Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

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Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Más fútbol y un poco Inglés

It is a shame I'm not staying with a family containing a man who likes football, especially as last night me, Trev and Si went to see the Guatemalan cup semi-final second leg match between Xela (yay) and Communicaciones (boo). Xela were 3-1 down from the first leg.

It started badly as after about five or six minutes their best defender (judging from the last game) number 14 was sent off for a deliberate handball in the box, and a penalty awarded to Communicaciones. Fortunately it was a bad pen and the brilliantly-named keeper (el portero) Fernando Patterson saved it.

Unfortunately not too long later, after about twenty minutes or so, Communicaciones made up for that by scoring from open play. So Xela were 1-0 down, 4-1 down on aggregate, and had had their away goal cancelled out. Not to mention the numerical disadvantage they were at.
However, they didn't give up, amazingly piling the pressure on the team from the capital, and actually scoring! 1-1 on the night, 4-2 to Commu on aggregate.

Then Commu had a defender sent off for what I assume was backtalk to the ref, since it wasn't a foul. As I'm sure you can imagine, football here tends towards the chaotic at times...

So, at half time, it was 1-1, and both teams had ten men.

Five minutes in to the second half a Commu defender handled in the box and promptly also received his marching orders. There were now 19 men on the pitch, 10 for Xela, 9 for Communicaciones, and Xela had a penalty to make it 2-1 on the night.

Before it could be taken, the ref had to spend ages arguing with the players and generally sorting out the chaos. During this time one noticed that the Xela keeper had made his way up to the opposition's box. Long way to go to get involved, I thought. Then I realised: he was taking the penalty! This was of slight concern, as he had already revealed himself to be Lehmanesque with the ball at his feet. The stadium fell into a hushed silence. El portero stepped up, calm as you like, and slotted the ball in to the corner of the net. 2-1 on the night, 3-4 on aggregate.

The 9 men of Commu weren't beaten yet, though. Bravely they attempted to hold on and thus win overall. Particularly effective was the right winger, a black man. He did the usual hold on to it by the sideline and try to draw a foul type affair, and was good at it. I only mention that he was black because of the crowd's disgraceful reaction to him, shouting "mono" (monkey), "tu madre es una puta negra" (your mother is a black whore), and making monkey noises. Disgusting.

The match drifted on, the pace taken out of it by Commu, and it looked like Xela were fading out of the competition, until the last minute, when a corner from the left was nodded in by a sub striker for 3-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate. Absolute madness erupted in the stands, as I'm sure you can imagine. It was brilliant.

Indeed, the fantastic exuberance of those scenes was only beaten around thirty five seconds later, when, deep in to injury time, Xela scored again, making it 4-1 on the night and an unbelievable 5-4 on aggregate. What a match! The crowd went absolutely bonkers, everyone hugging each other and shaking each other's hands, jumping up and down, throwing flares and fireworks on to the pitch.

The final whistle went and the players sank to their knees, thanked God, cried etc etc. Smoke from flares and fireworks drifted thickly in the air, partially obscuring the sight of kid after kid braving the barbed wire-topped fences around the pitch in order to run on and get closer to their heroes on such a night. The ref was led off surrounded by the obligatory riot police (always happens at the end of games here) against a backdrop of ranks of hardcore Xela fans, waving flags and sparklers, jumping up and down, singing their hearts out. The captain and best player, Brazilian number 8 centre midfielder Iwerton Paes, ran to the edge of the pitch and climbed the fence part of the way to be closer to his adoring public, trailed by a group twenty children like the wake of a comet. It was marvellous madness.

Here's hoping they do well in the final...



Yesterday as part of my Spanish course, I went to a local school and spent an hour teaching Guatemalan children to speak English. I'd be lying if I claimed it was an entirely positive experience, but it did give me an idea of what conditions are like for people growing up here in one of the poorest countries in Central America. There were 40-45 children in the class, I tried to count at one point but they were packed in tightly so it was difficult to be sure. None of them had dictionaries, which makes teaching language a bit difficult.

Fortunately, I only had to teach them to conjugate English regular verbs, and help them with their pronounciation. Doing the former really made me realise why people say English is such an easy language to learn: the regular conjugation is almost absurdly easy. You take the infintive of a regular verb (we used "to read", "to write", "to talk" and a couple of others) and... er... remove the "to". In third person singular you add an 's'. So it's [I write - you write - he writes - we write - they write]. Compare that to the Spanish equivalent, which is approximately [yo escribo - tú escribes - él escribe - nosotros escribimos - ellos escriben] and you can see that in foreign languages verbs change a lot more!

That sort of simple stuff was what we were doing, getting them to fill in the blanks of sentences such as "The teacher ____ on the blackboard", and then getting them to repeat the sentences after me in order to correct their pronunciation. Unfortunately, in a class that size, with my control of Spanish, you have to get them all to repeat at once after you, which only helps those you can already do it - those who can't just don't say anything. Still, what can you do... I did my bit. And to think I considered it ridiculous when there were 35 people in my German GCSE class in school. At least we had dictionaries...

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