A dirt field, concrete bleachers, and five teams of adolescent athletes gathered on a milky afternoon in Chaco to celebrate Ecuador’s passion, “futbol.” The province of Napo had organized the games as part of an inter-canton tournament. (“Cantons” are member states roughly equivalent to counties in the U.S. Trivia: Switzerland divides itself into cantons, too.) Other competitions included basketball, wrestling, soccer, chess, and even Tae Kwon Do!
Kevin’s oldest son, Ezra, plays for the Archidona team. They had succumbed in their first game to Napo’s capital, Tena, but rallied to win the next two. Now Archidona hoped to claim second-place in the tournament by triumphing in this fourth and final game.
Chicharrones (pig skin) and flavored popcorn sold for less than a dollar
Kevin’s second son Joe gave me a taste of pig skin — it reminded me of rice krispies
Ezra plays goalie on the team
They call Ezra, “Santiago” or “Santi” here for ease of pronunciation
Ezra guarded the goal like a gazelle and gorilla, rolled into one
The kicking impressed me…
…and the headers abounded
Chickens! On the field. Yes, really
The parents screamed encouragement and advice from the stands
Eso! (That’s it!) Adelante! (Forward!) Vamos! (Let’s go!)
Also, ‘watch the ball!’ and ‘be careful!’ By the end, Rachel and I were shouting, too
One of Archidona’s defenders, Sandi, stood taller than most of the players
The Archidona team relied on his defense–
–any wonder why?
Ezra shone on defense, too
He led the team from the goalie box
It helped that he spouts Spanish like a native
The opposing team from Arosemena snatched a few saves of their own
Archidona kept pressing, though…
…and we scored a goal early in the first half
Meanwhile, the referees mixed in with the players
We shrieked, “Arbitro!” (referee!) when we disagreed with their calls
This ref lost the cloth of his flag; Kevin jumped up to help replace it
Archidona ended the game 2-0 — GANADORES!
On our way out, Kevin bought us oranges, Ecuador-style: They scrape off the stinging peel in rings to allow for sucking out the juice
Mountainous areas like Chaco typically suffer colder weather than elsewhere in Ecuador, but that day the sun shone just enough to toast our faces. Slightly sunburnt, we escorted the silver medalists back to their hotel, then departed once more for home at last.