Bolivians have long resigned themselves to the fact that their football national team will also be home watching the upcoming World Cup on television. For the third straight tourney, Bolivia has failed to qualify for the world’s most important sporting event and have left this tiny nation saying, “maybe in 2010”. Nostalgia also creeps in every four years around this time, as three of their neighbors are making their usual appearance in the World Cup. Times weren’t always so rough. In 1994, the green and white qualified for its first and only World Cup, which was held in the United States. Even though the team only managed to come away with a single tie, Bolivians still look back on that year as something magical.
A couple of bloggers took the opportunity to look back on those days. Rolando Lopez, who writes at his blog Rocko Weblog [ES], found it telling how the accomplishments of that team cut through any ethnic or regional lines and united the entire country. For their first match, they took the field against heavy favorites and defending champs, Germany in Soldier Field in Chicago and entire nation was on the edge of their seats.
“…in a small country faraway, at 3:30 p.m. on June 17, 1994 the streets were empty and the entire country, I've never been so sure of using that phrase, all eyes were fixed on the television sets and attentive ears listened to the radio broadcast from Chicago”
Bolivia eventually lost that game 0-1 and their star midfielder, Marco Antonio “El Diablo” Etcheverry was shown a red card and expelled from the game. Lopez recalls words by Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, who said, “For the Bolivian National team, qualifying for the 1994 World Cup was like landing on the moon.” Even though those memories seem so long ago, Lopez hopes that the wonderful memory is incentive enough to strive to reach this pinnacle once again.
The road to qualification led through powerhouse, Brazil, who eventually went on to win the World Cup that year. However, during the qualification process, Bolivia managed to score an upset win over the Brazilians in their home stadium in La Paz. On an early Wednesday morning at 4 a.m., Javier Rodriguez came across a rebroadcast of that game on a local radio station. The game featured what Rodriguez called “a mystical goal” by Etcheverry, in which the ball went through the legs of the Brazilian goalkeeper. He managed to record the announcer’s call of that goal that still provides chills some 13 years later and he placed the mp3 on his blog Oirlo Hasta Enmudecer [ES] so that all could relive that important part of Bolivian history.