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Ecuadorian fans in Chicago celebrate their first victory

The energy was palpable at El Rinconcito Ecuatoriano, an Ecuadorian restaurant in Irving Park with walls covered in artisanal paintings and crafts.

Fans wore yellow shirts, shouted at the TV, cheered like their lives depended on it – all while sipping coffee or beer and eating traditional Ecuadorian food salchipapa, fries and hot dogs, or a Ballon de Verde, a dish based on plantain.

For many of them, Sunday was a day of celebration as Ecuador beat host nation Qatar 2-0 in their World Cup opener, sending soccer fans across Chicago — and the world — on the edge of their seats.

Just before 8:30 a.m. outside the Globe pub down the road, fans braved sub-zero temperatures to head for the doors. Some were wrapped in Ecuadorian flags while others sipped hot coffee.

Once inside, brother and sister Felipe Carba, 33, and Michelle Carba, 28, of Guayaquil, Ecuador, expressed excitement about the team’s composition — a mix of old and new players — that had Michelle Carba feeling confident about her country’s chances during the tournament. .

“This time, we might get to the Sweet 16,” she said. That is, to the final 16 teams — the best two from each group — who will enter the knockout stage.

They also discussed the recent controversy surrounding the Qatari government and its treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ community.

“Especially in a lawless country like Qatar, it makes sense for all these human rights protests because they focus more on where the money is than on fixing the things that are happening in the country right now.” – Michelle Carbo . said.

27-year-old Matthew Sund booed Gianni Infantino as the FIFA president made his opening remarks before the game. “Shut up,” he yelled across the sports bar, a Team USA jersey visible under his jacket.

“No one really supports this World Cup,” Sund told the Tribune. But people will still watch the tournament, he added.

Singing “Ecuador! Ecuador! Ecuador!” erupted throughout the institution when Ecuadorian powerhouse Valencia scored against Qatar within the first three minutes of the match. But groans cut through the tense atmosphere when the referees ruled out the goal after a lengthy review from the sidelines.

Mandy Mendoza, 30, of Alausi, Ecuador, appeared at the Globe shortly before the game began. Her mom grew up in Quito and her father grew up in Guayaquil.

Mendoza expressed cautious optimism about her team, which she said is “performing better this year.”

“Ecuador doesn’t always make it” to the World Cup, she added. This year was the fourth participation of the small South American country in the World Cup since it was held in 1930.

At El Rinconcito Ecuatoriano, fans of all ages sat and ate with their eyes fixed on the same television. Despite some technical problems, due to which the TV turned off several times, the visitors joked and laughed. After all, their team was winning – until the 31st minute, the Ecuadorian “Valencia” scored two more goals.

A small but energetic crowd in the restaurant jumped for joy as the ball rolled out of bounds for the final time after 90 minutes and some overtime.

“I was a little worried because they say it’s hard to win the first match,” said Estefania Escudero, 26, whose family is from Quito. “But I’m very happy that we won. It’s always nice to have that feeling.”

Her cousin Nicole Constante, 20, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago who is also from Quito, said the young Ecuadorian players proved people wrong.

“I think people didn’t believe they could do it,” Constante said. “They are young, but they were able to prove otherwise.”

However, it will only make it more competitive for her team, Escudero added. Ecuador plays with the Netherlands, which is currently ranks eighth in the world on Friday.

adperez@chicagotribune.com

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