The energy was palpable at El Rinconcito Ecuatoriano, an Ecuadorian restaurant in Irving Park with walls covered in artisanal paintings and crafts.

Fans put on yellow T-shirts, shouted at the TV, cheered as if their lives depended on it – all while sipping coffee or beer and eating a traditional Ecuadorian dish salchipapa, french fries and hot dogs, or a bolon de verde, plantain-based dish.

For many, Sunday became a day of celebration as Ecuador defeated hosts Qatar 2-0 in the debut match of the World Cup, which had football fans in Chicago – and around the world – sitting breathless.

Just before 8.30am outside the Globe Pub, fans battled sub-zero temperatures to run straight for the door. Some were wrapped in Ecuadorian flags, others were drinking hot coffee.

Once inside, brother and sister Felipe Carbo, 33, and Michelle Carbo, 28, from Guayaquil, Ecuador, expressed their excitement about the team’s lineup – a mix of old and new players – which made Michelle Carbo feel confident in her country’s chances during tournament.

“This time it may happen that we get to Sweet 16,” she said. That is, to the final 16 teams – the top two teams from each group – that will take part in the knockout stage.

They also discussed the recent controversy surrounding the Qatari government and its treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ community.

“Especially in disenfranchised countries like Qatar, it makes sense that all of these protests are demanding human rights because they are more focused on where the money is rather than fixing things that are going on in their current country” – Michelle Carbo said.

Matthew Sund, 27, booed Gianni Infantino as the FIFA president shared some introductory words before the match. “Shut up,” he yelled across the sports bar, his Team USA T-shirt showing through his jacket.

“Nobody really supports this World Cup,” he told the Sund Tribune. However, he added that people will continue to watch the tournament.

Shouts of “Ecuador! Ecuador! Ecuador!” erupted throughout the venue as Ecuador’s Enner Valencia scored against Qatar within the first three minutes of the match. But groans cut through the electrifying atmosphere as the referees disallowed a goal after a lengthy offside assessment.

Mandy Mendoza, 30, from Alausí, Ecuador, arrived at the Globe Stadium shortly before kick-off. Her mother grew up in Quito and her father in Guayaquil.

Mendoza expressed cautious optimism about her team, which she says is “doing better this year.”

“Ecuador doesn’t always make it” to the World Cup, she added. This year was the fourth appearance of the small South American country in the World Cup since the tournament was first held in 1930.

At El Rinconcito Ecuatoriano, fans of all ages sat and ate with their eyes fixed on one TV. Despite some technical problems that turned off the TV several times, customers joked and laughed about it. In the end, their team was winning – Valencia of Ecuador scored two more goals in the 31st minute.

The small but energetic group in the restaurant jumped for joy as the ball rolled out of the pitch for the last time after 90 minutes and extra time.

“I was a little nervous because, as they say, it’s hard to win the first game,” said Estefania Escudero, 26, whose family is from Quito. “But I’m very happy we won. It’s always nice to have that feeling.”

Her cousin Nicole Constante, a 20-year-old University of Illinois at Chicago student who is also from Quito, said the young players from Ecuador proved people wrong.

“I think people didn’t believe they could do it,” said Constante. “They are young, but they were able to prove the opposite.”

However, her team will only be more competitive, added Escudero. Ecuador plays the Netherlands currently ranks eighth around the world on Friday.

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