Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Things to Know About the Colombian Soccer Team, circa June 2014

This was the scene in Cali last night outside our local salsa bar. Though writing about sports does not normally fall anywhere near my parameters of interest, the English-language coverage of the Colombian soccer team has been rather appalling, so I thought I'd throw in my five cents.

Some things I find interesting about the current Colombian national soccer team:

1. The current coach, José Pékerman, is an Argentinean of Russian-Jewish descent, and is only occupying this position because the Colombian coach was removed due to domestic violence problems. (Pékerman is actually the second replacement coach: the first replacement, Leonel Álvarez, lasted only a couple of months.) You could take this as evidence of machismo in Colombia, or you could take this as evidence that machista attitudes are no longer being tolerated precisely because the dude was removed for domestic violence. Either way, the new coach has been a huge boon to the team; the general consensus is that Colombia wouldn't be where it is right now without him.

2. Colombia is playing without their star player, Falcao, who has been out injured. James Rodriguez has now usurped Falcao as the team idol as he has scored 5 goals in 4 matches (making him the highest scorer in the whole World Cup so far), and btw his name is pronounced HA-mez. For further pronunciation illustration and general goofiness, this video replaces the word "jamás" (never) with "James" in a silly tribute to yesterday's win.

2. The whole "choreographed goal celebration", or "varied dance routine(s) that have surely taken much coordination", as the NYTimes so inaccurately described it, is called salsa choke and was not invented by the Colombian national team. Every male or female who wants to have sex under the age of 35 in Colombia's Pacific region knows how to dance this and proceeds to do so at street parties and discotecas every single weekend. Mario Yepes and Pablo Armero are from Cali and Tumaco, respectively. They probably taught James the dance screwing around in the locker room. And yes, of course I have video evidence:

(and actually, if you read the comments some people are actually making fun of James for being tieso, or stiff)

And here is the Ecuadorian team dancing to salsa choke a couple of years ago. Other that the ridiculous eye candy this video provides, if you look around minute 6:30 you can see them teaching each other the basic dance, which is almost identical to the dance the Colombian national team is now famous for "choreographing." To be clear: I write this not as a critique of the Colombian national team, but rather as a criticism of the total lack of background research done by English-speaking media.

Here is the original song playing in the background-- the song is from Cali, as salsa choke is a uniquely Colombian genre, though the Ecuadorians have clearly taken to it quite nicely. New salsa choke (also called salsa urbana) comes out all the time, but this one has stuck around for the last couple of years.

4. The sale of alcohol was banned on game days in Bogotá after 9 people died in the capital due to being drunk and stupid after the first 2014 World Cup game. After the second 2014 World Cup game, the sale of alcohol was banned in Cali as well. Why people have such a hard time celebrating without killing themselves/each other I will never understand, but many of the players are now saying some version of "let's hope for a peaceful, violence-free celebration" in the post-game interviews.

5. Colombia has never gotten this far in the World Cup, and people are pretty over-the-moon about it. That said, they have had their fair share of soccer legends, including "El Pibe" Valderrama, Freddy Rincón and most insanely, Rene Higuita, see below:

And that's all she wrote. I guess we'll just have to wait until Friday to see what's next for the team, when they go up against Brazil.

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