One of the earliest memories of my childhood was watching my friends playing soccer in front of Grandma’s house. During these impromptu matches, it was nearly impossible to cross the field on the way to the market without getting hit by one of those balls. I had the same issue at school where all the boys loved to terrorize anyone who dared to cross their soccer field. Annoying as they were, I don’t begrudge their tactlessness because Futbol is our passion. We live for it.
Honduras is a country where a pursuing a career in professional sport is nearly impossible. For starters, there isn’t nearly enough funding, and many have to settle for cheaper pastimes or more practical pursuits. Although Latin culture is known for putting the ‘man’ in sportsmanship, women have shown passion and tremendous skill in the game. As is expected, the fever of fùtbol increases during the World Cup.
For me, it’s almost impossible to follow all the important leagues out there, but I don’t miss any games during the World Cup. You’d be surprised to read about the statistics of women excelling in this sport. Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about the stunning performance of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team. Our team has won three Women’s World Cup championships, four Olympic gold medals, and seven CONCACAF gold cups.
Yes, my friends, women can play soccer too!
For Hispanics to say that futbol is in our blood might sound like hyperbole, but the sport is inextricably ingrained in our hearts and minds. Futbol is the most popular game in the world. Let me tell you a story, during the qualifying round of the 1970 World Cup, Honduras prevailed against El Salvador’s national team in a narrow one-nil victory. In a later encounter, the Salvadorian team defeated Honduras 3-0. Qualifying for the World Cup is a big deal; the tension between fans builds to the point where the true meaning of sportsmanship becomes obscured by competition & nationalist pride.
A lot of fans were badly hurt and police had to intervene to calm the heated crown during both games. During the subsequent match in Mexico, El Salvador beat Honduras 3-2. While the teams were squaring off in the arena of professional soccer, the Honduran government’s recent agrarian reform program sparked a row in the diplomatic arena by barring Salvadorians from working in Honduran territory. This set off a crisis that culminated in the “Futbol War” or the “100 Hour War.” This brief, but savage, war left 4,000 people dead and turned 15,000 into refugees. This was followed by 11 years of frozen conflict until bilateral relations were restored in 1980.
Needless to say, futbol served as both a microcosm of and a channel for the mutual hostility between both countries.
Futbol and politics would once again become entwined during the 2009 military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. It began when Zelaya attempted to revise the Honduran constitution to further centralize power within his own clique. The coup was immediately condemned by a quorum of nations, including the United States. The situation worsened when the new military administration cut off all media communication to forestall a countercoup by forces loyal to Zelaya. The coup additionally exacerbated social divisions in a nation already rife with latent conflict between the haves and the have-nots.
Human rights abuses also abounded as curfews were instituted and civil liberties and due process were indefinitely suspended. Yet, amid all this turmoil, a faint glimmer of hope and unity dawned on the horizon.
The Honduran national soccer team, Los Catrachos, qualified for the 2010 World Cup after winning 1-0 against El Salvador. It was the first time Los Catrachos attended a world cup since 1982. This helped forge a renewed sense of unity among Hondurans, while the fissures opened by the coup slowly healed.
On the day of the much-anticipated match against Chile, all business in the country ground to a halt as the enraptured public stopped to listen to the national anthem before the game. It was a special moment that reminded the Honduran people of the duty of all freedom and peace-loving people: to triumph against adversity on the path justice and national reconciliation.
While waiting for my coffee at Starbucks a few days ago, I noticed an ad on the bulletin calling for women who’d like to be part of a women’s soccer league. I took the phone number and thought to myself, why not? There’s nothing wrong with feeling the intensity of a good sport or exulting in the indelible bonds it creates.
Viva el Futbol!