Category Archives: love

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.”

 

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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……

 


Honduran national team, the weather and derbies

Dear readers,

Some of you might already know, but I’ve been doing some reporting for Fox Sports Australia in the run up to World Cup playoffs between Honduras and the Soccerroos. Going by the name of my blog, there’s no guessing in who I’m following.

I’m enjoyed it and so far, pretty much so good. My first story was a big miss due to a mis intepretation of various nuances from some sections of the media. However, a third story seemed to be a massive hit, which has landed me interviews on television and radio, which I will go into in a future post. I feel quite overwhelmed by the positivity I’ve received, and I’ve learned an awful lot about patriotism and the power of words, as well as how sensitive Hondurans feel about how they are portrayed globally. I already knew about it, but this has been a great reminder and a very good learning experience. I’ve gained a lot of friends so far, such as the Barra Brava Catracha group, who I will write about more in a post coming up soon.

I wrote this post yesterday for Fox, but they decided not to run with it. I have therefore adapted it and publishing it here.

Enjoy.


HONDURAN NATIONAL TEAM

With Eddie Hernandez out the playoffs, Jorge Pinto was left sweating after his first choice goalkeeper Donis Escober and Choco Lozano were taken off during their respective teams, Olimpia and Barcelona B. was taken off with a muscular injury in Olimpia’s derby game with Motagua. However, it seems they will be fit for Honduras’s crunch games against Australia.

In the meantime, Jorge Pinto has left fans and media guessing about his select 11, adding that he has a plan for Australia.

The press and social media were surprised by the omission of Ronny Martinez and Rubilio Castillo, and the call up of some lesser known players from Honduras’s provincial teams like Juticalpa. Los Catrachos will be buoyed by the return of Carlo Costly and Mario Martinez, but how the latter fits into a team already boasting a range of talent in defensive midfield remains to be seen. The one surprise omission which has brought little news is Roger Espinoza, also known as El Chino, a utility midfield man with Sporting Kansas City in the MLS, who won the English FA Cup with Wigan Athletic in 2013. The Honduran born, US citizen has been a fans favourite over the years, scoring a few golazos along the way. Pinto obviously sees enough talent in the squad to leave him out.

DERBY GAMES

What did my home city Birmingham and my adopted city Tegucigalpa have in common this weekend? Derby games! Both cities boast fiery rivalies in the city, with Birmingjam and Aston Villa and Olimpia and Motagua respectively. Yet this weekend, both derbies ended in 0-0 draws. Yes, the bragging rights mean everything to the fans in both cities, and both clubs want to claim the throne of el papá de ciudad. That’s where the similarities end though. Both Tegucigalpa’s teams are fighting to take top spot in the league, while Birmingham are locked in a relegation dog fight in the 2nd tier in the English leagues, while Villa, which now stars ex-England man John Terry, are in a rat race to return to the Premier League.

Back to the Tegucigalpa derby, both Olimpia and Motagua represent two of the country’s most powerful clubs, in which anything is possible.

Drama surrounds this fixture, and this weekend will be no different, giving supporters some reprieve of thinking about the play off with the Soccerroos. Just last season an Olimpia supporter invaded the pitch, collected the ball, dazzled two or three Motagua defenders before putting it away, while at the same time, Olimpia team took advantage of Motagua’s confusion and also scored, all of it taking place in injury time. Surprisingly, the goal stood and game finished 2-2. Click here to see the video.

While Olimpia could be labelled the Manchester United of Honduras, playing in very similar colours and being by far the most successful club, yet Motagua have won the previous two titles and currently sit four points clear at the top of the league, while Olimpia are 3rd.

The club’s supporters were mocking each other on the sport’s radio show La Potra Hn on Friday night, who called me while on air to talk about an article I’d written, about Olimpia beating Santos of Costa Rica penalties to claim  the Torneo Liga Concacaf the night before, with Motagua supporters were raining on their counterpart’s parade, claiming the victory was only region’s 2nd tier cup, the Europa League of Central America.

WEATHER

Talking of rain, Tropical Storm Selma entered Honduran territory on the Pacific Coast on Saturday evening, bringing torrential rain to the south side of the country. Honduras has already experienced heavy rainfall throughout the country, with has brought flash floods, landslides, overflowing rivers and reservoirs, one of which left a dam on high alert. It’s brought considerable damage to some poorer neighbourhoods in and around the northern towns and cities, claiming a number of lives.

That being said, emergency services have been quick to react and civilians have been helping one another. Australian fans coming over will be kept well away from the more precarious areas and the game shouldn’t be affected; just remember to bring your waterproofs.

 

 

 


Honduras make it to the play-offs – part two

Dear readers,

Continued from previous post…

On Saturday, Honduras went to Costa Rica needing all three points to keep any hope of qualifying alive, while Costa Rica only needed a point to qualify. The omens were not good. The optimism I spoke of in the previous post had deserted me and I was preparing for the worst. I sat through most of the game playing with Vicente or reading Dr No. I grew into the game after a while, seeing that Honduras had changed their style somewhat, frustrating the Ticos with short quick passes, being more compact and defensive, hitting the opposition on the counter with more clinical and cunning attacks; in short, Honduras playing to their strengths. It was more Italian or Mourinho than the mediocre caos we’d seen before. Pinto had changed the formation, at last, from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1. I didn’t know of many of the players, but Maynor Figueroa, the former Wigan Athletic and Hull City defender, lead by example from the back. The whole back line looked more organised, and Emilio Izaguirre, who in my opinion has always saved his better performances for Celtic, who for once looked interested on the left. Johnny Palacios was cracking skulls and intercepting crosses, and Beckeles, who is usually unfairly made the scapegoat when things go dire, was solid on the right.

Pinto seemed done with certain midfielders. Mario Martinez, the hot-headed little oik who has never fulfilled his potential, is lost in the depths of a team in San Pedro Sula; the former Wigan player, Roger Espinoza, who I think was one of Honduras’s better players, hasn’t appeared in an age; Wilson Palacios isn’t anywhere near contention; and Andy Najar seems permanently crocked in Beligum.

Instead, he selected Bryan Acosta, who now plys his trade for Tenerife in Spain, and Alfredo Mejía, who with his beard looks more of a thinker than a footballer; just as well because he plays his club football in Greece. The two did a superb job of keeping the ball and shielding the defence, the providing short, quick passes to the attacking front line that included Romell Quioto on the left, Alex Lopez in the middle and Elis on the right, then the giant Eddie Hernandez, who plays for my Honduran club, Motagua.

The team looked organised. Of course, the keeper Escober was kept busy, but they were convincing, keeping the ball out of their half by passing it out neatly, then running with the ball when they reached the opposition’s half. And the stats speak millions: Honduras’s 11 attacks to Costa Rica’s 6. But Honduras were bossing their opponents, and Costa Rica’s emotions were beginning to spill over.

Mid-way through the second half, Eddie Hernandez pounded a header into the back of the net. Cue many foul mouthed celebrations from my wife. It was game on and Costa Rica looked a bit lost and desperate. Then, in the 90th minute, the Ticos were awarded the golden ticket when the referee summoned a mysterious six minutes of injury time. Apart from a few scruffs and arguments, the game was pretty flowing and six minutes seemed excessive. The Honduran bench thought so too, and vented their rage at the assistant referee, as did my wife, and for a few minutes, I worried for the smart TV’s life. Costa Rica took this as their moment to pounce. And they did, in the 94th minute.

A 1-1 draw and many complaints of being robbed. However, it was the best I’d seen of Honduras for some time.

The Mexico game, to be continued in the next post.


Donald Trump: What does he mean to you?

Dear readers,

This is an open question to you really. Personally I am not a fan, as you might imagine. We hear, watch and read mountains of news items about him, all with a political agenda in one form or other. Some believe he is saving America, other say he is corrupt, an idiot, sexist, racist etc. Are we to descend into a world of chaos or is it all hot air? The one view I have had most resonance with is from Noam Chomsky, who says Trump is being propped up by the more sinister side of the Republican Party. Yet, I think most politicians are a puppet to higher powers, in one form or other, right or left. That’s the game of politics.

Now, I don’t want to enforce my opinion too much, nor am I going to speak of his policies. This is down to you. Love him or hate him, write what you think of him. Try not to get angry or aggressive with people with opposing views and resort to name calling. This is a space for intelligent debate and views, to learn from each other, rather than turning to hate.

I look forward to reading your views.

Leave your comments below.


£200 million for Neymar?

Dear readers,

I love football. Those who read my blog regularly know that I do. I’ve loved it since the age of seven. My mother has always marveled how I hold useless football trivia in my head, rather than school work.

She might well be right.

It might be nostalgia, but I feel I loved football in a more romantic age, when normal men were doing superhero flashes of skill. Take Maradona, or even Peter Beardsley or John Barnes. It made football more exciting, because on some bizarre level, you identified with the players.

The money in the game is well documented, along with the scandals and transfer fees, and they have always been there. They’re not going away. And the players, the Ronaldos and Messis. They are outstanding sportsmen, amazing athletes, up there playing head tennis with the Gods. And their stats tell the story.

But, in my humble opinion, it feels that these players like should be performing like that, considering the amount they’re paid, how much the clubs charge the fans and the TV money involved. And it’s this that brings me to the conclusion that the magic is being seived out the game. Don’t get me wrong, the Messis and Ronaldos work hard and perform well, but it’s no longer a surprise when they score an overhead volley because they do it every week and they are paid huge amounts of dosh. Call me envious, you might be right. I understand they still have to go out there and do the job, while taking smacks, kicks, criticism etc. However, if they scored the same overhead volley while tied up, playing the violin and dressed as a dolphin, I might stop yawning.

Yet again this summer we’re seeing even more millions being spent on transfer fees and wages, especially in the Premier League, for players I have never heard of. Daniel Levy, the Tottenham Hotspurs director, has already spoken of the other clubs’ irresponsible behaviour in the transfer market and the importance of balancing the books, and I agree. At the same time in the UK, I read in the British press that NHS is going up in smoke, poverty on the rise, and reports of yet another economic crash on the way; the whole football industry it feels a bit morally bankrupt to me.

Then we have the recent insane bid for the Brazilian superstar Neymar. He currently plays for Barcelona. Paris St Germain have reportedly bid around £200 million. Yes. Catch your breath and read that again. £200 million. For a football player. One man. There have been other crazy bids that have given me a wet fish slap over the years, but this one makes me question whether the sport has spiralled out of control.

I’m not naive enough not to mention shirt sales and other revenue he can bring to the club. Just think though, one rash challenge could wreck his season, or worse, his career. You wouldn’t wish that on anyone, yet it happens.

Some say the money goes back into the game, but I’m less sure about that. These deals go to the club or the agents, etc. I could go on all day, yet I want to see if there’s anyone out there who thinks this is good for the beautiful game. At the moment, it’s a sport I’m increasingly becoming detached from. Well, that is until the Premiership kicks off again in two weeks or so, but until then, I’ll sit and remain in disgust while the game spins out of control without a ball being kicked.


Two years married, with many more to come

Dear readers,

Pamela Cruz Lozano. She’s lying next to me right now. She’s looking at pictures of dogs. Our own, Vicente, is outside, in need of Valium, as do many five month old puppies. Pamela is my wife.

Two years to this day, this very moment, we were walking down the ailse. I was a couple of gin and tonics to the good, a little something to settle my nerves, courtesy of my cousin Sam (we later danced to his song, Poets). I was sure of everything going well, as I was about (and still am) about spending the rest of my life with the woman next to me now, as woods and barks echo from her phone.

I remember the lamp toppling over and Jordan Kenny and Dennisse Cruz Lozano being the best man and maid of honor swallowing the bread of Christ, despite them being more atheist these days than Richard Dawkins. I remember nearly toppling over as well taking the rosary beads to the statue of Mary. Friends and family surrounding me. Pamela with happy tears in her eyes.

We wed at the church in Miraflores. Our house now stands a stone throw away. I sometimes take Vicente there for walks around the car park. Churches have always given me a sense of peace, as it does for many, even before I became Catholic. But these walks always remind me of that night. That life-changing night. That moment.

Strangely, with all the superstition surrounding weddings, we just had a black month in the house. Usually this is associated with bad omens. Death even. Yet in other cultures it’s an out with the old and in with the new, the mark of positive times to come. My wife, being the bubbly and positive, have helped me think the same way.

So let the moth be a great omen, after an already couple of great years of marriage.

Te amo mucho.