Draped in a Chilean flag outside of Citi Field, Manuel Rojas stood with his father as they were interviewed by Ernesto Diaz — who Rojas said was a big name in Chilean radio.
Rojas, 18, from Bridgeport, Connecticut, predicted Chile would best Ecuador in the night’s international friendly match at the ballpark 2-1, despite the fan base being mostly dressed in Ecuador yellow — many of whom predicted the same score in Ecuador’s favor.
“[Chile fans] come to this sport even if we’re out numbered on to a million,” he said.
Rojas’ game prediction fell short, however, as Chile lost to Ecuador 3-0 on Wednesday, August 15 to the roaring cheer of thousands of Ecuador fans.
Last year, Ecuador played an exhibition match against Greece — also in reflection to two prominent cultures in the city — but the game ended in a draw. This year they came back in an attempt to claim Citi Field as theirs.
From the coin toss — by honorary Ecuador captain and Assemblymember Francisco Moya — onward for the next 90 minutes, fans cheered, groaned in frustration and waived Ecuadorian and Chilean flags.
The scoring kicked off early on when Ecuador and Manchester United star Antonio Valencia fed the ball to Narciso Mina, netting the first goal past Chilean Miguel Pinto. A scream of Ecuadorian cheers resonated through Citi, leaving the stadium shaking.
All of this in the backdrop of Ecuador in a diplomatic spat with the United Kingdom over granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Asange.
Some hailed from these countries, others had roots there, and others were just fans of the game with unique connections to one of these two countries.
Evelyn Pallo, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and now living in Flushing, saw Ecuador play in New Jersey a few years ago but said she was excited when she heard the team she devoutly follows was coming to Queens.
Others were coming to get a better feel for the sport and the fanbase the city has.
Steve Dordal from Bayside was stationed in Ecuador with the U.S. Navy in 1983 and said he enjoyed his time there.
What brought Dordal, 44, to this game was an interest in soccer and desire to see what the fan base in Queens was like after hearing a soccer stadium might be coming to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
“I just want to see how many people show up and the enthusiasm of the people in the area,” he said
During his stay, Dordal said he and other sailors worked on an orphanage, where they played the game with some of the local children. Despite being much younger, he said, the children beat the American opponents and left an impression on them.