Club Olimpia vs. Cerro Porteño vs. Me

A while back I mentioned that I had plans to play soccer with some of the guys who work here at FP.  Despite not having the right shoes , my first attempt went pretty well.  Over the course of two twenty-minute games, I got lucky and scored three goals.  I also made at least five serious errors, bringing my overall score to a minus two.  Then I decided that American nationality gets me a one point handicap.  Throw on another point to make up for the beer the guys told me to drink before the game and I think we can call it a wash.   Given that the last time I had played soccer was freshman year intra-murals as a representative of John Jay 14, I was happy with my performance.  More than just being thrilled that I didn’t make a horrendous fool of myself, I had a lot of fun.  The guys were friendly, no one seemed to take the game too seriously, and when I scored the guys on the sideline chanted “Bien, Kiva! Bien!”

Then there was this week.  It was my first Wednesday back in Asuncion after working consecutive weeks in other towns (Caacupe, Ita, and Encarnacion).  On Monday morning one of the office managers had invited me to play and told me that this week’s game would be a round of El Clasico.  Instead of random groups of 5 playing against one another, this week the guys would align themselves by loyalty to one of Asuncion’s two most famous soccer clubs, Club Olimpia and Cerro Porteño.  Pick a side, I was told, and I’d be more than welcome.  Problem is, I don’t really have a team yet, and I certainly don’t own a jersey for one of them (more on that soon).  So each time the subject came up, I told them that I would play for whichever side needed an extra guy.   I soon found out that this was an untenable position.

I arrived at the field wearing my old Sevilla jersey, which I thought would be reasonably neutral–a little red for Cerro but mostly white like the shirts worn by Olimpia.  Two of my buddies from the Ita office, Jacinto (the guy who sang me happy birthday in Guarani) and Nacho, were already at the field.  They were decked out in Olimpia gear and told me that I was welcome to play with them.  Temporary allegiance in place, I figured I was ready to go.  Then one of the guys handed me his camera and asked me to take pictures of each team before the game started.  Hint #1 that there would be no fitting in for me that night.

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other...

The game is 5-on-5 plus a goalie.  After the first game finished, I stepped on the field with the second Olimpia group.  We were about to start when one of the guys looked at me and in a less than friendly tone said “We already have five.”  Asserting your right to be on the court/field for a game of pick-up can be a little tricky.  Doing it in another language makes it no easier.  Before I could respond, this guy came clean with his real gripe: “If you don’t have an Olimpia jersey, you can’t play.”  I looked to Jacinto for a little help as I tried to explain that I was new, and that I’d been told I could play with the team.  The guy was having none of it: “Everyone has a jersey.  If you don’t have one, go get one, or sit down.”

From the other side of the field, FP’s Executive Director Luis Fernando Sanabria was watching this awkward situation get more awkward.  He offered me his spot on the Cerro Porteño side, and I quickly trotted over.  The other members of the team couldn’t protest their boss’ gentlemanly move, so they at least pretended not to care about my wardrobe issues.  Soon after we started to play, someone on the sideline tossed me a Cerro jersey to wear, and all seemed well.  Until, that is, my teammates realized that I was American, and not very good at this game.  They quickly started getting frustrated with how the team was doing and yelled a bunch of stuff that I didn’t understand.  Soon one of them was pointing my way and saying “Cambio!” (sub!).

I subbed out at halftime and decided not to push my luck by playing in the third and final game.  Towards the end of the game, though, Cerro was losing by five or six goals, so the Olimpia guys tossed me one of their jerseys and told me to sub in.  So now I was back where I’d started, once again broadcasting my original sin, a lack of allegiance to either team.  But once the game ended and the beer started flowing, no one seemed to really care who had played for who.  Some of them even kept a straight face when they passed me a beer and told me I’d played a great game.

Rose was there to capture some of the game on film.  Basically it’s just me running around and failing to get the ball, but Rose’s play-by-play is pretty classic:

~ by nickcain on March 29, 2009.

4 Responses to “Club Olimpia vs. Cerro Porteño vs. Me”

  1. Great play-by-play, Rose!

  2. Wow, that might have been the highlight of my week. Cain, you have obviously improved your skills!

  3. Rose, I think you have a future in sportscasting. Love y’all!

  4. […] When you’re handed a cup of tereré, it’s easy to see that all guampas are not created equal: some are made of wood, some of stainless steel, and others of the more traditional ox horn.  But where they really diverge is in their decoration.  Many are wrapped in leather, with the owner’s name or business emblem etched into the side.  Just as common are those that come adorned with the logo of the owner’s favorite soccer club (also memorable: my soccer allegiance faux pas). […]

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