Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Paraguay vs. Argentina

September 9th, 2009

I know most of my readers probably don’t fully appreciate how huge of a deal fútbol, or soccer, is in Paraguay, and specifically how HUGE the Paraguay vs. Argentina game is and was, so allow me to educate you...

First of all, I would be comfortable in saying there are more people in Paraguay who go to soccer fields around the country than Church on Sunday. Fútbol is a major deal in Paraguay, as in most other Latin American countries, and indeed other countries around the world.

Up to this point, Paraguay had only ever beaten Argentina once. Argentina has historically had very successful soccer teams and is the single most hated rival for Paraguay. The fact that Argentina usually has a great team and has beaten Paraguay in all but one contest combined with the fact that Argentina is the dramatically more economically successful next-door neighbor explains the roots for such a heated rivalry.

So now that I’ve set the stage, allow me to explain the happenings of September 9th, 2009, yet another day that will live in infamy in the minds of the fanatical Paraguayan soccer following.

Peke, my best friend in site, my host sister, Tati, and I were all huddled around a small television in Tati’s apartment upstairs. It was a great game. Paraguay scored a goal in the 29th minute, and nearly scored twice more in the 1st half, hitting the posts each time, which had Paraguayan soccer fans around the country jumping out of their seats. After that, it was a long defensive struggle. Even though there was only one goal scored, it was a classic game. We were on the edge of our seats as Argentina nearly scored several times in the second half, but in the end, Paraguay held the hungry Argentineans off and edged out the victory, securing their place in South Africa for the World Cup!

As soon as the whistle blew, Paraguay, including my town went CRAZY. David had beaten Goliath. Paraguay had beaten Argentina for only the second time ever. Peke and I jumped up and started high fiving, screaming, chanting, “Paraguay, Paraguay, Paraguay.” We ran to the window and started shouting as bombs exploded all over the city. Within minutes, there were hundreds of cars and motos parading through town flying Paraguayan flags, playing loud music, and honking. People were out in the streets dancing, jumping up and down, giving high fives and thumbs up, cheering, setting off fireworks, and chanting in celebration of Paraguay’s big victory. After the big parade, we headed down to the town plaza where we hung around watching as people revved their motos, drank, and generally socialized and celebrated. It was an amazing atmosphere. Oh the simple joys in life...

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