In front of an estimated 20,000 Colombian fans at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez, Earthquakes midfielder Fatai Alashe and the U-23 Men’s National Team gutted out a crucial 1-1 draw Friday in the first leg of the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Playoff against Colombia. If the sweltering 90 degree Fahrenheit pitch-level temperature wasn’t enough to battle against the Colombian home side, Alashe and his teammates dealt with their fair share of obstacles on and off the pitch surrounding their all-important qualifying fixture. Ahead of Tuesday’s second leg in Frisco, Texas, Alashe recalls his unforgettable experience in Barranquilla.
Quotes provided by ussoccer.com.
On warming up at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez:
“It was kind of cool actually, because it’s not something you get to experience that often. You kind of appreciate how much they care about soccer and their team. It’s rare at the U-23 level that that many people come out to support their team. Obviously some of them were saying stuff to you, some mean stuff, but you kind of just laugh it off. Some of them spoke English, too, and obviously they knew some bad words (laughs). It was pretty cool to be able to experience that.”
Scenes from the sidelines:
“It was pretty funny seeing some of the gamesmanship play into it a little bit. The Colombian Federation definitely took care of themselves better than us. When we came out in the second half, we saw they had water misters spraying down onto their bench. We kind of just laughed at it saying, ‘I’m sure they’re all comfortable over on their bench.’ At the same time it’s one you just brush off because it doesn’t matter – what mattered was the guys on the field.”
Encountering a stray dog at training:
“It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it – a stray dog running around while players are trying to warm up. We had gotten up to begin to warm up on the sideline next to the bench, and this dog is kind of coming at us. I wasn’t sure what to do ‘cause I wasn’t going to touch it. It was running around and it was kind of jumping at people. I think it jumped at Khiry and I was afraid it was going to bite him. I just started backing up trying to hide from it, honestly. They did do a good job getting it away from us before one guy grabbed it and took it in the tunnel.”
Scenes on the field immediately following the 1-1 draw:
“At first it was one or two guys running on the field and they looked like they were trying to get jerseys from the Colombia players, but then all of a sudden there were way more coming on and running around. Then obviously there’s security guards running after them, so it’s just like chaos and you don’t really know who’s who. At that point you’re just trying to get off the field as fast as possible.”