Saturday, June 6, 2009

World Cup qualifier at Soldier Field

Posted by Craig on 6/06/2009
Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Soldier Field hosted its first ever World Cup qualifier tonight, on D-Day, 6-6-09, and I was fortunate enough to attend. I was supposed to cover the game for Breaking Tweets, but at the last minute U.S. Soccer told us they didn't want us to cover it for a few reasons. Still, they were nice enough to let me and my buddy Jon go up to the press box to see it all as it happened.

I had my laptop and followed the action on Twitter, watching "Honduras" rise in trending topics, while monitoring the thousands of other tweets and dozens of TwitPics that streamed in during the game. It was a lot of fun. It was also cool watching the many journalists around us doing their thing - New York Times, Washington Post, ESPN, tons of Hispanic media outlets, etc.

I got there a bit early and soaked up the atmosphere before the game. When I got off the El, Honduras fans were everywhere. They swamped the area in front of Soldier Field too, and they were quite rambunctious. Many, I soon learned, came to Chicago from Honduras just for the game. You can tell how much soccer means to them.

Here's a few pre-game pictures I took:

The attendance was 55,467 and I'd say 70-80% were supporting Honduras - no lie. So post-game, it was a different mood. As I left the stadium, I noticed most were in tears. As Jon said, this is their Super Bowl, and in a lot of ways it is.

They had home field advantage - clearly - and I had said before the game I hope Honduras scores at least once for all these fans. Well, they scored four minutes in. And half the press box cheered wildly when they did (not kidding).

Here's a video of the Honduras goal from a Spanish broadcast of the game - love the "GOOOOOOL DE COSTLY, GOOOOOOL DE HONDURAS":

The U.S. bounced back on a penalty kick just before the end of the first half, compliments of superstar Landon Donovan. I was lucky enough to have a great view of it and took the following video:

The United States then added a header in the 69th minute and held on despite a late Honduras flurry to win 2-1.

I have to say, soccer's one of those games that just doesn't translate that well on television, but in person, it's electrifying (a lot like hockey, I think). And that's an observation from the press box. (We could hear a good deal from the stadium too, though, because someone had a window popped open.) The excitement of the game is unmatched and the passion of the fans, especially those from Honduras, was remarkable.

A quick shot from the pressbox (and yes, I'm on Twitter):

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