April 2, 2009

¡Fuerza Albirroja!

Several South American friends tried to explain to us what a phenomenon soccer is on this continent, but it's one of those things that just has to be experienced. We are in full swing of soccer season now, it seems, with big games being played every few days on regular tv stations, between the national teams of various South American countries. Paraguay has played two games that I'm aware of--I'm new to this--and we quickly learned that the world shuts down when they're playing. Grocery stores and restaurants fill up with people watching the game, and it can get quite rowdy, I hear!
Today we hoisted our giant Paraguayan flag up to wave on the front porch, demonstrating our support. It was a crowd-pleaser here in the neighborhood, and we had several guys hanging around our porch just before time for the game to start (hint, hint). We were hoping for this, se earlier in the day Ken picked up cola and popcorn in anticipation of possible guests. At one point, 12 people were crammed in our living/dining room. YAY! They came IN THE HOUSE!! Two stuck around for dinner. They had to be coaxed, but this is quite a breakthrough.

PARAGUAYAN SOCCER: Things I've learned but don't necessarily fully understand yet (comments of explanation or correction are welcomed)--
1. You don't call this team an "equipo" like you do community or city teams. It's called instead, "seleccion".
2. This is a big deal--Paraguay is ranked #1 currently in the standings for South American teams. It's a points sort of thing, and the top four will go to the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
3. When you are encouraging someone, you tell them "Fuerza!" which is the equivalent of "Buck up, cowboy," or "Hang in there, girlfriend," or "Peace, bro." Well, you get it. Anyway, people are shouting "Fuerza, Paraguay!" all over the place. SIDENOTE: Here in the interior, where Guarani is the more common language, we use the word "Mbarate" on the cancha (soccer field) in place of "Fuerza," but same meaning.
4. They don't use mascots, like NFL or baseball teams. They do use nicknames, and that of Paraguay is La Albirroja (White and red), referring to the red and white striped jerseys they sport, patterned after the flag. They use this nickname more often than the official team name, so it took me FOREVER to figure out what the announcers and commercials were talking about.
5. Soccer is high-action, fast-paced, and I LOVE IT! I was cheering and fussing (and having my hair braided) while the game was on, and I think I was the loudest one in the house. I may have to venture out to a grocery store next time, so as not to scare our visitors.

If you're reading this through our blogpage, click below for pictures of the practice we attended...

People lined up along the fence (and on top of cars/trucks) to watch the national team practice. We were passing through the area last week and stopped to see what all the fuss was about.
I didn't know at the time who these guys practicing really were. Now that I've watched a couple tv games, I guess that explains all the excitement among the fence crowd, and why all the passing cars slowed down and hung out the windows!


  1. Good for you for getting into the spirit of things! I still don´t get the soccer "craze"....just not my thing! :)

  2. Thats really funny that you did not know it was the seleccion! there is nothing like soccer in SA.

  3. Soccer in Paraguay is amazing! I miss it a lot :)

  4. GREAT POST and GREAT GAME!!! I learned from hubs that there's a wild card for the 5th place team (between Latin America and Africa)to enter the world cup too. It's so neat to see how God will use futbol to build relationships, don't ya think!


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