Last Friday, October 2, the game between the UCSB Gauchos and the Indiana Hoosiers was fast paced and at times exhilarating. The crowd of more than 10,000 had to wait until close to half-time for the first goal. Unfortunately, I had just been forced to make a visit to the concessions stand when Danny Barrera scored that goal. I watched from afar as the tortillas flew, the crowd went crazy, and a sea of yellow-shirted people jumped for joy.
The rivalry between the 11th-ranked Gauchos and the 9th-ranked Hoosiers made the game a high energy spectacle. The Gauchos had lost to Indiana in 2004 in the NCAA College Cup Final in a shootout. This time, however, the Hoosiers were the ones feeling the pain. The Gauchos scored three times on Indiana to end the game 3-0. It was also the second televised game. The first one, against Rutgers, had also been exciting. The Gauchos beat Rutgers 4-0.
For anyone who doesn’t think of themselves as a soccer fan, you should still check out a Gaucho game one night. Even if you’re not thrilled with the kicks, the passes, and the goalie maneuvers (they can jump to amazing heights to catch or deflect a ball) you might get a kick out of watching the fans.
It’s hard to describe the feel of a Gaucho soccer game. I’ve been to UCLA football games, Lakers games, and endless Dodgers games. My favorites were the Raiders and Kings games, where the fans were the stars. There’s nothing like a good fight breaking out a few rows from where you are sitting. But even though the Gauchos don’t have a bunch of fighting fans, they do have some ardent supporters who make even the best games just a little bit better.
There are the students wearing their bright yellow shirts with the saying “Glory. Honor. Courage. Tortillas… .” It’s catchy and intriguing: Why tortillas? There’s the official Gaucho mascot, dressed in a Disney-like get up, and that guy with the mask and the cape who I’m not sure is an official mascot. There are the children dressed in G Kids t-shirts working as ball retrievers on the field. And then there are the hecklers.
A few weeks back, at a Loyola Marymount game, the hecklers were pretty low quality. They kept on yelling out stupid things like “Get glasses, ref!” and other really unoriginal insults. (They were Loyola Marymount fans.) Some of the Gaucho supporters, however, really know how to heckle, especially some of the ones at last Friday’s game vs. Indiana. Not all of them: There was a guy in front of me who yelled at a Hoosier who was lying on the ground after being kicked in the shin, “Get up, you sissy!” and the even better “Call your big sister and tell her you need some ice.” It must have taken him a while to think up that one.
The next heckler who sat next me, however, was truly extraordinary. He started off by asking me the name of the Indiana goalie. I passed him the player list, and then he got going. As the goalie let in the three kicks that would win the game for the Gauchos, he started talking trash about the goalie’s family members: “Your parents were never proud of you. Your parents wanted a girl.” Then he wished all sorts of illnesses on him. First it was cancer, which his friends thought was too much, so he had to compromise and yell out “Get Hepatitis C” and “Get Swine Flu.” The best, however, was when he started to yell “It’s all your fault.” I doubt the goalie heard a word. He had other things on his mind, but for the people around me it was a high- quality heckling experience.
You can also hear some pretty good cheers at a Gaucho’s game. There’s the “‘le, Ole, Ole, Ole, Gauchos, Gauchos” and a celebration of sorts that occurs when the clock says 4:20. (A concession stand worker explained that one to me. Ask someone. I’m not telling).
For the community, there’s a really special reason to get into the Gaucho soccer experience: Players will come to your AYSO practice and teach your child a few tips. There’s nothing like watching a couple of experienced players teaching your son how to kick, pass, and get it into the goal. Johnny Zerah, and Taylor Rivas, both defensive players, gave an hour of their time to help my son’s team, the Gray Whales, a few weeks ago.
Zerah started by saying, “We’re going to teach you how it’s done.” He and Taylor showed the children the proper way to pass the ball to a teammate, using the side of your foot, not your toe. He encouraged them by saying, “Your leg will go through to wherever you want to go.” With five-year-olds this is easier said than done, but the boys tried their best. The boys also had a chance to do some races around cones, and shoot into the goal. Overall, it was a great practice.
Now I’m not saying I’ve turned into a die-hard soccer fan who will watch any game, anytime, anywhere, but I will say that I’ve turned into a Gaucho fan. There are only a few home games left, and I don’t plan on missing them.