Don’t rub your eyes! You are not dreaming! Guatemala are world beaters in Football…well almost. Last Sunday (19/04) saw the final of the 24th World Football School Tournament between Guatemala and France, right here in Xela. The tournament, for both boys and girls, involved 31 teams from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas competing to be champions. The Guatemalan girls’ team made it all the way to the final, navigating their way past tournament favourites Finland, and beating a strong German team 2-1 in the semi-final. In the final they played France, who had beaten the Guatemalan “B” team in the group stage 8-0. After draw in 90 minutes the game when to shut-outs. Each player had 15 seconds to dribble the ball from the halfway line, before attempting to score past the keeper. France prevailed 3-1 to be crowned tournament champions, but what an incredible achievement from the Guatemalan team!
Let’s be honest, football in Guatemala is pretty shit. Most players run around the pitch like headless chickens (to coin a popular football/soccer phrase), on pitches that would not look out of place on a farmer’s field. Most players rarely stay at a club for more than one year before skipping over the rainbow, in search of that new pot of gold that is lying in wake. Also (like a lot of things here) there is a real lack of money going into Guatemalan football, though someone did manage to scrape together $1.5 million to get Lionel Messi to play in a friendly game back in 2013. Messi, of course, decided to come (I mean I would dress up as a woman and sing “I Will Survive” on national TV for that kind of money) scoring three goals, with a great value of $500,000 per goal. A good hour and half’s work don’t you think?
Currently the men’s national team is ranked 90th in the world, sandwiched between such world giants as Angola and Morocco. These are the sort of teams that would strike fear into the heart of any opponent. The national side are still waiting to qualify for a World Cup, though did enjoy some success in the 1960s. Closer to home, local team Xelajú are having a spectacularly average season. The team are currently 5th placed in the table, 12 points behind the leaders Comunicaciones. To be honest, most Guatemalans are more interested in “supporting” Real Madrid and Barcelona (glory hunting much) than watching, or showing interest in their country’s own football.
So it maybe it is time for a change? Perhaps more people should start watching women’s football in Guatemala, rather than the men’s. Currently the women’s national team are ranked 83rd place in the world, seven positions higher than their male counterparts. In fact the highest position that they have reached in the ranking is 72 back in 2006, while the men’s highest position is only 73. Obviously you are all starting to see the pattern emerge here. So next time you are asked by one of your friends if you want to go and check out the football (soccer!), make sure to ask if its men’s or women’s. We could be witnessing something very special take place.