When Carlos Barahona unpacks his suitcase in South Africa, out will come a giant Honduran flag, which he drapes around his shoulders. When Honduras scores, he waves the flag and sings the national anthem. The rest of the time, the Sarasota, Florida, resident says, he’s possessed: “I can’t sit. I’m jumping up and down, screaming.” He got so excited when Honduras beat Mexico at a qualifying game for the 1998 World Cup that he ripped the seams of his pants with his bare hands and then danced at a disco until 9 a.m.
Unlike Argentina’s 15 World Cup appearances, this will only be Honduras’s second. Barahona was just 20 in 1982, when underdog Honduras tied mighty host-country Spain and favored Northern Ireland, then lost 1–0 to Yugoslavia in the first round. Barahona, now 48, doesn’t want to wait another 28 years to see for himself if Los Catrachos can be among the surprises in South Africa.
“Soccer is my number-one obsession,” says the maintenance supervisor for a five-star restaurant. He has a collection of ticket stubs from the Honduras games he’s attended. “I went to Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Chicago for the qualifying,” says Barahona. “This is a continuation of the journey.”
He grew up in San Pedro Sula, following the pro team, Marathón. “We played soccer every day, no matter what. It was as essential as eating,” he says. He later played professionally for Marathón before moving to the United States in 1980. After he broke his toe, he retired, and now coaches in an over-45 league.
Barahona knows the World Cup is as much about the fans as the players, as much about the emotion off the field as on it.
“A love of soccer is something that is deep inside me,” he says. “When Honduras plays, it comes out. It comes out very loud.”