My disdain for the Gold Cup is well documented, but my love for La Sele is undeniable. Friday night was just another reminder.
Despite my objection to CONCACAF’s championship — a tournament designed to ensure either Mexico or the United States lifts the trophy — I gave them $151 of my hard-earned money to watch Costa Rica play Honduras. It had been four years since I last saw La Sele in person — a 1-0 loss to the U.S. in 2013 — so I couldn’t pass this opportunity up. If you bring my national team to my backyard, I’m crashing the party.
Besides, I don’t know how many more years I’m going to have with my father. I need to make as many memories with him as possible.
This had to be one of them.
The day was supposed to be a glorious one. We packed the coolers. My pops had his Budweisers. I had my Blue Moons. Two Pugg goals were waiting for my son and nephew to play with, while my father and I enjoyed a few cold ones.
But nothing ever goes according to plan.
What should’ve been a 45-minute drive to Red Bull Arena turned into a three-hour nightmare. By the time we pulled up to the stadium, the gravel parking lot was at capacity and there was no access to the other one. I guess it’s because they’re not used to getting 25,000-plus at RBA, but tournament organizers weren’t exactly prepared for the monsoon of people flooding the BULLevard.
We had no choice but to look for street parking. Eventually we found it…1.2 miles from the stadium.
For those who have never met my father, he’s a 66-year-old disabled man with severe rheumatoid arthritis deformities, so that distance can be a lot to ask of him sometimes. I used to be embarrassed by it when I was younger, worried about the mean things kids would say when they saw him. Looking back, I don’t understand why I was being a little shit about it.
I don’t give a fuck now. My father is the best man I know, and his charming personality is intoxicating enough to lift the spirits of any room.
But I digress.
Adrenalized by the spectacle we were about to witness, he smiled the whole way there.
(Oh, that’s right. To add to our misery, a random fucking thunderstorm decided to hit 30 minutes before kickoff, so we walked in the rain.)
Now, I’ve never been to San Pedro Sula — nor do I ever plan to go — but I imagine it looks at lot like the BULLevard did. The music, the smell of salivating Baleadas, the mountain of empty beer bottles, everything added to the ambience that was El Clasico Centroamericano.
Since I wasn’t able to tailgate, a beer (or four) was in order before we made it to our seats. Being a Red Bulls season-ticket holder, I knew which spot to frequent for the fastest service. I reached for the cans of Blue Moon I ordered, but that’s when the woman behind the counter stopped me.
“No, you can’t have that,” she said.
“What do you mean I can’t have it?”
I wasn’t exactly following what was going on.
“Stadium policy” was all she could muster as she ineptly poured the Blue Moon into my plastic cup. I looked at my boy Pav — an emboldened American who decided to join my family and I — and just blurted out, “That’s incredibly racist.”
Let’s keep it real. I’ve been to RBA a hundred times. I know what the stadium policies are and what the typical MLS crowd looks like. To say the crowd at RBA Friday night was more “ethnic” than usual would be an understatement.
You really think it’s a coincidence that the “no can” policy was all of a sudden in effect? Do you really expect it to be in effect for the next Red Bulls home game?
I sure as fuck don’t.
Knowing how the powers that be felt about us, we made our way to our seats to see if we can live up to the hype. Shouts to the Catrachos because what transpired for the next 90 minutes was incredibly hype.
For every call of “Hon-du-ras, Hon-du-ras, Hon-du-ras,” there was an “Oe, Oe, Oe, Oe! Ticos! Ticos!” that followed.
It wasn’t the best 90 minutes I’ve seen La Sele play. Our lineup was weakened by a last-minute injury to Bryan Oviedo, and Oscar Ramirez didn’t exactly pick his best lineup, either. That’s a different article for another day — one I will write.
But to be there, surrounded by my family, my people and take in what was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, reminded me of how much I love this national team.
CONCACAF did accomplish its goal in taking my money for what is a meaningless tournament with systemic injustices, but for one night, I didn’t care. What Friday night meant to the 25,000 in attendance was something few in this country can relate to.
It was a moment to reconnect to our roots, our culture and the families we left behind. For me, a first-generation immigrant, it was exactly that.
We didn’t show up because it was the “Gold Cup.” The Gold Cup doesn’t mean shit. You can make up a tournament tomorrow, have the most unethical corporation sponsor it and we would still fill up RBA because that’s how we roll.
This was about pride, and two Central American nations wanted to put that on display. That’s what made Friday night the spectacle it was. Don’t cheapen it.
CONCACAF does that enough already.