Litegua runs around the clock so a red eye from Puerto Barrios on a comfy modern bus is no hardship. The 1:00am direct pulls out on schedule with a small band of viajeros on board. The wide leather seats do a 3/4 recline. padded legrests hinged at the bottom of the seatback in front of you fold down to meet the front of your seat cushion, add earplugs and the six hour trip to Guate disappears with the night. There's only an hour to spare but Linea Dorada is in the next block and soon the pullman class snoozing and cruising continue. In a little under twelve hours time steamy sea level Puerto Barrios is exchanged for the crisp clean nearly 8000 ft. air of Xela.
I'm slow off the bus and collecting my baggage and the taxis have all departed with other fares before I'm ready. Its all downhill to el centro so with gym bag strapped atop rolling suitcase I set off down the familiar cobblestone streets. Rounding the first corner its obvious that Xela is in full party mode. Streets are closed to traffic and are filled with vendors tents advertising beer, food, tequila, rum, and everything Super Chivo from hats to t-shirts to mini vuvuzelas. Its the beloved local futbal clubs 69th anniversary weekend and they're scheduled to play their top ranked rival. Los Chivos are number two in the rankings but a victory tonight would turn the tables and put them in first.
Although I don't roll in until 2:00 our friends at the Mini-Max lavenderia have mi ropa washed, dried, and folded by 5:00 for Q55. With just enough time to drop it at the hotel and chug on up to Mario Camposeco stadium I join thousands of fans to queue up for the 6:00 start. I pick the wrong line and wind up in the cheap seats with the more...uh...rabid fans. Q20 buys your choice of whats not taken yet in seating. I wander down the sideline and wind up with one of the plastic seat pans mounted on concrete terraces that form this side of the stadium. I've got a pretty good view of the field with the goal Xela will be shooting for in the second half close at hand.
Pageantry, ceremony, fireworks, free-flying commemorative hot air balloons carrying fire aloft, a BIG brass band, competing fan clubs with lots of BIG drums at opposite ends of the field, and vuvuzela blowers. I participate in several waves which still appear to be in vogue here, and as an added bonus within the first few minutes of play I've learned several new spanish words and phrases that I probably shouldn't repeat here.
At half time it's still 0-0 but at 36:30 into the second period the Super Chivos score the nights first goal and of course all hell breaks loose but in a good way. They hang on to withstand a couple of last minute charges and when the buzzer sounds Los Chivos are number one. This is the perfect excuse for much drinking and public urination but I slip away after scoring an awesome piece of fanwear for Pammy. On the walk back to el centro a three wheeled cargo carrying tricycle hastily dumps a dozen or so bags of garbage in a park and then speeds off into the night as fast as he can pedal. Ah, Xela!
A night of Guatemalan futbal with ten or fifteen thousand fans probably doesn't rival Arsenal or Madrid but it is an awful lot of fun. The non-stop nature of the game works well live surrounded by partisans. No time outs, no replays, no challenges, (when do they advertise beer and chips?) no concussions, no steroid pumped mutants, just twenty two well conditioned athletes running their butts off for 90 minutes while doing amazing things with their heads, feet and torsos.