Colombia vs USA

Today is Friday, June 3rd, 2016 and it is Colombia vs United States in the first round of La Copa America and I’m super excited. I feel absolutely fucking awesome every time the Colombian national team plays. I love soccer and I’ve been watching the national team play since I was a kid.

I grew up in Southern California, in Orange County (South of Los Angeles). I was fortunate enough to watch the 1994 U.S. national team practice for the World Cup right in my own backyard (Mission Viejo). Therefore, I’m a huge fan of the U.S. national team as well.

I have a pretty awesome 1994 World Cup story, so in this blog post I will be recounting it.

Meeting the Colombian 1994 World Cup Team

Monday, June 20th, 1994. This was one of the greatest days of my life! It was the day I met Colombia’s famous 1994 World Cup squad.

I was 13 at the time and we (mom, dad, sister (12), brother (3), aunt, two cousins, and my grandmother) drove up to the hotel in Long Beach, California where the Colombian national team were staying.

When we got there at 6:00 pm there were already hundreds of Colombian fans waiting. After a few tense minutes the Colombian national team bus arrived and the place went nuts.

I was wearing my Pive Valderrama Colombian national team jersey, a Colombia World Cup 1994 cap, and had a squad poster and sharpie marker in hand. I was ready to get the whole team to sign it!

As the players got off the bus I was only able to get a glimps. They had a press event in the hotel lobby, so they scurried in. I was heartbroken. I could not believe that I was not able to get one single autograph.

Before I go on I must tell you about my grandmother (still alive, 80+ years old). She had 6 children, including my mom, in Santander, Colombia. If you know anything about Colombian women, you’ll know that the toughest come from Santander. My mom’s father died when she was 4 years old, leaving my grandmother to raise 6 children on her own and did a damn good job, she never remarried.

Now that you know the type of woman that my grandmother is you’ll understand when she bolted past the security at the front of the hotel, no one was going to make her leave. When I saw this I grabbed my sister and approached the mountain of a man at the door and with my biggest puppy dog eyes said, “…sir…um, my grandmother just went inside, she’s old and has dementia (a little fib), is it all right if we go get her?”

He looked at us, looked around (these seconds seemed to be an eternity), grunted and moved aside and let us in. We were in! I was so excited I could have pooped my pants, my heart was racing as I reached the lobby and saw Andres Escobar “El Caballero del Futbol” talking to reporters. I was speechless and froze. My sister had to push me to move forward.

As I approached Andres Escobar he saw me and moved away from the reports and came towards me. As he took my marker and poster he asked, “Como te llamas?”, I replied, “Como tu, Andres.” He smiled, patted my head and signed my poster, I reached out and shook his hand.

If you’re reading this you’ve probably watched documentaries on the drug violence in Colombia. You’ve probably seen the documentary on the 1994 World Cup and how the mafia influenced the outcome.

I’m 35 years old and I have yet to watch that bullshit. I refuse to let my memory be marred by that negativity.

I may work very hard at my business, own a house, have new clothes, new shoes, etc., but no material possession is more dear to me than this poster:

Andrew's Colombia 1994 World Cup team autographed poster

My Colombia 1994 World Cup team autographed poster

Meeting the United States 1994 World Cup Team

As I had mentioned before we were living in Mission Viejo, California at the time. That happened to be where the U.S. national team’s training facility was located. It was walking distance from my house and next to my school. Therefore, my friends and I would watch them practice almost every day leading up to the World Cup.

Before the start of the World Cup the facility threw a small party, inviting the local community, of course we all went and met the whole team. The most famous U.S. players at the time were Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda and Marcelo Balboa. I was also able to meet and get all of their autographs as well.

I’ll never forget their last training session; standing with my father, watching the team get on the bus to the airport where they would be flying to Michigan to face Switzerland, and my father (with my baby brother in one arm) calling Marcelo Balboa’s name and him turning to look at my dad, “Macelo! Duro con esos Suecos!”

That is one of those moments in life when you realize that your father is more than just your father, that he doesn’t just work all day, give you Spanish homework, make you laugh with dumb jokes, listen to salsa in the car.

I owe many things to my father, primarily my work ethic and my passion for soccer. I don’t have any children now, but when I do I can only hope to be half the father mine was.

Colombia vs USA 2016

Many people ask me, “Whom are you going to cheer for?” and my answer is always, Colombia. I’m in Colombia, I have to cheer for my team. But if Colombia loses, it doesn’t hurt as bad, I’m O.K. with a draw.

Regardless of the outcome, tonight we party!

Colombia in Copa America 2016 Colombia in the World Cup 2014 Colombia vs USA Colombia World Cup 2014