Monthly Archives: Nov 2017

Barra Brava Catracha – The Copan branch

Dear readers,

¡Animos! Not the greatest performance against Australia last night in San Pedro Sula, finishing 0-0 and the away side playing the better of the two, but it’s definitely not over. An away goal for Honduras could change everything. I was at the game with Fox Sports Australia, the crowd turned up, but the team didn’t play their best. Some questions for Jorge Pinto, that I’ll expand on with Fox Sports Australia. Here are a few photos I took anyway.

Now I want to include an interview I had with a key member of the Barra Brava Catracha (BBC) supporters club in Copan, in the west of the country, not far from the Mayan ruins. Funnily enough I write the piece heading back to Tegucigalpa using a bus company that the interviewee works for, Hedman Alas. He goes by the name of Ruddy, and he hails from the rural town of San Marcos in Ocotepeque, close to the border borders with El Salvador and Guatemala.

“It’s difficult to know how many members [Barra Brava Catracha] there are in Honduras exactly. The number keeps growing everyday, more and more people joining, not just in Honduras but in other places. It’s a growing family,” says Ruddy. “We want to make it the official barra for the Honduran national team. It already feels like the official supporters group anyway. We are people who love the national team unconditionally. It’s very rare that we don’t attend a game.

“I went to see 12 of the qualifying games. The furthest I’ve traveled to watch the national team is Panama, and the first game I saw was an 8-0 victory over Jamaica in Tegucigalpa.”

The group is made up of people of all backgrounds, with some ex-players, semi professionals and amateurs joining. Ruddy has also had the opportunity to meet the majority of the squad.

However, long before the game last night, Ruddy held Australia with a high esteem. He not only foresaw the result last night, stating that it wouldn’t be won at home in San Pedro Sula like many had hoped, but Honduras would get a result in Sydney. “It’s a disciplined team with a European approach. They have reknown international players and we can’t underestimate them. I think we’ll get the result in Australia [rather than in Honduras].”

He also took a balanced view of how his country was being portrayed by some sections of the Australian press, deciding not to be too riled by the narrative and adopting a positive approach instead.

“If I have seen and heard many negative articles about our country people and culture but I am not bothered. Freedom of expression is global and I can not deny that there are negative things, but there are positive things too, with the best people, culture and team,” he says. “People from overseas fall in love with Honduras all the time with all the beautiful and positive we have, so authentic and original. Its incomparable, unequaled; a wonderful country. They can call us masoquists but what we are is inconditional. They call us delusioned but what we really are is realistic. You can call us crazy but what we are is Catrachos with heart and soul.”

The man from Copan also felt the negative press would play into Honduras’s hands.

“It gives both players and fans gives more momentum, to show the world the opposite to what they are told about our wonderful country.”

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Barra Brava Catracha – Part 2 – Alberto Pérez

Dear readers,

Another member of the Barra Brava Catracha supporter’s group I have met is Higinio Alberto Pérez Aguirre – also known as Roberto “El Pintor” – who demonstrates his love for the Honduran  team, as you’ve guessed it, through painting the players and coaching staff. 

“I am a Honduran who wants to excel, and hand in hand do what I like doing most, by mixing art with my passion of football. I’ve painted 35 footballers so far. I started with Bryan Beckeles [Honduran right back], one of my favourite players. Then I painted Alberth Elis, another of my favourites. I also paint players from Rayados, from FC Monterrey, and some from the Necaxa, in Mexico,” says Alberto.

Nuevo Leon, Mexico, is currently home for Alberto Pérez. He moved there 15 months ago, although he originally hails from Roatán in Honduras’s paradise Bay Islands, as well as taught Plastic Arts at Honduras’s Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Fine Arts).

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“I have sold all my paintings so far, which pleases me, as it means my work is of value to people,” he adds. “It takes approximately two days to paint one.”

People can contact Alberto on Facebook if they wish to buy one. He has painted the boss, El Profe Jorge Pinto, Honduran strikers Romell Quioto and Antony Lozano and midfielder Mario Martinez, amongst many others.

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Jorge Luis Pinto

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Romell Quioto

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Bryan Beckeles – the first of many paintings, and one of Alberto’s favourite players

In terms of the pending games against Australia, Alberto remains nervous yet confident.  “I’m very nervous and I’m waiting very anxiously for the game to begin – and beat Australia!” he says, “3-0 to Honduras. I’m sure of it!”

He says Honduras’s strength is their hunger to succeed, that despite some poor results during qualifying, they know they can bring a lot joy to the Honduran people if they win this match.

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Maynor Figueroa

However, he thinks his team’s weakness is its lack of concentration. Alberto concludes with a kind message to Australians, and encourages Socceroos to ignore a lot of the negative press about his country.

“Australia is a country of the first world and I know that they are good people. I would like to tell them not to be afraid to come to Honduras. Please Do not believe all the bad things that are said about our country.”

 


La Barra Brava Catracha – Part One – El Catracho

Dear readers,

One group that has particularly helped me with the articles that I have been writing for Fox Sports Australia, as well as helping clear my name after a spot of bother with a misinterpretation of an article (a story I’ll tell another day), is the Barra Brava Catracha; for both I feel eternally grateful, and certainly make me feel part of the supporters group. I have mentioned them in my articles, both on my blog and Fox Sports Australia, but I yet so much to tell you about them.

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For those of you who don’t follow the beautiful game, Honduras are due to play Australia in the playoffs to go to Russia. Having written previous articles about the Honduran team on my blog and for ESPN, Fox Sports Australia contacted me to commission some work. I have also loved watching the dramatics of the Honduran team, as you might have noticed, and as the country hots up for the games (and a presidential election), Honduran patriotism is coming to the boil.

 

Honduran patriotism, to put it mildly, is intense. But it is family-like, friendly, less about xenophobia and more about curiosity, and it’s something I’ve come to admire. We often speak of the Dunkirk spirit in the UK, about being brave and carrying on regardless. Well this is how Hondurans feel everyday, whether it be having the international media printing imbalanced views about the country, or the politicians making a mockery of the hard working people who keep the country’s motor running.

 

BARRA BRAVA CATRACHA

I got in contact with the group to give my articles some feeling, to let Australian readers understand what football means to Hondurans. And like I mentioned above, they have been very helpful. Fox in the end decided not to publish all the views of the supporters that I have received. However, I feel they are still worth more than their salt and deserved to be read – especially to make the Australians know what they’re letting themselves in for.

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They go by the acronym BBC, which of course during most my lifetime as a Briton I’ve associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation, but it now has a whole new ring to it. Before I go on, I must explain that the group isn’t at all connected to the club supporters groups, such as Las Ultras of Olimpia or Los Revos from Motagua, known as las barras. No. Far from it. They consist of family folk, ex footballers, from many walks of life.

“No somos mudos” – meaning “We’re not mute.” says Alex Panta Orellana, one of the leaders to group, from the Familia Orellana, who have done a fantastic job of promoting my articles and helping to clear my name (Le debo varias Salva Vidas!! En el estadio tal vez). He’s not wrong. They sing, chant and bellow out their every minute during every game. I’ve had various conversations with members of BBC, which account for over 1,000 men, women or children, living far and wide both in Honduras and around the world, one of which is a painter living in Mexico, to a segment in Copan, both of who will feature in coming posts.

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One of the founders and administrator of the group is Aldo Santos, who often goes by the name El Catracho, resides in Brooklyn, New York, working as a chef at Chef Catracho. He’s had quite a life. He says, “I was born in La Lima, Honduras, the same town as Carlos Pavon [famous Honduran striker in 90s/00s] in the northern Honduras. When I was 15, I was selected by Mario Griffin, the under 15 soccer coach at the time. I went with a friend from my hometown, and trained at the Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa for three weeks, then three weeks back in Lima. My guardian parents didn’t want me to travel to the capital, because my mom was organizing to take me to New York at that time, around 1986. It was hard to let go of my dream and start again in a new place. Full of ups and downs.

“My senior year in High School was the best time of my life. I was in the school soccer team and had teammates from England, Poland, Yugoslavia, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Colombia and North America. We made it to the New York final, the only time for the Staten Island high school to do so still to this day. I was the All Star Player of the year and won various other awards to help pay my first year in college, dreaming of being a soccer coach. But life got very difficult and I had to stop going to college.”

Although the dream as a player or coach didn’t work out the way he wanted, but he has brought joy to thousands of Honduran supporters, setting up events and pages throughout social media.

“The group was created during the final Concacaf qualifying round to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which was Honduras’s first qualification for the tournament since 1982. It began in the US with Honduran expatriates, but it has grown to Honduras and other countries, for people who love La H. We now have 1,000 members,” he adds. “When I left Honduras in 1986, I left with a tear in my eye. I vowed never to turn my back on my country, which is why I set up the Barra Brava Catracha.”

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BBC founder and administrator Aldo Santos with Honduran striker Alberth Elis

Don’t estimate the size of support for Honduras. While more than 8 million Catrachos live in Honduras itself, there are an estimated 7 to 10 million living outside the country.

The larger than life character has met quite a few of the players, and knows the Honduran striker, Alberth Elis, as well as the Captain, ex Wigan Athletic striker, Maynor Figuroa. He also follows Real Madrid and Marathón, one of San Pedro Sula’s sides. Since the moment Honduras entered the play off, he has been counting the days for the whistle to blow against Australia, posting messages like the following.

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“I can’t stop thinking about La H,” he says, “Even when I close my eyes I see them.”

“We’re of course happy to be there, in the play offs. Operación Canguro! We’re confident we can make it. We have the team for it. We’re ready.”

It’s true. Hondurans are more than ready. One way to gauge the mood of the fans, is ask the average taxi driver – in any city! One taxi driver named Rudolfo García in Tegucigalpa told me that he wasn’t impressed with Australia’s track record in playoffs, nor with the qualifying round, coming second to Iran and struggling about Syria, and only Cahill and Mooy as players of note. “3-0 in San Pedro. In Sydney, we’ll have Maynor and Elis. Vamos a mundial! 

“We have a better team and conditions on our side. They have more time to prepare. Nada más – nothing more.”

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Supporters with Maynor Figueroa

 

This view was shared with the Dallas segment of BBC, who also said they were confident, predicting a 3-0 win in Honduras and a 1-1 draw in Australia.

“We have height, speed and force. They’re our strengths. Maynor Figueroa is our favourite. He shows passion and wears his shirt with pride,” they say. They also encouraged supporters to get behind the team, act as the twelfth man in Honduras

And what words do they have for the Australian team?

“Our players don’t know the meaning of fear!”

TO BE CONTINUED……