We arrived early at the Estadio Nacional in order to claim a good seat, quickly losing patience as person after person jumped the metal railings in unashamed disregarded of the queue. As four ‘gringos’ we were reluctant to try the same tack, but our irritation got the better of us and we skipped on through with a thrill of adrenaline.
Honduras, as with all Latin America, takes its football very seriously. The atmosphere before the League final in capital city, Tegucigalpa, was frenetic.
We claimed a spot in the middle of the concrete terracing with a reasonable view and no reprieve from the midday sun. The stadium filled up with red, white and blue. And up and up, crammed far beyond capacity. The final was a showdown between Tegucigalpa home team, Olimpia, and Real España of second city San Pedro Sula. Only a handful of España fans had dared make the trip, the Honduran League notorious for supporter violence.
The match kicked off and even I, far from aficionado, found the level of skill displayed underwhelming. But that mattered nothing. The season ticket stand was an inferno, chants and fists thrown to the air unceasingly. Boy vendors leapt between terraces selling beers, plantain chips, and 5 Lempira bags of water. Boisterous onlookers pelted the policemen encircling the pitch with empty cans. Occasionally they would spot a culprit and two officers would stride up the stands and eject the offender. Mexican waves did the rounds. Olimpia scored and supporters threw their hands to the sky, beers, hot dogs and all.
Ninety minutes up and with a score of 1-1, the anticipation surged on into extra time. Olimpia scored again, the crowd roared again, the final whistle blew, the crowd exulted!
Exiting the estadio, hawkers still a-hawking, we were thrilled to have witnessed like locals this celebration of our adopted city, and unimaginably relieved by the prospect of emptying bladders painfully full with the beer that had seemed so irresistible in the baking sun.
This was my entry for the World Nomads/Rough Guides travel writing competition the other week. I’m not particularly happy with it, though it does fit the remit and that particular vein of travel writing. I’m never particularly happy with anything I produce so I suppose I shouldn’t take too much from that. I do, however, think it superior to some of last year’s wank entries.
Two things to note:
– It was alarmingly difficult to think of an interesting episode which didn’t involve some kind of wrong-doing, miscreancy, or terror.
– The amount of detail which my brain has let go of over these short years is astounding. Stories that I wrote at the time are filled with minute observations and occurrences of which I now have no recollection. Oh how I have abused this grey matter of mine…
On the plus side, it has made me think about writing again and I think I’ll rework some old tales. With this as a starting point, I might begin with a series of Honduras pieces, incorporating my work from Spanish class last term which I promised a couple of friends I would translate.
But Time, I have given you all away…