World Cup 2014: Down on her luck and far from home, a Mexico fan finds a pickup in soccer

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For Irma Garahi, watching Sunday’s World Cup match between Mexico and the Netherlands felt like being home. All of Mexico’s World Cup matches did.

Watching the team on television, hearing the fans in the stands and seeing images of large crowds gathered in Mexico’s plazas, she felt like she was back in Guadalajara, she said.

"There’s mariachi, there’s emotion, there are shouts, there’s beauty," Garahi said.

Garahi, who is 47, left Guadalajara 20 years ago. She crossed the border illegally and arrived in Los Angeles, where her plan, like so many immigrants, was to work and send money home. But a few years ago her immigration story went wrong. After a failed marriage and the loss of a job, she said, she ended up homeless and living on downtown L.A.’s streets and in its shelters.

She said she misses Mexico but can't return having failed in the U.S. Watching the Mexican team in the World Cup lifts her spirits.

So on Sunday, she watched the game standing on the sidewalk outside a musical instrument store on Broadway, where the owner had set up a flat panel television facing the street.

"I’m looking for a better day," Garahi said. "But bad things happen for a reason, and there’s always a silver lining. Plus, I really like soccer, and Mexico is winning right now!"

The Mexican lead didn’t hold, of course. In the 88th minute of the match, the Dutch tied the game, and then snagged the victory with a penalty kick during extra time.

"What a disappointment!" Garahi said as she walked away. "So much potential, so much they could’ve done, and they didn’t do any of it."

Then she paused.

"I take that back," she said. "They did try. But the ball is deceptive. You think you’re going to win, and then one kick, and everything changes. That’s soccer. That’s life."

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