As the fortunes of the Honduran national soccer team went during a first round game of the World Cup in Brazil, so went the hearts of about 50 patrons at Ruinas de Copán Honduran Bar & Restaurant on Brook Avenue near 148th St.
Although Honduras had never won a match in the history of the tournament, and had lost its first game of the 2014 Cup to France days earlier, there was optimism among the faithful who watched on a half-dozen TV screens on June 20. A group of men sharing pails of Coors and Corona on ice watched from the counter as the beloved blue and white took the field against Ecuador.
The New York metro area is home to the country’s largest Honduran immigrant community, according to the 2010 US census, with over 42,000 in the five boroughs, and an additional 55,000 in the broader metropolitan area. By contrast, there were just over 39,000 Honduran immigrants in the entire US in 1980, that year’s census reported.
One of the men watching the game, Juan Padilla, 48, seemingly had every moment in the national team’s meager Cup history branded into his memory.
“Hector Zelaya scored a goal for us in 1982 against Spain in Spain,” recalled Padilla, who immigrated to the Bronx 28 years ago and still works in the same plastics factory in Parkchester he did then.
“A goal is a point of pride,” he said. The 1982 score had been the only goal Honduras had ever scored in a World Cup match. In their second-ever Cup appearance in 2010, the Hondurans were shut out in all three first round matches and sent packing, Padilla remembered.
Goose eggs loomed large until the 31-minute mark against Ecuador, when veteran Carlo Costly took advantage of a defensive lapse to strike from long range, putting the Honduran side ahead 1-0. The roof came down at Ruinas de Copán.
The delirium was short-lived, however. When the Ecuadoreans scored an equalizer just minutes later, the throng went silent. Then in the second half when the South American team went ahead on a header in the 65th minute, the gloom thickened. Two borderline calls, including an offside against the Hondurans that nullified a would-be tying goal, turned the mood from grim to hostile.
Emotions ran high. When two fans nearly came to blows over a perceived slight, the barmaid defused tensions, calming the offended party at the counter by repeating “tranquilo” as if a mantra and reciting a biblical proverb propounding forgiveness.
When the final whistle sounded, signaling the end of the match—and likely, Honduras’ chances of advancing to the Cup’s knockout round—the boisterous shouts that had followed the country’s first World Cup goal in 32 years had been replaced by a shroud of silence.
Edgar Herrera, 24, took the loss in stride. “After the happiness of the first goal, it was psychologically tough,” he said. “Then when Figueroa’s shot missed—“ he said, shaking his head over a near-miss late in the match.
When asked how long it would take to recover from the loss, Juan Padilla replied, “It will be another four years, obviously.”