My friend, Inferno member and all around great guy Justin Kirchdoerfer was lucky enough to be a part of the traveling contingent of FC Dallas fans that made it down to Panama for the Tauro game. He was kind enough to write an awesome travel blog for Big D Soccer. It's a great read! Panama sounds amazing.
Panama Travel Blog by Justin Kirchdoerfer
Up at 4:45 to make the trek out to Pizza Hut Park for the busses. As I drove past DFW I wondered if I could just call Allen and meet the team at the airport. I forgot about it and continued on.
Pizza Hut Park at 5:45 and on the bus. Couple of hours at DFW where I had a quick chat with Doug Quinn about what a great opportunity this is for the fans and a few minutes later the players showed up and the plane took of at the scheduled time.
Players up front and fans in the back. I was impressed with all of the attractive female fans FCD was pulling until my seatmate suggested that they were probably WAGS. Right. Flight was uneventful and long. Saw a few players as they shuttled back to drop a deuce or whatever. No Daniel Hernandez, no Brek. No Jackson. All of these exclusions made sense as all three are suspended anyway.
Disembarkation from the plane in Panama and the adventure began. Wait, there really hasn’t been an adventure yet as Allen and the rest of the FCD staff have had everything running like a well-oiled machine. As I exited immigration and walked to the exit doors of the airport I saw the FCD players waiting for their baggage. The exit from customs behind a group of players brought me face to face with a local television news camera. Glad I was wearing my “Glory, Glory, Rahr United” shirt. Maybe get FC Rahr some advertisement down here in Panama. I understand they make some brews.Keep reading
The first thing I noticed as I walked outside was the humidity and there was more than one comparison to the soupy air in Houston. Another thing I noticed was a constant haze from all of the cars and busses and trucks.
Players, coaches and player handlers boarded their bus and left for their hotel, the fans and Doug Quinn and the rest of the FC Dallas support staff got on the remaining two busses to go to the Continental Hotel.
Some refer to Panama City as the Dubai of Central America. The skylines are pretty amazing. On the way from the airport, the first skyline appears to be residential buildings extending skyward. All of the existing buildings looked brand new and there were cranes putting up more. The four lane road which I imagined being a nightmare during rush hour took us over the Pacific Ocean we neared the main part of the city to our south. Very strange seeing the Pacific Ocean on the East side of land. Here the buildings grew once again with a dense financial district with additional buildings growing along side the existing buildings. With the multitude of buildings in the sky it is hard to decide which I like most. Mostly it appeared that the architecture of the older buildings was borrowed from other places, and the architecture of the new buildings was exceptionally bland. The only building that really stood out in the downtown area is the twisted square building. (However on the way out of town I saw quite a few buildings so I would like to rescind the previous comment.)
We arrived at the hotel and the waiting for room keys began. This wait was made much less painful by the introduction of free drinks for all who waited. The bartenders served only rum and cokes making 5 or 10 at a time. Rooms were nice and it was time for a walk around.
I must say that I was impressed at the lack of chaos on the Panama roads. There was a lot of stuff that would not fly in the US, but it was not near as bad as the driving I have seen in some Caribbean countries or all of the southern European countries I have visited. Crossing the street was tricky, but normally we just followed a Panamanian.
Dinner was had at a small Panamanian restaurant called something or other. I got to sit in the front seat of the cab. My least favorite seat. I prefer to not know what is going on while riding in countries like this. Dinner was okay, with a sampler of typical Panamanian food. Definitely not spectacular. The ride back to the hotel was less exciting as most of the rush hour traffic was gone. One nice thing about the dinner is the television in the restaurant was showing the news and as we got up to leave we saw shots of the FC Dallas players walking through the airport to the bus. The only shot that I saw featured George John.
I took a walk with my roommate after dinner where I felt like a gringo. My Spanish is barely passable but through hand gestures and broken Spanish I was able to get or find most of what I was looking for. I ended the night in the casino where I spent two dollars and walked out with $6.21. Big baller. From other people’s stories, this post would be a lot more interesting if I had gone to the nightclub or other casinos. Apparently there was a lot of drinking, and plenty of prostitutes.
Woke up relatively early and made our way down to a café that we saw the night before. The place was packed then and there was a line to get food. Good sign that people actually want to eat at the place and nobody was dying or anything. More fried food for breakfast, but it was supplemented by some Horchata and two cups of coffee. Morning traffic was chaotic and we doubled back a few times to find places to cross the street. It was either that or waiting for a Panamanian to cross then follow their lead. We walked along the shopping district but all of the stores were still closed so nothing was purchased. Prices here are comparable to prices in the US. Food is about half price, but clothes (at least the soccer jerseys) are about the same. We are in an actual functioning part of the city so there aren’t any tourist areas where the knockoffs would be sold.
Back to the hotel after that to drink water and wait for the bus for the tour of the Canal. Canal tour was interesting. Got to see the skyline from a different angle. Had one of the best gelatos in the world. The Nutella gelato is amazing. The canal was pretty cool, watching big ass ships getting lifted and dropped to get from one end of the locks to the other. Had a chat with the women I thought were WAGS, turns out they did not know what a WAG is and they work in the front office. Again, no hiccups and Allen continues to impress.
Back at the hotel to pass the time between the end of the tour and the trip to the game. The McDonald’s near the Continental Hotel is fabulous.
Well it is 5 and we are off to the game. Time to stop typing so I can see the city pass me by.
Journey to the game:
Camera battery ran out at the game… Got a few pics of the stadium. No pics of the Tauro supporters group exchanging jerseys with one of the FCD fans. No pictures of them serenading us with drums and a song as we sat on the bus waiting to leave.
Stadium was beautiful. Old and tiered. A modern incarnation would be awesome. Biggest downside was the running track around the pitch. It was kind of fun being at a stadium that has fences around the bottom of the stands so unruly fans could not storm the field.
The concourses were low and free of venders, and apparently the women’s bathroom nearest our section had no toilet paper. The acoustics were amazing. The exceedingly small group of us that were trying to cheer on FCD could be heard throughout the stadium.
Anyway, to the game. I will not get into it because if you are reading this then you watched the game. Pretty heart wrenching. As my buddy said, I would rather be at an 8 goal barn stormer than a 1-0 sleeper loss. Tauro had about 100 to 200 strong.
The Tauro fans were in good voice and had great drums with air horn accompaniment. We leached off of a few of the simple drum beats to shout FCD or anything else. They had lulls, but mostly were going the whole game. Had a few long renditions of “F___ you Dallas”. Four or five of us tried as hard as we could to keep the songs and chants going but were getting little support. Early in the game I attempted to get all of the fans going and I think they started then stopped as soon as I turned around to go to the next group. Later in the match as I continued to cheer and saw felt no support from behind us I looked and saw all of the FCD staff figuratively sitting on their hands. That made my blood boil. Even though we lost the match I could have gone home proud had the fans that came actually actively supported the team, showed Tauro and whoever else was watching that FCD can bring it to an away game in Panama. We had the numbers, but not the desire. Again, I was gutted.
After the game a few of us continued singing “We love you Dallas we do…” the team came over and gave us a nice clap. The Tauro fans started chanting positive stuff over at the the FCD fans that showed up. Wonderful sentiment. One of our fans walked over and exchanged shirts with him. As I walked to the bus a guy driving by stopped and asked for my FCD flag. I gave him my Inferno scarf and the flag, he was already wearing an FCD hat. I told him “No meando en el bandera”. I don’t think that he understood me through my thick gringo accent. Later as we waited for the busses to get underway the supporters came out with their drum and sang songs that I can only assume were positive. A few had FCD flags on their backs. A nice classy thank you from them.
The Trip Home:
We stopped at a hotel near the airport to while away a few hours so we would not need to wait around in the airport. There was a lot of drinking by a lot of the fans. The players were pretty quiet in the restaurant.
Random quote of the day:
Overheard in the bathroom after one of the players had walked out of one of the stalls while two others were hovering about.
Random player: Aren’t you going to wash your hands?
Random player who had walked out of the stall: Nope.
First Random player: That’s disgusting, you’re about to eat.
I should have checked the stall to see what he did. I would imagine that he left a loaf for someone else to discover.
Anyway, we got to an empty airport around 1 am. Panama sees a lot of wealthy travelers. Huge big screen TVs and an Audi R8 right near the front. As you can imagine the plane ride was quiet and thankfully I slept 3.5 of the 4 hour flight.
Customs at DFW were uneventful although my resident alien roommate got to stand in line with a bunch of guys from the team as he went through the line. Finished with a bus ride back to the park where our driver had no idea where he was going.