The Dutch treat proved too much for the Mexican heat. In an exciting rout, the orange managed to out-score the green at the end of the second half. But they had to fight for it. It also helped that the drama queen, Robben, Number 11, threw himself on the ground a couple of times–the last successfully putting the Dutch in a position to score.

Very small fan not watching the game, Sunday, in the Plaza de Constituyentes

Very small fan not watching the game, Sunday, in the Plaza de Constituyentes

The atmosphere here in Queretaro was charged, but tentative. The cuetes (fireworks) started going off early on a rainy Sunday morning, and the day broke sunny. I started out for Hank’s to watch the game, and hardly a person was on the street, or in their cars (in a town of 3 million). Green Mexican jerseys hung in shop windows, selling anywhere from 70 pesos ($5.50) to 300 pesos ($23). Faces were painted with the red, white and green. People carried radios if they weren’t inside. All ears and eyes were on the game, mine included.

Noise is an important element in Mexico, especially for something so world-shaking as the World Cup. Every TV seemed to blare from behind gates and walls, in small restaurants and in the Plaza de Constituyentes where hundreds of Mexican watched the game on screens set up under a huge white tent. A couple of bands played. At Hank’s, a waiter beat on a tray for lack of a drum.

At Hank's, fans cheered when Dos Santos scored

At Hank’s, fans cheered when Dos Santos scored

The first half of the game lifted all of Mexico. They seemed to hold their breath. “Classico,” said the Mexican standing next to me when Dos Santos scored. Ochoa, the goalkeeper from Mexico City should be cloned, a player who throws himself, arms and legs, into the game. I wish he’d had a couple more legs at the end of the second half. He didn’t anticipate the give-away kick that tied the game.
Everyone was in a tortaria (sandwich shop) on Corregidora all eyes are on the screen

Everyone was watching…here in a tortaria (sandwich shop) on Corregidora all eyes are on the screen

At the half, El Piojo, the coach, was seen advertising Melox, the antacid. He’s probably drinking a bottle of it now. But what a joy to watch him with his team! His nickname, The Louse, pokes fun at his wide physique, his less than stylish demeanor. So what. Eveyone loves him, a third-string coach who no one believed in except himself, and his team. And now all of Mexico. When the Dutch scored, he waved: “Bring it on.” At the end of the game, in the face of defeat, he was pale and cool.

Mexico should have had better defense, they said in the plaza…

Still, I like to see Mexico up and running. They often sell themselves short. But they have heart and spirit. They are winners, as far as I’m concerned. My four sons all played soccer. When they lost, their Dad would say, it’s how you play the game. “Yeah, to win,” they would say. Maybe. Winners come in all colors, sometimes orange, or red. And sometimes green. If you don’t have heart, and spirit, what’s the point?

I have to agree with Francisco Goldman, a writer for The New York Times who writes about Mexico and says the style of a soccer team often shows national character. Of Mexico, he says, “I see a team without stars–gritty, hard-working, pretty humble, resourceful, creative, disciplined, joyous, friendly-seeming players … These are values that we see enacted and re-enacted all over Mexico and in Mexican communities elsewhere, everyday.”

They played the game. They are an inspiration.

The views expressed are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the Peace Corps.–Nancy Nau Sullivan, University English Specialist, Mexico