Dec 17 Cultural Experiences Pt 1: El Partido de Fútbol.
A night of questionable calls, littered field and high scoring — Real Estelí pulls out a national championship a man down in extra-time.
It was my first professional soccer game the night of our return from Miraflor. Well it wasn’t exactly professional. Nica soccer isn’t necessarily the best in the world, but it was the national championship between Managua and Estelí — it was exciting the fans sure loved it.
The line wrapped around the entire stadium, as Hannah and our two American friends, Scott and Kayla arrived. Locals were dressed in Real Estelí jerseys and hats. Peddlers selling horns, balloons, hats and flags attacked us, coming in waves. Scott was close to caving, and continued to wish that he bought a horn throughout the game.
Tickets were supposed to be 50 cords, but Scott managed to avoid the seller’s eyes, so the first rounds of beer were on him. Dinner consisted of a delicacy — tortillas with soft cheese and cream. At first glance and smell I was skeptical, but they turned out quite tasty.
Inside, the place was erupting. We found sideline seats adjacent to the Estelí crazies. From start to finish they hollered, jumped and hammered on drums, as purple smoke every once in a while smothered the crowd.
The match was as much as a circus. The refs homered Managua. Every foul went in favor of Estelí, and Estelí thrived. Shots scattered on goal throughout the first half at our end, but nothing fell. Then Managua got a break, taking play coast to coast and tipped in a lucky first goal.
The crowd went silent for a moment, but it was only the eye of the storm. Next came beer cups and water bottles falling from the stands, drenching the visiting goalie. The refs didn’t budge, and the cops in front of us allowed it all.
The second half was much more exciting. Estelí rallied back, and as time was running out they looked to be the victor up 2-1, until the first red card was called in the game — it was on Estelí. The crowd was furious, shouting and throwing cups and water again. This time the ref was the target.
Managua scored on a penalty kick outside the box. Tie Game.
The four of us looked at each other, and thought how bad the crowd could get if they lost. There was a troop of riot police at both ends, especially in the visiting corner, where every row had a cop, dressed in riot gear and ready for war.
But as those thoughts rose, Estelí scored on a gorgeous crossing play in extra-time, and order was restored.
And after a lost and drunken stumble home, I found the hostel without the help of Hannah. Oh it was a night of firsts from ordering my first beers to cheering on a random team, but it was a win.