As soon as I arrived in Paraguay last week, I could see that the country was in the grips of football fever. It was impossible to forget, even for a minute, that the World Cup was on and that Paraguay’s team was doing extremely well. Every public space was draped with a Paraguayan flag. Every bar had its television on, blaring sports commentary. Taxi drivers and night watchmen carried around transistor radios so as not to miss the latest developments.
The 2010 World Cup will not soon be forgotten. Even with the Quarterfinal loss to Spain last weekend, Paraguayans proudly welcomed home their team yesterday. After all, this team advanced further than any previous Paraguayan squad. This is a big deal for Paraguay, which otherwise suffers from an identity crisis.
“Nobody knows what our country is,” said Bechy, a young woman waiting for a flight out of Asunción’s airport. “People always confuse us with Uruguay.” It doesn’t help, she added, that Paraguay is sandwiched between regional superpowers Brazil and Argentina.