I've watched soccer fans milling about in front of Atahualpa stadium, buying T-shirts on the streets, bringing in large water bottles full of beer, getting snacks from El Español, entering the stadium en masse. I have seen fireworks, phalanxes of riot police in position, and heard chants and cheers and screams and songs amplified in our living room. We finally had the opportunity to go to a soccer game tonight. It is the national championships and 'Deportivo Quito' was playing against 'Barcelona' (from Guayaquil). One of the Barcelona players is our neighbour and there are several other players who live in our building.
We bought $15 tickets and walked over to the stadium when the game started at 6. Fireworks were flying as we entered. We entered the 'Barcelona' section by mistake and were told that with Eric wearing a 'Quito' jersey, we had better move to the Quito section, which was far larger and in a better location in the stands. If we had paid $35 or more, we could have joined the more exclusive section of the stadium. As we left the Barcelona section, the ushers traded our torn tickets for someone else's complete ones and we walked over the crowded part of the stands, full of avid fans in dark black or blue jerseys. There was a drum section and lots of singing and chanting and beer and snack vendors walking around.
The game had begun, and it took a while to find space to sit in our section. The stadium was far from full, perhaps because it was a Sunday night, and early in the championship. Our section kept up a constant chant, and used the most foul language when their team did poorly or received a bad call. And fouls there were many and bad calls even more frequent. This is a dirty game, and the players try to get away with all sorts of unsanctioned behaviour, most of which they did get away with.
Deportivo Quito did well the first half, controlling the ball and encouraging the fans. Halftime came too soon, and nothing happened while we waited for the second half. An Energizer bunny hopped around the track circling the soccer field, while an huge blow-up bunny waited at one end of the field.
During the second half, Barcelona became more aggressive, although Quito made more shots on goal. There were more and more fouls called, angering the Quito fans, and bringing out more and more foul language. Both teams were tiring visibly, and in the latter part of the second half, Barcelona made a goal. There was a Barcelona fan in our section who cheered for the goal, and those close by began to throw beer at him and go after him. Riot police were immediately involved trying to defuse the situation. When I looked back on the field, there were riot police amongst the players, and the goalie was getting a red card and thrown out of the game. The Quito fans were even more furious. I had no idea what happened, and there is no video replay in the stadium (no stopwatch or halftime show or electronic gadgetry of any kind, just the basic, grass, goal posts and balls). The rest of the game was messy, with exhausted players, and repeated fouls and at one point my favourite player received a red card too. I have no idea what his name is, but I liked his style of playing. I could not see what he did to deserve a red card. The playing fell apart after that, and when the game ended the riot police surrounded the referee and line umpires to escort them from the field.
The Quito fans were listless and disappointed, but filed out of the stadium peacefully; of course with riot police everywhere wearing full battle gear, shields and batons, no one was in any mood to cause trouble. I really did not feel too upset. I was not sure which team to root for anyway. I do not feel as negatively about Guayaquil as many Quiteños. The fans near us were using horrible words to describe their rivals. I would have been equally comfortable sitting in the Barcelona section, and cheering my next door neighbour.
We all enjoyed ourselves; the fans were entertaining, the game kept our attention, and with the antics of the players and the referees and those near us on the benches there was never a dull moment. Why had we not become soccer fans months ago?