11 June 2010

Game One

After watching Mexico play to a 1-1 tie against South Africa, I can report that your average Mexican's reaction to kissing his sister is exactly the same reaction that anyone else would have—relief when it is over. (I do not have a sister, and therefore, I speculate.)

I went to sleep last evening fairly confident that this one was in the bag for Mexico. La Mexicana insisted that we go up town to Los Milagros to watch the opening ceremony that was broadcast here at 7:00 a.m. Hell, I have never been up town at that hour.

Nobody there but a few folks cleaning up.

Los Milagros is located just down from the main plaza on Relox, which was utterly deserted at that hour.

In any event, it was not until I saw the opening ceremonies that the ramifications of this home field thing started to come home to me.

During the opening ceremony, large numbers of South Africans were allowed to gather in the middle of the field and do what clearly appeared to me to be indigenous war dances.

They even brought out a giant African scarab beetle and allowed it to roll around a fútbol. The South Africans in the crowd went wild. To make matters worse, the South African team was allowed to dance and sing belligerent South African songs together as they came onto the field to warm up. It was then that I realized that the Mexican team was in for a rough slog.

Meanwhile the crowd at Los Milagros was just gathering.

Our good friend Stephen, the musician, attended with us along with Simon from the tennis courts.

I am used to the Budweiser girls working the crowd in sports bars where I come from. Here it was the Corona girls. This one is distributing horns and inflatable clackers. Unfortunately, La Mexicana got her hands on a horn and a pair of those inflatable clackers.

I would love to have a word with the guy who invented those inflatable clackers.

I am not going to compete with the professionally done game summaries that are all over the internet. Suffice it to say that the Mexicans came out firing—Dos Santos peppered the net--and came up empty. Late in the first half and early in the second, one could easily see things start to swing around to the South African side. Sure enough, at 55 minutes Tshabalala put in a very pretty goal after breaking away.

The unofficial nickname of the South African team is bafana, bafana, meaning “the boys.” Apparently in the Zulu language, when you wish to make a noun plural, you simply say it twice. Which makes sense. A whole bunch of boys would therefore be bafana, bafana, bafana. And so forth.

So there we were down 1-0 to bafana, bafana in the second half. Old Cuauhtémoc came into the game at 68 minutes. Javier Hernández at 72 minutes. Those substitutions resulted in the loudest cheers of the day in Los Milagros, other then the cheering for Mexico's tying goal by Rafael Márquez at 78 minutes. (I told you that he is important.)

South Africa came very, very close to the upset. Katlego Mphela hit the left post at 89 minutes. I honestly do not know why Óscar Pérez was in goal for Mexico rather than Ochoa. I guess because he is the veteran.

Óscar Pérez, not just another pretty face in goal.

In any event the goal keepers for both teams did well with both of them pulling off one truly world class save each. At 59 minutes Dos Santos sent a blistering shot toward the upper right corner of the goal that would have tied the game then and been a great answer to South Africa's goal four minutes earlier. However, Itumeleng Khune laid out high to deflect it.

In this game two very pretty goals and two very pretty saves, one of each for each side.

The crowd at Los Milagros was—how shall we say this?--a mature one. This is Catherine, an American expatriate who wandered in to watch the game without reservations. We invited her to our table. She turned out to be a very lively gal. Speaks great Spanish.

Los Milagros was as billed. Professional service, which is not always the case in Mexico. Great food. Affordable. Just a little higher end place than I had in mind for this event. Tomorrow afternoon I plan on watching the United States of America play at a considerably seedier place, Manolo's.

We will try to find a place with young people in attendance later. This was the wrong game, at the wrong place, at the wrong time of day for the emotional roller coaster one normally experiences watching Mexican fúbol with Mexicans. We will be in the middle of one of those before this thing is over.

Afterward one saw a lot of Mexican people out in the street and at work today with their fútbol jerseys on, but no trucks careering through the streets loaded with fans blowing horns. Everyone just seems quietly happy to have escaped the loss.

How did I get caught up in sports again? To say nothing of the fact that the sport in question is fútbol. The lesson is, never say never.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I just finished watching the other two teams in Group A, France and Uruguay, play to a 0-0 tie. So when all was said and done today, the position of the teams in Group A is exactly the same as when the day began.

My old American pal, Wings, summarizes the experience of watching “soccer” this way: “Something's going to happen! Something's going to happen! . . . .Ooooh. Nothing happened.” You just say that over and over again, and you have replicated the experience of a soccer game, according to him.

The end result today in Group A? Everybody got one point, and nothing happened.


Bloggerboy said...

Interesting local flavor, Steve. You forgot to mention the pretty clear MExican foul in the penalty area that prevented South Africa from scoring 2-1 on a penalty shot in the second half. Otherwise, I thought the officiating was pretty good. Mexico underperformed.

France looked pitiful. There clearly is something major wrong with the team. The trainer sounds like an eccentric. The tensions among the team players were obvious. Poor Ribery did not have anyone worthy of setting up a play with until Henry came in, and he was allowed in much too late in the second half.

I sure hope today's England-USA game proves more worthy of World Cup play.

Señor Steve said...

Great comments, Bloggerboy. Thank you very much.

I am relatively new to this sport. Based upon my reading, I understand that Mexico has a long, long history of underperforming in the World Cup. Mexican fans are fatalistically aware of this.

Even I could see that the France/Uruguay match was mediocre. That French crew is clearly an unhappy one. Very testy all the way around. This is a game that is supposed to be fun, and they are not having any fun at all.

Señor Steve said...

By the way, I am watching Argentina and Nigeria right now. 1-0 Argentina at the half. An entertaining game.

This Nigerian goalie is fantastic. The guy has been under siege, but he won't break. He has stopped everything that is at all stoppable. The game would be at least 3-0 Argentina were it not for his performance.