Blackouts World Cup Zulia 2018

Zulianos might have saved the date to watch all (or at least some of) the games of the World Cup, but blackouts don’t have horarios ni fecha en el calendario. #AutogolChron.

Original Art by ModoGráfico

“Honey, there’s no power at home” my mom tells me because she knows I eagerly await the first game between Portugal and Spain. She also knows there’s a power plant in my office, which guarantees I’ll be able to watch it even amidst a blackout. “You coming for lunch?” she asks.

Just over an hour later, Cristiano Ronaldo would play one of those legendary games that no fan wants to miss, but I still don’t know it and I have to make a choice between having lunch at the appropriate time or watching the game.

“I’ll stay here, I’ll come over later” I reply.

It’s worth it in the end: the game ends 3-3, with a hat trick by Cristiano and a pair of golazos from both teams. But I’m starving and when I’m about to go home, I think back about the decision I just took. Having lunch or watching the game.

Zulians have been suffering daily blackouts of over 12 hours for months and, although governor Omar Prieto said in late April that the issue was resolved by a 90%, it actually keeps on worsening.

I have to make a choice between having lunch at the appropriate time or watching the game.

This is why I’m not alone in my tragedy: there are hundreds of fans patiently waiting for the World Cup and now we see how the so-called Bolivarian Revolution ruins it, like everything else. Some acquaintances tell me they no longer discuss among friends whose house is bigger or more comfortable to meet up, but which one has electricity during an important match, which is impossible to predict since blackouts in Zulia come with no prior warning, because there are no rationing schedules anymore.

Alexis, a co-worker who requested vacations to enjoy the tournament, lets me in on his strategy: “my cousin lives two blocks from my house, but the electrical circuit isn’t the same. When I don’t have electricity, he does, and when I do, he doesn’t. So we rotate houses.”

This particular arrangement makes Alexis a bit fortunate, because others aren’t so “lucky” and must visit shopping malls with power plants without enough capacity to guarantee air conditioning.

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Photos: Mario Pérez

“It’s hot, but I don’t care: a World Cup is a World Cup” a fan tells me in Gran Bazar, a mall in downtown Maracaibo, before the whistle sounds the start of Uruguay vs. Egypt.

For Karen Jaimes, sports journalist specialized in soccer, the situation causes a “forced disinterest” in fans, which she regrets because “many Venezuelans use soccer as a distraction, a kind of balm to forget the daily hardships.”

“It’s hot, but I don’t care: a World Cup is a World Cup.”

“We Zulians have the problem with electricity in particular, on top of inflation and all the cash problems the rest of the country suffers” she says. “Some of us experience up to two blackouts a day. In San Francisco municipality, where I Iive, blackouts are not in the early morning as in other places, but in the morning, and this World Cup can only be watched then due to the time difference. Many can’t watch the tournament, but even so you can still feel the soccer fever in the streets.”

On Saturday, my mom tells me about a peculiar incident that took place when she was buying groceries while Argentina played against Iceland: the place had more people watching the match than buying.

The funniest part was that it was being broadcast by Tves, the government channel that took over RCTV’s signal, and they played micros of Nicolás Maduro during half-time. “Everyone started shouting insults to the TV, absolutely everyone” she tells me, laughing.

Perhaps this last bit is the most genuine and sincere expression maracuchos have to show how they feel while trying to watch the World Cup amidst blackouts.

As I finish this piece, there’s no power at home and Brazil, my favorite team, is playing its first match against Switzerland. I can’t help but feel the anger of being unable to enjoy the game, but I remember I was able to watch the Portugal, Argentina, Russia and Uruguay games. I guess I’m lucky: how many haven’t been able to watch any game?