Rain-drenched fans soak in experience at World Masters Tour

The masters of soccer came to Miami and met a roaring crowd, but within moments of the first kick in the all-star exhibition, all 48,327 fans were soaked because of heavy rain.

Sheets of water poured down from the sky Saturday evening and caused a mass exodus from the stands to the sheltered areas of Sun Life Stadium. But many prepared spectators pulled out their ponchos, and even those devoted enough to sit through the downpour watched some of the best soccer players in the world.

Many said they came to see the soccer greats and nothing could have stopped them from enjoying the night.

“Maybe it affected some, but true fans will sit through the rain anyway,” Craig Yancey said. “Weather doesn’t affect true fans.”

Yancey, 40, said the game was worth the trip to the stadium, having the chance to see Lionel Messi and Diego Forlan up close, despite the weather.

A sea of soccer jerseys filled the seats once again as the rain dried up around halftime. Flags waved and banners spun above the heads of youth and old alike. It was a family affair for many people.

Liliana Maldonado, 45, brought her two 15-year-old daughters. While her two girls remained in their seats and endured mother nature’s forces, Maldonado took refuge in the concession area.

She said she came because she loves soccer and every single player’s name was drawing her toward the venue. Her two kids both play soccer and bringing them here was a chance to watch, not a “game-game,” but a “friendly game.” Pure entertainment value is what she came for and why she said this game was planned.

As was expected during an exposition such as Saturday’s tour, the superstars took it easy on the field. In the first few minutes they seemed to stroll across the turf. With almost every other goal, the opposing team would then tie it up in routine fashion.

The teams even took a similar number of shots, with the Stars totaling 25 shots and the Masters falling just short at 21.

Starting players switched in and out for other memorable names to step onto the field for some playing time. It was a very well executed performance put on to impress and awe the crowd.

Then, of course, there was the almost perfect ending to the game, with Ariel Ortega from the Masters scoring the final regulation-time point in the 89th minute to send the game and the fans into overtime.

“In another sense, it’s not fake because [the players] want to win,” said Manuel Rivera, 52. “They don’t take it seriously like a real game. It’s different but still they play.”

Rivera was another parent who left their kid in the stands. Rivera brought his son along but couldn’t handle the rain so he stationed himself by a TV under the roof.

He said even though he was watching it through a screen, the atmosphere at Sun Life made the experience worth it.

Jorge Gonzales, 48, who has been watching soccer since the mid-1980s, said the weather put a damper on the atmosphere. He said he saw a lot of wet, brave people.

Though many soggy fans waited for the 90 minutes to conclude in what Rivera termed a “set up,” loud cheers and applause still erupted after every goal and after the mention of any soccer master’s name.

“I got to see the best players in the world just for a glimpse, but it was worth it,” Gonzalez said.

Related stories from Miami Herald