Photo: Celso Flores
ARGENTINA IS STRONG, too strong: whispered guilt from the hotel desk clerk as I step out into the whipping rain of tropical storm Alex.
One hour before the match alleys clang with the chugga-chugga-chugga of steel curtains drawing down over market stalls. Green jerseys everywhere, cuidad Cancun seems to be digging in for an athletic assault against the very concrete structures of Mexico.
The white and pale blue of Argentina’s jerseys is the armor of an invading army whose pre-game formations shake the foundations of the city to be sacked.
Alex whips palm fronds down a drizzly single lane. A crowd fills the patio in plastic chairs. Flat screen TV’s are pressed against the glass and the man at the taco stand is begging for carpal tunnel, feverishly hacking at pig meat to supply carnitas to futball fans who, as the game threatens to begin, can hardly contain themselves and so eat voraciously.
I can contain myself. I am good at containing myself, but I want to leak out into this crowd. I want the jeers and energy and tacos and booze to penetrate the leathery membrane of my ego.
I flag down the waiter who sneers at me like I smell like dog shit.
I don’t smell like dog shit but I need a beer if I am going to to to catch up with the crowd and not just gaze at the World Cup antics from the double paned window of sobriety.
I order one beer and the waiter brings me three beers and three tacos, best deal ever, period.
The ball is paced between the opposing teams and with a belligerent battle cry from the bar the game is afoot. Shots are fired on goal and women shriek. The ball sails between the two teams and we clap and curse and stand and sit.
The Mexican goalie tackles the oncoming ball but the Argentinean striker pops it from his grasp and in another second it is sailing towards the goal. The bar raises its hands, a woman releases a barn burning bellow as a clearly off-sides striker places the ball in the net with his head.
I don’t speak Spanish but the saliva being propelled from snarled lips could only portend the foulest of language.
The second and third goals come with diminished returns of agony from the bar.
It’s not like we thought we would actually win.
When the score was even at zero there was a magic in hoping that odds can be toppled and David can conquer Goliath.
Nobody much is yelling anymore. Beer bottles tip upwards and limes are squeezed.
In the 71st minute of the match, on my 3rd beer, Javier Hernadez receives a pass in the penalty box and squarely places the ball into the net, saving Mexico the team and Mexico the country from a total shut out.
The crowd doesn’t erupt, doesn’t cheer.
It sends a cloud of ash into the stratosphere that will circle the Earth for 3 years.
Hugs, shrieks, strained tendons cradling vocal cords that refuse to quit.
Tables tip over.
Women are groped.
We are on our feet.
Demands for tequila come as soon as it is possible to be hear above the roar. The waitstaff move about the scene distributing shots.
Anything seems possible as chants of ‘Si se puede!’ from our bar are taken up by one neighboring bar, then another, until it seems that all of ciudade Cancun has found its rally call.
Well, anything but an actual victory.
What are your favorite World Cup memories so far? Who is your team to take home the trophy?