QUITO, Ecuador — My father and I took my grandfather to a soccer game for Father’s Day and his 81st birthday. When we got to the stadium, I wanted to preserve the moment.
“Sir, can you take a photo of us,” I asked the gentleman behind me, offering him my phone.
He politely obliged — and even made the effort to snap us at a flattering angle.
“Move a little to the left,” he directed. “Wait, let me move over here so we can get the lights behind you out of the way.”
He handed back my phone and couldn’t resist inquiring about the results.
“Did the pictures come out, OK?”
We thanked him and proceeded to watch the rest of the second half between two Ecuadorian clubs: Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica and reigning Copa Libertadores champ Independiente de Valle.
It was a regular season match at el Estadio Olympico in Quito. I’ve been here in the past when Ecuador played against the likes of Brazil and Colombia and it’s ALWAYS packed.
By my estimate, less than 500 people were in the stadium, but the crowd was was an energetic bunch. They were pro-Catolica and had zero sympathy for the referee, offering an array of “hijos de puta” insults.
We had seats at center field and plenty of space. One side of the pitch had a marching band representing Indpendiente, while the other sported a single drummer for Catolica.
Wives and children of the players were sitting near the bottom rows. Men in suits took seats in the higher rows.
My father realized our photographer looked familiar, but couldn’t come up with a name. My dad waited until the photographer slipped away until he asked his buddy a question.
“Friend, isn’t he a former Liga [de Quito] player?”
“Yes, that’s Jairo Campos and he just took your family’s photo.”
My dad was giddy. For context, Campos was a defender on the Liga team that was crowned Copa Libertadores champions in 2008. For a country that’s had limited success on the international stage, that magical run represented a big moment for Ecuadorian soccer.
Campos was also on the Ecuadorian national team in 2010.
When the second half began, I plotted a plan to talk to Campos again. My father, who rarely shows signs of nerves, was a bit hesitant.
When we found him, I told my dad to shoot his shot.
“Excuse me, are you Jairo Campos?” my dad asked.
“Yes, that’s me,” Campos replied.
“I’m a big fan of yours. We saw you win with Liga. It’s so nice to meet you.”
Campos shook his hand and told him, “It’s nice to meet you, too.”
Seconds later, a wind of regret sank in. My dad tells me after: “I should‘ve asked for a photo.”
Our attention shifted to the game. Indpendiente scored on a questionable penalty call and the crowd was furious.
It felt like a lost cause for the home team. Catolica had plenty of opportunities in the box, but couldn’t handle the pressure of finishing their chances. Still, they kept attacking.
Finally, they scored. Tie game. Fans went into a frenzy. My pops was jumping with joy and my grandpa was, too. For some, it was a meaningless game. For the two guys next to me — it was a moment of euphoria.
With ten minutes left, I told my dad he shouldn’t pass up the chance to take a photo with Campos.
The game ended in a tie and as we were standing up, I saw an opportunity fleeting away.
My dad and Campos made eye contact, and suddenly, my dad pulled up to take his shot: he asked Campos for a photo. Our polite photographer was glad to. He made a star struck 57-year-old smile from cheek to cheek.
Meeting your idol comes in rare moments in life. It was pretty cool for Campos to embrace a fan the way he did.
Thank you Mr. Campos.