You may have noticed that the Guatemalan obsession with football got notched up a level this month. Or you may not have. The difference between intense and complete obsession is sometimes hard to spot. We are talking about a country where a crowd will likely gather to watch two kids kick a tin can around a dirt lot, after all. And really, love it or hate it, no discussion of Guatemalan culture would be complete without a mention of the F word.
Football, that is. Sorry, but it just wouldn’t.
Now, while the Guatemalan team is… shall we say lacking by international standards (number of World Cup appearances: 0), that doesn’t stop Guatemalans from watching every game that’s televised and in their ever-practical way, if Guatemala isn’t represented, they go for the next best thing.
It’s been noted that sports breaks down international prejudices, and XelaWho’s highly scientific Study of Football Jerseys Worn by Kids on the Street bears this out – the findings are that, in European Club circles, Guatemalans have an affinity with Barcelona, and when it comes to the World Cup, they adopt Argentina as their home team.
And when you consider what most Guatemalans’ feelings are towards Spaniards and Argentines, you see that a well-aimed shot for goal does more for global touchy-feeliness than a million UN resolutions ever could.
But why the heightened interest in the game right now? Guatemala’s actually doing OK on the world stage – they just got knocked out of the World Cup-qualifying CONCACAF Gold Cup competition in the quarter finals by Mexico (point of national pride: Mexico are defending champions and have won the competition more than any other country) and a Guatemalan team has qualified for the Under-20’s World Cup, to begin in Colombia at the end of July. It’s the first time that a Guatemalan team from any age group has qualified for a World Cup.
And if that’s not enough football for you, the under-17’s World Cup is currently being contested in Mexico (de facto Guatemalan team: Argentina), with the final on July 10th, while the Women’s World Cup (Argentina not represented, so de facto Guatemalan team: Brazil) starts a little later, with the final scheduled for July 17th.
That’s a lot of football, people – even by Guatemalan standards. Don’t expect for anything else much to get done until the under-20’s have their final in mid-August, and if you notice that your waiter’s attention is somewhat divided between you and the TV, be kind – the evil FIFA is feeding his addiction.