As I sit here watching the Packer game in Ecuador from the comfort of my home, in HD, I realize just how amazing it is to be a Packer fan, and how much I love the sport. Then my mind wanders to about 3 months ago when I went to my first South American fútbol game. We didn’t tailgate before the game, but we bought snacks and beer once we got into the stadium and went straight to our suite for the game (yeah, that’s right, a SUITE..so cool!). It was nothing like I had imagined. The stadium wasn’t full, not everyone was decked out in their team’s gear, and they were relatively quiet until something exciting happened in the game. For me, American football involves: tailgating, screaming your head off the entire game, and a stadium FULL of crazy fans. So I though, “oh, they just must not care that much”. I couldn’t have been more wrong in saying that. Once the team scored the first goal, you would have thought the stadium was full of people, and that the team won the world cup right then and there. They didn’t; just a goal. There was puffs of red smoke from either end of the field (the team’s color), roars of the fight song from the fans, and even toilet paper being thrown over the fence and onto the field. Then once everyone calms down, they continuously cheer LOUDLY for their team. It quickly turned into a somewhat-familiar scene and stayed that way the rest of the game.
I’ve now been to 3 or 4 games in this suite, and I have become a huge fan of not only soccer, but of my new team, Liga de Quito. The suite belongs to the parents of a friend, so we don’t pay for it. My friend Alex and I have now learned one of the fight songs, and we sing along with everyone else (we’re still trying to learn more, but they’re hard!, and of course in Spanish). It’s also really difficult to yell at the players or refs in the same way you would with any other sport when something goes wrong, because we don’t know what the Ecuadorians would normally say. We’ve also been learning this, but sometimes when you get caught up in the moment, insults or vulgarities just come out in English, which then results in A LOT of stares from the surrounding suites. Just the same though, my Ecuadorian friends always think its hilarious that we’re getting into the game, so they don’t care if we yell in English or Spanish.
Now that my host family knows I cheer for Liga, they always let me know if “MY” team is winning or losing. Recently my host dad had the game playing on t.v, and I was in my room working on homework and hanging out with my host niece. I heard my dad say “goal para la liga! 1-0 ganando!” (which means they just scored a goal and are now winning). I shouted “GOOOOOOAAALL” as an automatic reaction without realizing I was in my own house. My host mom nearly peed her pants laughing so hard, and later my parents told me that meant I was finally a “true” fan of Liga. I still love my Packers more than any other team in the world, but now I have an Ecuadorian soccer team to add to my list.
Leah Zwiers is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.