As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I grew up in West Texas, a part of the world where American-style football (the kind with the pointy oblong ball) is a true religion. Have you seen the show “Friday Night Lights?” My hometown is a couple of hours from Odessa, the city the show is based on. I can tell you with certainty that the fan devotion and emphasis on sports (some say over-emphasis) is not exaggerated. But it pales in comparison to the fervor, fever, and absolute fanaticism for futbol pretty much everywhere in Latin America.
Typical of a lot of folks from the U.S., we’ve never really followed soccer (football or futbol to the entire rest of the world). We’ve always known vaguely that the game is something like hockey without the ice or basketball without the hoops, and that only the goalkeepers can touch the ball with their hands. That all changed in late June/early July, when we spent 12 days in Medellin as the Colombian team was advancing in the World Cup. What an exciting time it was to be in Colombia, when we were lucky enough to watch three different matches together with hordes of Colombian fans!
The climax was July 3, when Colombia was knocked out of Cup competition by England in a thrilling penalty shootout (I can’t believe I even know what a penalty shootout is now!). For that game, we hunkered down in a curbside restaurant in Medellin’s Laureles district with a cadre of riotous fans. Here’s the scene just after Colombia scored its first GOOOOOOLLLL against England:
Time for a shout out about our home team, Panama, which made it to the World Cup for the first time EVER this year. Panama didn’t win any of its games but did manage to score two goals – and the fans back home celebrated each one as if their team had grabbed the Cup itself! We were so proud of the Panamanian team and its sportsmanship. Here’s a little Bleacher Report video that celebrates Panama’s first-ever World Cup appearance (you might need a Facebook account to see it):