The Full 90

Scenes from a watch party, Episode VI

Given the recent struggles of the Chiefs and Royals, Kenneth Vega doesn’t see any reason why soccer can’t be the big thing in Kansas City.

And Vega believes the World Cup is the perfect time to make converts. He speaks from experience.

His parents moved to the U.S. from Venezuela in 1979, but the family went back for a visit when Vega was 16. It was 1998 and they were there during the World Cup in France. Venezuela didn’t qualify, but that didn’t stop the country from going Cup crazy.

“I was a NASCAR fan but when I came back I was a soccer fan,” Vega said.

So much so, that he was among the more than 50 Honduras fans at Sabor Centro Americano on Independence Avenue for Monday’s game against Spain. With five TVs in the restaurant, everyone had a good view of the action, although it was decidedly tilted in Spain’s favor.

“I’m not particularly Honduran,” Vega said, “but I’ve become part of the family.”

Ditto for Ben Holland, whose wife Yohanna is from Honduras.

Holland, who was wearing a Honduras jersey, is American and a fan of the U.S. team, but he said: “Para hoy, catracho soy!”

That means “For today, I’m Honduran.”

Every table was taken at Sabor Centro Americano and some fans even stood in the back and watched. Owner Fredy Rios said the Wizards’ Roger Espinoza has dined at his restaurant, and a few fans wore Wizards shirts, undoubtedly in support of Espinoza, who started for Honduras on Monday.

But Espinoza and his teammates gave the crowd little to cheer. In fact, it groaned often during Spain’s 2-0 victory. There were even a few frustrated outbursts when Honduras botched the occasional scoring attempt.

But Holland said the place was electric during World Cup qualifying and for Gold Cup games.

Still, Holland wasn’t surprised to see such a big turnout for a game that kicked off at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s a lot more emotional because this is the first time Honduras has made the World Cup since 1982,” Holland said. “It’s funny, that’s the year my wife was born and last year, my son was born.”

Dylan Roberto, who was born on Dec. 16, looked sharp in his Honduran jersey.

And while Honduras has struggled during this World Cup, they could get another shot four years from now. That is if the Hollands have another baby.

“Every time someone in my family is born,” Holland quipped, “Honduras makes the World Cup.”

| Pete Grathoff, pgrathoff@kcstar.com

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