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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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……