Gray Clouds Over Pichincha
It is a sad day for Ecuador. The 'futbol' game today against Chile was a 'must win' event, after the disappointment of Saturday's face off with Uruguay. Yellow shirts were the norm in anticipation of the 5 PM event in Santiago. The streets were emptier than usual; everyone who could was watching the match on television. To get a berth in the World Cup competition in South Africa next year, Ecuador had to win today, unless they get a wild card spot after they play against the other teams that did not make it to the top.
Ecuador did very well four years ago in at the last World Cup in Berlin, when they advanced quite far in the playoffs. It was very exciting for the Ecuadorians, who flew to Berlin in droves to participate in the celebration. Eric and I were in Berlin purely by coincidence (I had no idea our time would overlap with the games). The whole city was celebrating and partying and playing for the two weeks of the world cup. Huge screens were set up along a kilometre long boulevard near the Parliament Building and all the games were projected live for the thousands of spectators who took time off from work and other pastimes to cheer their favourite team. Eric and I joined in the excitement and found ourselves watching every game, supporting the Ecuadorians when they were in the running, the Ghanaians once the Ecuador team fell, and then either the Germans or Italians whenever they played. We returned to Baltimore before the final battle, but watched Italy win in a bar in Little Italy.
The Ecuadorians were hopeful about their chances of getting to the World Cup this year. But they lost against Columbia, then Uruguay last weekend and tonight they lost 1-0 to Chile. It has been very frustrating to watch them play, because the Ecuadorians clearly control the ball and the game most of the time, but they don't seem able to score any goals. I expressed my frustration to my Spanish teacher today and I learned that the best goal makers on the Ecuadorian teams are from other countries, and they cannot play for the Ecuadorian World Cup team without Ecuadorian citizenship, and there are no Ecuadorians who specialize in making goals, so the Ecuadorian players can control the ball and play their careful, measured style, but that does not work for them with regard to making goals. That all made sense to me. Amparo went on to complain about the referee in the game against Uruguay, who clearly favoured the Uruguayans. I am not sure how the referees behaved tonight.
So much excitement and hope transformed to sadness and despair. Ecuadorians really love their soccer, and are devoted to their chosen teams and to their Ecuadorian stars. There will be recriminations and anger and much discussion about what happened and why and how, but disappointment will prevail. Only four more years until the next World Cup.