“You want a bag for that?” the guy at the counter asks routinely without making eye contact.
“Nah, thanks, I’m good.” I answer, not overly polite either.
“You from the US?” he asks while packing my groceries anyway.
“Ah! Holland!” The guy looks up with a big smile and sparkling eyes.
“They play really well this Cup!”
And there I made yet another best friend solely based on football and my nationality.
Where were they last Sunday when I needed them?
Holland – Mexico. It was the first match I was going to watch in public and I was looking forward to it. None of my orange garments survived my last move, which was okay. It was after all my first game out, all by myself and, -what if we lose??? So I subtly opted for a pair of jeans with a red and white border (the Dutch flag, from my upside-down point of view) and a pair of sneakers you can call sort of orange. I avoided the most popular sports bar (too loud, too big, too Mexican) and went instead to a family run restaurant with great breakfasts. It was, after all, a Sunday and only 10am.
Leaving home to watch the game turned out to be a good decision, because as it happened there was no cable service in the whole of Antigua. But Guatemalans are as creative as Copanecos when it comes to wanting to watch a game (oh, the many times we climbed mountains, crossed municipal and even international borders whenever there was no electricity or cable signal…). In this case the problem was solved with two good old-fashioned antennas quickly bought at the hardware store and attached with tape to both widescreen super-duper HD flat screens. I don’t know why we couldn’t watch the live internet broadcast that was on for a few minutes, although I admit it looked more like a video game than real football and made me feel like pushing a button and blowing Ochoa’s head off. But after some fussing and fondling with the antennas for the first ten minutes of the game, we were ready to go, watching Mexico getting the overhand on a screen as snowy as my own little TV at home.
The problem was…. I turned out to be the only Dutch citizen in the whole place. Worse, I seemed to be the only person rooting for Holland in a restaurant that was quickly filling up with Guatemalan families supporting anything Latin rather than cheese-heads.
At half time I considered going to a place a bit more orangey, but what if other bars were without cable and antennas? So I stayed put and changed coffee for beer. Even when the cable signal finally came back in the 51st minute and the screen suddenly turned a crisply clear green. But with a 0-1 hanging over our heads, I wasn’t going anywhere.
Well, for those of you who watched the game, you know how it ended, and for those who don’t care, you probably know too, so no need to describe the rest of the agony. I was sure we were going to lose… I was already thinking of replacing my crazy supporter profile pic on Facebook for a mourning Mexican llorona.
And all of a sudden the game was over and Holland had won. Not very gracefully in my opinion, but we were through! And how weird to cheer for that among a crowd of disappointed Latinos who saw yet another Latin country make way for those Europeans… Yes, I too felt bad for Mexico. But not that bad…
I didn’t linger much (I’m such a good sport, I don’t glee) and rode my bike back home, feeling oddly detached from Guatemala and the rest of the planet. All of a sudden loud honks sounded from behind and a cheering blur of red, white blue and orange flew by on a scooter. It took me a second to realize it was Alejandro, a Guatemalan from my neighbourhood who’s married to a Dutch woman and hence a fierce supporter of La Naranja Mecánica. His neon orange fluffy clogs brought a big smile to my face.
For tomorrow I’m better prepared. I’m going to watch the game in company of quite a group of Dutch ex-pats and beforehand I’ll go by a Dutch friend to dress up with some of the orange stuff she has accumulated over the years. Hats, crowns, scarves, shirts, wigs and more stuff that’s been multiplying in a far corner of her storage room, surviving spring cleanings and yard sales. After all, you can’t really donate a bunch of orange wigs to the poor, homeless or needy.
Can’t wait… The pre-fun has already started!