Much more than a matter of life and death

Thursday, June 09 was a busy day for Venezuelans. Rumors of looting were burning through Twitter and Whatsapp chats, 44 deputies got beaten up for merely showing up at the CNE, and about half a dozen different protests took place on the streets of Caracas. But at night, after this tense preamble, we saw something we haven’t seen in a while: good news.

Venezuela is once again upsetting a Copa América, and clinched a spot amongst the final eight with one game to spare, after beating Jamaica and Uruguay in Group C.

For the third time in the last four Copa Americas, Venezuela has managed to make it past the group stage, and this time they did so on one of the most turbulent days of the year so far.

This, of course, doesn’t make the country’s dire situation any better: people are still starving, there’s still no clean water, hospitals still resemble war trenches and crime roams freely, unlike political prisoners.

But still, this is morale boost, for our extremely beaten ego, should be welcomed as a reminder that sometimes tables do turn.

Yes, this is no more than grabbing a spot among seven other teams in the quarter finals. Hardly a milestone worth a caravana. But when you rank dead last in the World Cup Qualifiers, you’ve seen your football governing body turned upside down, endured locker room mutiny, and parted ways with your once “savior” of a coach, trust me, this is a more than welcome surprise.

When Bill Shankly famously said that football was much more serious than a matter of life and death, he had a point.

These days our souls have been heavy with so many news reminding us how brittle life is, and yet what 11 men did thousands of miles away was enough for us to collectively smile, forget about our problems for an instant and shout a cfrfyuygkk“vamos Venezuela, carajo!” It is not easy to put aside the collapse of a country that, to many, has robbed them from a decent livelihood. I cannot think of another event with that same effect, not even toppling those responsible for the current state of things.

This is why sports matter: they transcend, they unite, and when things click during tough times, they become a beacon of hope.

Just like being comforted by your better half. It might not solve your problems, but it definitely makes a difference.

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