed him and his three kids for a year. Best part was we knew he wasn't ripping us off with "gringo prices" because his t-shirt served double duty as the menu! Beth's "Obama '08" kit got many, many nods and shouts of approval.

After consuming some tortas, a group of us stopped off at La Esquina Cubana for some cuban coffee. The owner of the shop asked me if I liked cigars and then gave me a very nice cigar as a gift.

We had a few more cervezas, chanted back and forth with a few more Guatemalans, and then decided it was time to make our descent on to the notorious Estadio Mateo Flores, named after the brilliant chapine marathon runner. The US section turned out to be about 150 strong (with over half of that coming from the various diplomatic missions stationed here), and we were tucked into the northwest corner of the stadium. We were protected from the fanaticos to our left by a barbed wire fence, but were otherwise generally exposed to the home fans on all other sides (though, admittedly, many were of the "upper class" variety).

During the match, despite the hostile conditions, much like our team, the supporters persevered and were never intimidated. After Bocanegra headed home, we erupted while the rest of the stadium completely shut down. The back and forth between the Guatemalans and the Gringos was pretty hostile sounding, although it was generally tongue-in-cheek as many of the surrounding chapines were actually American residents rooting for their motherland.

After the final whistle, some plonker in front of us tried to start a fight with a couple in our crew but we wisely laughed him off. His mates ended up kicking his ass for us. The post-match scene was one of the more hostile environs I've ever been in though, as the police were about five minutes too keep the enraged idiots amongst the guatemalans at bay. Several trash items were heaved into the American section and the riot police kept us there till the stadium cleared out.
The streets outside the stadium were clearly too hostile for us to be walking around, so security escorted us down to the pitch and planned to have our bus meet us by the players tunnel. This was awesome as they let us hang around the pitch for about a half hour after the match and I lit up the victory cigar on the pitch!


While all of us maintained a brave stand, our coward of a bus driver fled leaving us stranded at the stadium. This created a bit of a problem as we had no way to get back and the streets were still too hostile for us to walk back to the hotel. Fortunately, the US team had yet to leave and offered to send their bus back for us after they dropped the players off. This allowed us to give our boys a rousing congratulations as they boarded their bus. Demarcus Beasley even went out of his way to come out and sign some autographs - which means the Road to RSA kit will never be washed again.

When we finally arrived back at the hotel, we ran into none other than the captain for life, John Harkes. Harkesy was gracious enough to take some pictures with us and share some stories from the road.

Most of us then set off in search of a victory dance (read: multiple, multiple shots of tequilla). We ended the night slamming a bunch of tall boys in the hotel lobby. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing duet that Kellen and I put on with the drum kit and the piano, or the pushup contest which I dominated (natch).

Right now, we are on our way to Lago de Atitlan.

More to come with pictures on sunday.
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