Exciting atmosphere. It’s 2:10 in the afternoon and outside the Yara cinema, right in the heart of the central 23rd Avenue, there are hundreds of people with T-shirts, caps, flags and scarves for the Spanish and other countries.
Most of the fans are young students from the nearby University of Havana, who wait, biting their nails, for the second round match between the Spain of Iker Casillas and the Portugal of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ubaldo Arias, 23, who studied this last year for a career in philosophy, is at the front of group supporting the Red Fury. Dressed in shirts of “Guaje” Villa, Fernando Torres and Xavi Hernandez.
They chant slogans. They are convinced Spain will be the new world champions. Some dark guys with their “canary” green and red mock them.
Arias and his band enter laughing, while fraternizing they tell them, “See you in the final.” There is still a stretch of competition. But the expected Spain-Brazil duel for the title is a real possibility.
A few minutes later the line forms. They start to sell tickets at two pesos (10 cents in dollars). The theater looks like a mini stadium. It’s full.
On the big screen they’re showing the last game with Lithuania. The room erupts with the racket of a thousand demons when the mustachioed Vicente del Bosque appears getting off the bus at the South African stadium.
The fans are chanting the names of the eleven Iberians, when they emerge on screen. “Ole, ole, ole Casillas, ole ole Tarzan Puyol, ” and so on until the 23 Spanish players get off the bus, on this island where it usually takes baseball to get most Cubans to their feet.
Since they started the second round matches, the theater management, ICAIC and the Institute of Radio and Television has the bright idea of showing the games on the wide screen.
People appreciate it. No alcoholic beverages are allowed inside. The various loyalties are discussed with passion and respect for the firm support of their different teams.
It’s true that Brazil, Argentina and Spain steal the show. But there are also, on the island, many rooting for The Netherlands and Germany. The good mood engulfs the bewildered tourists, who watch the enthusiasm with which Cubans enjoy the World Cup.
Latin American students are given their turn at the Yara cinema, to support the teams of their preferences. They are the coming generation. It could be the World Cup of America.
Four teams in the quarterfinals and a hunger for glory. It is not only Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay knows what it is to raise a cup and look askance at Julet Rimes’ trophy. Paraguay wants to make history.
But first they have to pass through comfortably placed Spain. While reaching the quarter finals, the different gangs enjoy the beauty of their triumph and suffer when their eleven goes tearfully back to the locker room.
No one can deny the good mood in the Yara. When David Villa scored the winning goal against Portugal that sent them into the quarterfinals, those in attendance, about two thousand of them, deliriously shouted GOOOOOOOOOAL.
At dark, many embraced. They jumped and shouted, “SPAIN! SPAIN!” These are the good things of football. The worse, the annoying high pitched noise of the vuvuzela. I don’t know how they managed to appear in Havana. But before such an event, someone passes them out. A World Cup is a World Cup.
Photo: Kaloain Santos