‘Happy’ Despite Losses

“They played their hearts out,”
Not since the hot-dog eating contest had there been as many in Rowdy Hall’s courtyard as there were for the round of 16 World Cup soccer match on July 1 between the United States and Belgium, which wound up winning 2-1 in overtime. Craig Macnaughton

Those East Hamptoners of Costa Rican and Colombian descent watched the World Cup quarterfinal matchups involving those countries with especial interest here this past weekend, and while neither Colombia nor Costa Rica wound up winning, the fans (most of them skillful soccer players themselves) with whom this writer spoke pronounced themselves happy all in all.

“We lost in penalty kicks” to the Netherlands, said Carlos Solis, who played on the strong Costa Rican team here in the 1980s, “but we’re very excited. We beat Italy and Uruguay, tied with England, and beat Greece in penalty kicks.”

As far as regulation time went, “we had no losses,” said Solis, who added that in Costa Rica “there’s going to be a big parade to welcome the team home on Tuesday. The whole country is getting a day off.”

“They played their hearts out,” said Olger (Quique) Araya. “We weren’t disappointed at all. Costa Rica, you know, is a country of only 4.8 million. To begin at the bottom of the list and to finish in the top eight has raised eyebrows. Nobody even picked this team to get into the tournament. The players are young, eight of them play in Europe. Our goalie [Keylor Navas] was the man-of-the-match. We do have a bright future.”

Colombians too deserved to be proud, he said. “These are small countries and they had great World Cup runs this year.”

“Interesting that the goalie they [the Netherlands] brought in for penalty kicks was named Krul!” said Alyson Rogoski, whose late father, Enrique Leon, was the second Costa Rican to come here, in 1968. The first, she said, “was a brother of his, Miguel, who opened a barber shop on North Main Street.”

“Two of Enrique’s grandsons, Andy Gonzalez and Bryan Oreamuno, are playing here now,” their aunt said. “Bryan’s still in the high school. He’s playing on a travel team based in Albertson, with the two Nicks — Nick West and Nick Tulp.”

Even well into in his 40s Enrique Leon had the hardest shot on the inaugural men’s soccer team here, the one put together in the late 1970s by Paul Sapienza, then a physical education teacher at the Springs School. That team, Sapienza said during a visit in 2009, went 77 games without a loss, over the course of three or four years. Leon, according to his daughter, continued to play soccer on occasion into his 70s.

The largely Colombian East Hampton Football Club, which recently won a Division III State and League Cup, and whose cumulative record now stands at 28-0, is carrying on the men’s soccer tradition dating to the Sapienza team, which had players on it from many different countries — Yugoslavia, Cuba, Ireland, Portugal, Mexico, and Costa Rica among them.

Largely ethnic teams — from Costa Rica, Mexico, Ireland, Colombia, and Ecuador, all of them boasting impressive players — grew out of the succeeding waves of immigration here.

At the moment, players from Colombia, or who are of Colombian descent, are prominent here — Luis Correa is the scorer that Carlos Vargas once was — though a number of Ecuadorians are playing at a high level too.

“We’re very happy for the national team,” said Vargas, a native of Costa Rica who’s returning there for a visit in a couple of weeks.

“A big part of this has been the coach,” Jorge Luis Pinto, a native of Colombia, said Carlos Solis. “He made the kids believe in themselves, and taught them how to play defense. He wants to stay. I hope he does.”

“It was a good run,” Duvan Castro said when asked about the Colombian team, which lost 2-1 in its quarterfinal clash with Brazil.

“When you make mistakes in soccer they can be very costly, and we made one early on when too many of our players were rushing toward the first post on that corner kicked ball” that the unmarked Thiago Silva easily put into the nets.

Castro watched Friday’s game at the Townline BBQ with a number of East Hampton Football Club players, including Corey DeRosa, Gehider Garcia, Gerard Lynch, Stiven Orrego, and Rodolfo Marin. He was not pleased with the disproportionate number of fouls called on the Colombians. “Brazil was the host country,” he said, by way of explanation.

As for the back injury suffered by Brazil’s star, Neymar, late in the game, “It was unfortunate, but the ref let the game get out of control — he let them play heavy at times. If he had been even-handed, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Nevertheless, Castro said, Colombians were “very happy. I’m very proud they got that far. The team was greeted very, very well when it got home. They put the name of Colombia in a very good place. It’s the first time, you know, that Colombia and Costa Rica have made it this far in a World Cup.”

Then, as a parting shot: “I’ve been telling people this for a while. The two most corrupt organizations in the world are FIFA,” the Federation Internationale de Football Association, which oversees the quadrennial World Cup tournaments, “and the Church. They set their own rules.” 

There was a big Colombian crowd, though not many local players, at D’Canela in Amagansett too on Friday, many sporting yellow and red shirts. One player this writer spotted, Leonel Uchupaille, said he hailed from Ecuador. He was rooting for Colombia, of course, he said, adding “we’re all for each other.”

Magally Montoya, with the cowbell at right, was among those who jammed D’Canela in Amagansett for Friday’s Colombia-Brazil World Cup quarterfinal. Jack Graves