Monday, November 21, 2011

#21 Hang out with the Hooligans Part 2: El Clásico

We arrived in the car and entered through the yellow metal gate. No vehicles were allowed beyond this point. I streamed in with the swarm of Peñarol fans. They looked like bees with their black and yellow jerseys. They were headed to the hive: Tribunal Amsterdam. There were two choke points and the bees wanted to get in. However, both were long and moved painfully slow. The sun beat down on us as if mocking us while the police let in so few at a time it was torturous. We trudged forward eager to gain another step. The only thing that broke this monotony was a Nacional fan flying the tricolor flag over the edge of the stadium. The whole hive pointed and chanted in unison mocking him.

After being packed sweaty body to sweaty body in the unforgiving heat I arrived at the line of police. He stopped me and then shoved me through like garbage. He wasn't nice about it. Then the next line was the pat down. Not nearly as thorough as those in Arrowhead or the airport. It didn't bother me it was actually better than those in the states.

With 20 minutes until game time we rushed through the ticket entrance and into the stadium. The hole swarm was there clad in black and yellow. We had arrived, we were home. Thankfully we found an ice cream vendor and bought some popsicles that melted almost as fast as we could eat as we tried in vain to cool down. There were no seats so we positioned ourselves in a spot where we could see the field as the sprinkler protected the well-kept grass from the unrelenting sun.

I looked around the stadium across from the hive was the energetic tricolor of Nacional (Tribuna Colombe), to the left the VIP's(In my opinion the worst fans, but they have money) split between the two, and to my right tricolor fans that scarcely moved(Were they alive? This is El Clásico!).

Suddenly the tricolors got loud. Confetti filled the air, their flags waving from side to side, and red flares shining brilliantly. As specs of white entered on the far side to my left a barrage of fireworks went off. Then a gigantic flag red blue and white flag began to slowly unfurl as soon as it was completely unfurled it rose back to the top of the stadium so quickly that in five seconds it had disappeared.

We chanted for Peñarol while the black and yellow streaked across the field. As soon as they were spotted confetti was thrown into the air. Yellow smoke bombs were lit as the smoke filled Tribuna Amsterdam so thick that we were breathing through our shirts. Suddenly a black and yellow sheet raced over head.

Our flag had arrived and for about 30 seconds we were all one under the yellow filtered light. It rose quickly out of sight and the sun once again struck us.

The game had begun. To my left in the center of Tribuna Amsterdam the drums sounded loudly announcing the battle had begun. That was the heart of the hive where it lived where all the chants started. The heart constantly moved jumping their arms pointing to the tricolors and chanting we are Peñarol through about ten different songs. They always chanted. They never stopped. Every now and again it would catch on and the whole side would be caught up. Especially when the bees made it close to the net or the black evil that is the referees made a bad call. Thankfully, the sun hid behind the clouds, so the temperature once again bearable.

The first half we watched as goal opportunities came and went. The guy in front of me puffed on his blunt, so the air constantly smelled of weed. His smoke wafted back into my face constantly. When the air was close to losing that smell a fresh puff arrived as if a glade air freshener was in front of me. A collective ahhh after every miss from the hive followed by a renewed chanting effort as if we could move the ball into the goal or make the bees play better. We gave them our energy.

The refs missed calls. "Amarillo!(Yellow Card)", "Concha de su Madre!", and "Puta" were shouted. One white jersey with deliberate force knocked down a bee. The yellow never appeared despite the cries. I began to wonder if he had left his yellow card at home. Then a white jersey went down just like a few bees had done before. The little yellow card came out with authority. The tricolor cheered loudly echoing throughout the stadium. We renewed chanting trying to give the bees strength.

All of a sudden it was over: the heart stopped. I didn't even know. I couldn't see the time the only screen was so far away it was unreadable, I had lived high and low with the bees. We had yet to feel the joy of a goal, but neither had the tricolor.

After what seemed like an eternity. The teams reemerged. The heart began to beat again. The boom of the drums echoed the chants began again, the people jumping, the flags waving, the umbrellas held high in the air. It spread across Tribuna Amsterdam we were alive even though it wasn't quite at its previous strength. Without a goal the chants became more infrequent the enthusiasm lessened. The heart was still beating, but the rest of the hive was much more subdued than before.

Then it happened. GOOOOOOOOOOL! The hive was in a frenzy. I screamed that primal yell that only sports can bring. We were all brothers. We hugged as we jumped up and down. We were finally ahead.

The flag descended again as we reached for it creating ripples that showed the hive's energy beneath. The drums boomed louder, the chants as loud as at the beginning of the game, the bang bang of fireworks sounding one after the other in rapid succession. The flag again ascended rapidly unveiling that the game had continued during our celebrations.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye they answered. The tricolors became alive again the red flares shone, fireworks went off, and flags waved as their roar traveled through the air. The hive was silent. 5 minutes passed and then 10 minutes. Outside the heart of the hive was silence as a light rain began to fall. The only noise came from the hearts of both sides the rest of us watched intently to see who would win as each side missed opportunity after opportunity. We got a red card. Finally the refs seemed to be making fair calls, but it didn't matter much. We wanted a goal, we needed a goal. The silence indicating our collectively held breath as we waited.

As white streaked down the field on the right side he went to kick to the center. It struck the hand of one of the bees. Penalty Kick. It was a death sentence. The guy to my right whispered something in Spanish. I didn't know the words ,but I knew what he was saying, "Miss it. Please miss it." He didn't. He tore off his shirt the tricolors roared and minutes later the game was over.

Both teams ran to their respective fans. We gave them another chant to show our support to show that even though they lost they had played well. They should've won. I was going back to family of Nacional, but I knew I was a Carbonero, Manya, a bee, I was Peñarol. It didn't matter we lost we had played better and less like animals(in my opinion). They had committed foul after foul. Their fans cheering sporadically whereas our heart beat steadily with few interruptions. I am a Cyclone, a Chief, and a Jayhawk hard losses are nothing new. They are temporary, but pride is forever just ask Paul Rhoads.

Skip to 01:00

We trudged silently through the soup of paper that the rain had made out of the confetti. We ducked under a lifeless, small black and yellow flag and trudged down the stairs. We streamed out. To my left was a yellow barricade with 30 policemen lining it; watching us intently. Five of them with dogs ready to move at the first sign of trouble. We weren't the barra brava(hooligans), we would cause no trouble, we filed toward the string of buses. The silence was broken only by a few murmurs. We found our bus and entered to more silence. I watched as people trudged along towards home. Back to the world; a world away from the hive.

Even the bus seemed to crawl as it left. It was only Peñarol. Bees trudged home around us until we arrived at La Cruz(The Cross). Tres Cruces is the very heart of the city and that is where I first saw a tricolor walking. At the heart of the city we began to mix tricolor and Carbonero back into Uruguayo. The pain was still there. The silence on the bus was suddenly broken by shouts of "Puta!" & "Hija de Puta!". I knew what had happened a tricolor had entered our bus, our little hive. One of the female bees girls shouted,"Que culo teneis", a painful sting. We stung the intruder with our insults until she left. At the next stop a particularly angry female bee took off running back in the direction the intruder had came from. She was going to try to sting her some more. I didn't think much about it, I didn't want to.

We arrived at our stop. Back in the real world; the hive left behind. We walked as I dreaded entering the den of the enemy, but I couldn't deny who I was. I entered they centered on Jacho the only Peñarol fan in the family. They didn't know who I was. I said, "Peñarol". The son said it was the effect of all the marijuana as if I didn't know. Oh well, they jabbed at me. I knew it was coming; it wasn't that bad.

Then I got to dinner. Oh I had to defend my decision at a table of Nacional fans. I had Jacho next to me. His brother made me eat my words I said I didn't like black and yellow(Iowa, Missouri). I told him I hadn't actually seen them play. It had changed, but now it won't. Chevy probably one of my best friends in the family made sure I knew my decision. He said, "My opinion of you has lowered" and asked how I could possibly make a decision off of one game I told him I saw enough.

The tricolor passion was not like Peñarol(read the lyrics if you know Spanish)Se me ha Perdido el Corazón por alentar a Peñarooooool! On top of that a Nacional player had deliberately knocked the other down, not a normal foul,(just like the Oakland player that threw a fist as a stiff arm). I also think they look too French, but I didn't say that. He said they're both like that and he may be right, but still I knew . I endured a barrage of taunts, nothing Iowa fans hadn't prepared me for. I told him the story of the Cyclones. You have today, but when we win I will throw it back...and then some. It didn't matter what they said, I had my team I could sleep at night because I didn't pick a team just because they had won or lost that day.

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