Panama’s debut in a soccer world cup
It was a unique moment. But, beyond Panama´s participation in the most significant sporting event on the planet, it was an excellent occasion to exalt our Casco Viejo ´s diversity and sense of community.
Everybody knows it. Everyone has heard about it. Even the sleepy street cats of Casco Viejo realize it. Panama, for the first time, is attending a soccer World Cup and although it does not come with extraordinary competitive expectations, the enthusiasm to be part of the most significant sporting event on the planet is incomparable. It’s being said that the first time is unique, special, unrepeatable. And Panama had its first world clash against one of the favorites: Belgium. Since a short time before the start of the game, the atmosphere was not the same as every day. On the streets, everyone wanted to know where you were going to see the confrontation. Very few cars circulated. Some people went down the almost empty streets invariably dressed in red T-shirts, who in a hurry sought to arrive in time to face a television screen.
This was an extraordinary day and a more special match. It was not a good time to be alone. The options to see the game in Casco were abundant, but finally, I decided to share the Panamanian premiere in the World Cup with the staff of Conservatorio S.A. our mother company. In the building of the company (obviously located in Casco Viejo) a room was adapted so that the workers enjoyed (or suffered) the game. The atmosphere was more than vivacious. All in red (the color that represents the Panamanian football team), all attentive, very intent in the game, barely distracting for seconds to have fry, a cup of coffee or a chicken sandwich. The first half of the game was almost heroic as Panama held the tie with their goal unbeaten. The second half would be something else. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about.
Suddenly, I wondered how other people would be living the game in the rest of the Casco? I went out to check it during halftime. I divided myself as I could between several places. The most curious was the Bier Klooster brewery specializing in delicious Belgian beers, but with entirely Panamanian staff. Would there be tensions, contradictions, perhaps some conflict? Not at all. I went to have one of my favorite beers, and I found an intense atmosphere, but friendly and fun because of the relaxed and smiling attitude of the people. I left there and just happened to meet the lady who sells homemade ice cream in her cart. He greeted me, and someone asked her screaming from a balcony if she was going to miss the game: “No way my love, this is pure technology” she replied, pointing to her cell phone, from which she followed each play without stopping to announce (also shouting) their sweet and refreshing desserts. Then I went to Santa Ana and in the Plaza Amador where the people had gathered, boisterous, around a giant screen.
Surely you already know the result of the game, and although we are talking about soccer, it is what matters least. The genuinely relevant thing is a double sensation that invaded me during that memorable morning: the diversity and the sense of community present and very alive in the Casco. Both go hand in hand. An entirely homogeneous community is somewhat sterile and impoverished. The richness of a community lies in the expression of different identities and the recognition of a space of common participation. Thus, in front of a screen and following each move with concentrated joy, you could see the guy who washes cars, next to a businessman; or a reputed chef with someone from the municipality cleaning brigade. All together, all different. It was an extraordinary day. But if you think more deeply, it was not so different from any day of full coexistence in our Casco Viejo.