The Copa America: High-quality soccer told through low-quality photos


The Copa America opening ceremony

SANTA CLARA -- The Copa America Centenario kicked off last night at Levi's Stadium in "San Francisco" to much fanfare from Colombians. Some Americans were also there, I'm told.

If you're looking for my thoughts on the game itself, check back for my more serious column in Wendesday's Davis Enterprise, but for now enjoy this hastily thrown-together piece of mostly images I took on my iPhone.

For starters, as my favorite Twitter troll aptly pointed out last night, Canada got the shaft in the opening ceremony pictured above. Canada may not be very relevant in the CONCACAF soccer scene (yet), but I'm almost positive that they're, in fact, part of the Americas.

Even Cuba is pictured, but apparently there was no time for the largest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The game was my first ever covering international soccer, let alone an important tournament, so I didn't know what to expect heading in. Would I meet any writers I looked up to? Would seeing James Rodriguez play soccer change my life? Would I make it through the brutal South Bay traffic by the 6:30 p.m. kickoff? (Answers: yes, somewhat, yes.)

Because I'm an idiot, I didn't understand how to apply for media parking until it was too late. Naturally my application for free, close-to-the-stadium parking was politely declined, leading to the following:

Oof. Rest assured, I can't afford to do this on a regular basis, but for the chance to attend the opening game of the oldest major international soccer tournament in the World, I suppose I can break the bank a bit.

Tangent: let's talk about the parking. This particular lot happened to be both the cheapest and the farthest away from the actual stadium. If you don't mind the walk, I highly recommend parking far away -- there was almost no traffic for me on my way out and I probably sweated off 10-20 pounds of beer weight.

Fun fact: "Red Lot 8" was actually the fairway of a par 5 of the Santa Clara Golf Club. I wonder if I can put any of that $50 towards a green fee next time I'm in the area. Hopefully that course isn't too expensive as I can confirm that many fans opted not to avoid the roped-off greens and sand traps while chugging beers on the way to the stadium.

After a nice trot down the fairway, I arrived at the stadium a few hours before kickoff in the sweltering heat. Sweat profusely pouring down the sides of my face, I looked around to see many Colombian fans in long sleeves. It was only 95 degrees.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the press box: it would probably be a good idea to apply some of my Old Spice Aqua Reef. The second: there sure are a lot of Colombian media wearing the national team kit.

After each of the two Colombian goals, the Spanish-speaking press roared in applause in the press box, a cardinal sin. Four Four Two's Scott French stood up after the second time to remind those in attendance that there was no cheering in the press box here. Thanks, Scott. A jovial Colombian two seats down then made eye contact with me, smiled, uttered something in Spanish, and shrugged.

International soccer is awesome.

Rather than analyzing the Americans' play during the game, the press box conversation then turned to the moths in the stadium.

For some reason, Levi's was swarming with moths. No one could figure out why, although perhaps James Rodriguez was relieved to stay bug free, this time.

Note: check out how compact the two teams are in the photo above. If I recall correctly, I took this during a goal kick. Any time you wonder if you could play at this level, ask yourself what the field looks like during goal kicks in your beer league, then remind yourself of the fitness levels required to succeed at the international level, especially in the heat of...the Bay Area?

Anyway, the game came and went (cue more Colombian press box cheering upon the final whistle). Wanting to beat the traffic, I skipped the mixed zone as I wonder if any of the English-speaking players (or Timmy Chandler) would have anything interesting to say anyway. After all, Vonnegut did once write: "There's nothing intelligent to say about a massacre."

So I walked back across the golf course to my car, disappointed that the game hadn't been more competitive, but happy to have finally covered an international contest. This was just the warm-up though -- Monday we get Messi and the defending champs, Chile. See you soon, Levi's Stadium.

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