El Clásico del Astillero. Barcelona SC 1 - CS Emelec 1
10 October 2012, 8 pm. Red Bull Arena, Harrison NJ
On October 10th, the two Ecuadorian club teams, Barcelona and Emelec met one another on the Red Bulls pitch to play in their decades long “El Clásico del Astillero” (The Shipyard Derby). A rivalry dating back to the 1940s, its fan-base is from Guayaquil, but has clearly transcended city and region. Emelec was founded by a US electrical entrepreneur and Barca was founded by a Catalan immigrant, whom named the club after his own Spanish club, Barcelona.
Approaching Red Bulls Arena, we had the sensation that we had arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The chants were loud and from our broken Spanish, they were just as profane as we had expected. The yellow Barca kit dominated the crowd and upon entering the stadium and finding our seats we were completely deaf from the cheers, chants, and songs. The north end goal was occupied by Barca and the opposite side was the domain of Emelec. The Emelec side was significantly smaller in numbers, however their banner was far superior. The game proceeded to be a stalemate for the majority of the 90 minutes, until Emelec knocked one in and took the lead. We had grown used to my new Barca neighbors and was wishing for their victory, but at this stage of the game our hopes were quickly draining.
Of course, as in most soccer matches, it isn’t over until the 90 are played through. Nearing the 90th minute a foul was committed by Emelec just outside the box. The Barca forward set the ball down as the Emelec defense lined up a wall to protect the goal. Then, it happened as quick as they often do, when you check your phone, take a sip of beer, or turn to say something to a friend. The ball was struck quickly and efficiently. So much so, that the Emelec goalie just stood there, un-moved as he watched the ball fall into the upper right hand corner. The Barca fans went berserk with joy, toilet paper was hurdled on to the pitch, and thunder sticks seem to break sound barriers. The game ended in a draw, but it felt like a win as both teams and their fans left satisfied and ecstatic to have seen their idols up close.
There simply is not any other city in the US that could host a match like the Emelec and Barcelona derby. The Ecuadorian diaspora is finding its niche in the US and growing in NYC in particularly, and, like most other cultures, its beloved sport is held on to tightly in order to preserve identity and maintain a connection with home.