A couple of weeks ago we spent the weekend with some family friends at their beach house. To get anywhere on the coast from Quito easily, you fly to one of a few coastal cities (in this case my favorite — Guayaquil) and drive an hour or two. This is a rather common weekend activity for people in the sierra.
After a weekend at the beach — and very good ceviche in Salinas — we hopped in our rented economy car to head back to the Guayaquil airport and catch our fight to Quito. Little did we know we were about to be surrounded by a swarm of cheering Barcelona fans in a veritable victory parade! Barcelona is the soccer team of Guayaquil, and it is the main team representing this coastal region. The team has been down and out, nearly knocked into a lower division in the past few years, but they have improved recently and were back in the running for national champion. Sunday there had been a major game against Deportivo Cuenca in the race for league champion.
There is only one road from Salinas to Guayaquil, and it had been taken over by this impromptu parade. Fans on motorcycles, or bikes, hanging out car windows or off the backs of pick-up trucks surrounded us! Bright yellow jerseys bearing beer ads and the Barcelona crest decorated every body, head, flagpole and car door. I think we counted 27 passengers in one pick-up bed straddling the edges to wave their flags high. Several trucks and cars carried giant speakers blasting the Barcelona theme song, and the discordant “beep-beep … beep-beep” for “Bar-ce … lo-na” could be heard for miles. When the parade had squeezed three lanes of traffic into a two-lane road, they spilled over into the oncoming lanes, forcing oncoming traffic to either pile onto the shoulder or just join the parade.
So Barcelona must have won the match, right? In fact, they lost, 1-0 to Cuenca.
But the numbers worked out in their favor. For non-soccer fans, this may seam confusing, but the tournament is based on a number of points earned. Points are related to the number of goals per match, and as luck would have it, the other match that was played the same day, between Independiente del Valle and Liga de Loja, ended in a 0-0 tie. The lack of points in the other match left Barcelona with just enough points to go on to the next round.
This whole festival was the celebration of squeezing through by default, even if you don’t win the game. So now Barcelona will participate in the national championship final.