OMG. Never have I seen such hype, such excitement, such pure joy on the faces of Ecuadorians as when The World Cup (please note I capitalize out of respect) is discussed. I was in Cuba when that last World Cup ended and Spain won and I thought it was crazy there. Nope. That was nothin’.
First, you have to understand that everyone here has been filling official FIFA sticker books with FIFA approved stickers of players, teams, team insignia, and stadiums. You might think I am talking about kids when I say everyone. Nope. EVERYONE. Grown adults are trading stickers so that they can fill their sticker books. (Including some people I know very well. I’m talking about you, E!!) Each weekend at the mall near my house, it is FULL of people yelling out names and numbers of stickers as they desperately try to complete their books. IT IS NUTS.
Second, the entire country is decorated in World Cup decorations. Decked out from head to toe. Yellow, blue, and red is EVERYWHERE. The malls are strung with the flags of every country that qualified for The World Cup with Ecuador being the biggest and best flag. Ecuador didn’t qualify for the last World Cup so this is a big deal.
Third, my school stopped classes and brought the entire student body down to the auditorium to watch the opening of The World Cup. They got a big screen and herded everyone in to watch. The school popped corn and handed it out in little bags and everyone was thrilled to be there. What I found amazing is that somehow the kids could feel when Ecuador’s flag or jersey was flashed on the screen before it even happened. It was uncanny. Kids might be talking to each other or munching on the popcorn but all of a sudden there would be screaming and then “ECUADOR! ECUADOR!” would begin.
The opening game between Brazil and Croatia started at 3 when I was headed home from school. I stopped at the mall to get something at the grocery store (grocery stores are found in the mall here) and it was completely deserted….except for the third floor food court. When I was leaving the market on the second floor, I was startled by extremely loud cheering coming from the third floor. I decided to see what was up and hopped on the escalator. What I found upstairs was AMAZING. People, from all walks of life, were crammed into the food court because of the TVs and EVERYONE was cheering and shouting and hanging out together smiling. Men in suits. Women with babies. Teens on the way home from school. Everyone together smiling.
I’m still not very interested in soccer – well, football. But I can appreciate how it is bringing the people of Ecuador together. :