06 April 2011

Soccer on the Rancho

One of the greatest negotiators whom I have ever encountered is named Fortino. I came to Mexico two years ago thinking that I knew something about negotiating. This man has taught me a think or two. I could get my truck washed much more cheaply at one of the many car wash stands in town. I would rather pay more to Fortino to do it out of a bucket at curbside just for the experience of negotiating the price with him. He is relentless. In fairness, he waxes the truck, too, which would be additional cost at one of the stands. Nevertheless, every time I walk away to get some coffee while he goes to work on the truck, I walk away certain that I have been skinned.

Over time I have gotten better acquainted with him and now with his family. On Sunday I was invited to accompany the family to a soccer game--fútbol here--in which Fortino's son-in-law, Hadin, was to play. I think the fact that the family needed a ride to the game might have had something to do with this invitation. If so, so be it. Because it was a great experience.

Fortino and the extended family live in poverty in one of the poorest neighborhoods in town. Seven live in a cinder block shack with no plumbing at all. None. When I say none, I mean none. Fortino and his wife, his daughter and the son-in-law and their toddler, his son and the son's pregnant girlfriend all share these quarters. Having now visited this place, I am going to complain less about overpaying Fortino for his work. It was sobering. Yet, the hospitality was everything I could have asked for

As it turned out, the game was at a rancho far out in the countryside. These ranchos are sprawling affairs with several different kinds of livestock operations, several different crops--this one included a hazelnut orchard--and horses of course. There are many hands employed on one rancho. There was a little grocery store situated in the middle of this particular one. You have to visit a rancho to appreciate the vastness of the operation.

Also, in the middle of many of these ranchos in this area, is a fútbol field. Teams from the various ranchos play each other on these fields on Sunday morning. Hadin is a member of one of these teams.


These photos depict the scene in the vicinity of the playing field.


The sheep pen abuts the sidelines of the playing field.



It was the same game.They played it with as much intensity as if they were in front of thousands at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

The game was complete with a referee who struck me as remarkably competent. As is the case in all fútbol games, the spectators were not shy about disagreeing with him.


These are the opposition's fans cracking open some cold ones underneath the tree behind the north goal.

In anticipation of halftime Fortino and I went to the company store and purchased tomatoes, canned tuna, and avocados along with bags of tostadas and Coca-cola. Fortino diced the tomatoes, tuna, and avocado and mixed them together. We slathered that spread on the tostadas.

This is one of the opposition's fans dropping by for a tostada or two at halftime. Superman, I call him. I liked this guy immediately. Perhaps you can see why in his face.

Then it was back to the game. The stands, as you can see, consisted of a log.

La Señora's face--this is Fortino's wife--is one of my favorite faces. It is a face that that projects stubborn strength.

And Hadin. I have a career in mind for Hadin, and it has nothing to do with fútbol. It has to do with putting on expensive clothes in order to show them off to best advantage for a fashion photographer.

It struck me, as I watched the game, that in remote places all over the world that weekend, vast numbers of people were gathering together at local fields to watch friends and family play fútbol. It is a nearly universal sport of the people, including the dispossessed. No question about it. At the same time a minority of privileged others were inside in front of a television with the air conditioning artificially cooling them, watching highly paid strangers play other games. That was my profound thought of the day.

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