On the weekend before the Super Bowl, I never would have imagined spending Sunday afternoon watching a live fusbol match between Cochabamba Westermann and LaPaz Strongest. My host invited me to join her son and friends for what she referred to as a dose of "cultural enrichment" and I must say I wasn't disappointed.
To be frank, Bolivia may be considered perhaps the doormat of South American soccer, since it must share the same continent as perrenial powerhouses, Argentina and Brazil. Yet, that doesn't thwart the citizens love and spirit for the game.
Having been an avid sports fan my whole life and, having attended many an event, it was fascinating to feel the pulse in this stadium. Even though I grew up before soccer became popular in the U.S., so my knowledge of the game is regretably minimal, I watched as every fan identified personally with the action. Choosing sections and seats in the stands depended on how intensely you felt like rooting.
It is not my desire to measure sportsmanship nor weigh in on the merits of the game, all I wish to express is, that I was struck by a genuine intense collective feeling among the fans stronger than I have witnessed at any college or pro game. To understand the meaning and importance of this activity requires growing up in the culture and, in truth, might take years to grasp. These generally soft-spoken, quiet people came alive during the game. They bought food and souvenirs in prodigious amounts and commented vociferously about the quality of the play and officiating.
Then, after the game ended, and the crowd exited the stadium and walked to their cars or buses, even though the local team had won, the stillness I have so acutely sensed since I arrived in Bolivia, suddenly returned. For me it had been an exceptional day on my Amizade adventure, and as far as I was concerned, one worth shouting about!