Tale of the Ticket

The Gold Cup was a lot of fun, if you like riots

In a game featuring Peru versus the United States, Peruvian hecklers deride the Americans as a U.S. player chases down a loose ball. "No puede, gringo!" No way. Later, when the Americans take the lead on a cross to veteran forward Kobi Jones, the antagonism increases. "Mata a los gringos!" he bellows. Kill 'em.

Well into the second half of the game, six extremely gringo Americans show up in a row filled with Peruvian fans, the Americans brandishing printed tickets. After considerable acrimony the Peruvians are evicted. For the rest of the game, one of the refugees can be seen and heard, sitting a few rows back, complaining about the Americans' gall: "Actually wanting to sit in their own seats!"

The first game runs long on Saturday. As a quarterfinal match between the United States and Colombia enters a second overtime period, Honduran fans waiting for their game to begin fill every seat on the stadium's north side. They dance and do the wave and drink beer as the sun shines on them. On the field's opposite side, two muscular young men tussle in the seats just below the press box. No cops or ushers break up the fight, even after one of the combatants tears off his shirt to expose his thickly muscled torso. Friends of both fighters eventually step in.

As the Honduran and Peruvian teams prepare for kickoff, the biggest commotion in the stands comes not from the game, but from the presence of the Bernaola twins. The two Playboy centerfolds (January 2000) sit in the center of the stadium, maybe twenty feet from the field. They sport identical outfits of tight-fitting jeans and Peruvian national team jerseys, white with a red sash across the chest. Distracted on-field photographers turn their telephoto lenses on the blondes. Reserve members of the Peruvian team smile and wave. Ignoring national pride, a steady stream of fans from both teams lines up to stand between the models as friends snap pictures. When Peru scores a quick opening goal, the women go nuts. Three minutes later Peru scores again, igniting a paroxysm of flag waving.

Across the field thousands of Honduran fans, shocked to be losing, grow increasingly edgy.


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