A sea of blue and white at Citi Field in Queens—but whose? By chance, Honduras and Israel, which played an international soccer friendly there Sunday, have strikingly similar flags. With an announced crowd of 26,170, nearly a quarter of the New York region’s estimated 60,000 Hondurans must have been in attendance, with customary soccer-fandom accouterments: horns, face paint, and flag capes. The motto for the Catrachos is “Ahora Sí Papá”—now we’re not kidding anymore, we really mean it. On the Israeli side: schools of overexcited boys, Long Island families, shirtless bald Israelis, and matching-T-shirted groups still buoyant from the earlier Celebrate Israel events in New York, which included an 8 a.m. run in Central Park and a midday parade down 5th Ave. One fan I met in the stands explained her presence by pointing to her young daughter—a curly-headed coffee-skinned cutie—and saying, “Her father is from Honduras, I am from Israel.” From behind first base a chant would take root and grow—HON-DU-RAS! HON-DU-RAS!—only to be countered from left center field by a less numerous, but no less boisterous EH RETZ IS-RA-EL! EH RETZ IS-RA-EL!—drowned out by breaching jumbo jets.
Out trotted Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General in New York (wide applause), mostly to introduce the other Grand Pooh-Bah, Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire (huge applause), who seems to enjoy something of a mascot role for Israeli sporting causes. My friend, neither Honduran nor Israeli, was concerned that the Hondurans were warming up with passing drills, while the Israelis seemed to be doing nothing but IDF-inspired calisthenics.