Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions for Luis Torres. Some 25 years after leaving his home in the Ecuadorian sierra city of Alaus he had finally taken the plunge. After a short ceremony at Fulham Town Hall, he had taken on British citizenship, following in the footsteps of his wife, children, brothers and cousins who had all joined him in the UK.
"I didn't expect it, it's silly really after so many years, but I felt rather sad," he said.
But on his return to the Ecuadorian restaurant he runs, El Rincon Quiteno (a little corner of the capital city, Quito), in Holloway, north London, there was only one topic of conversation: the outcome of Sunday's match between Ecuador and England. It will provide an immediate test of his new-found loyalties. But so far, Mr Torres is refusing to be drawn. Despite sporting the Ecuador team shirt and flying a number of Ecuadorian red, yellow and blue flags, he insisted: "I'll be supporting both sides, of course. I can't lose."
El Rincon has been packed out for each of Ecuador's three games in this World Cup so far. A sizeable proportion of the 10,000 expatriots from the Latin American country living in the UK have taken up residence around this part of north London. The team's success, in stark contrast to previous tournaments, has been a source of excitement and pride.
"We were very sad when we were beaten by Germany," said Waleska Lopez, a waitress. "But we didn't play our best players. We are saving them for Sunday.''
Ecuadorians have been joined in their support by other Latin Americans living in London, particularly Colombians. "We are just as happy as they are," said Gloria Parilli, a Colombian. "Their coach [Luis Suarez] is from Colombia, after all."
Over on the other side of the Thames, at Parrilladas del Sur in Elephant and Castle, Ramiro Olmedo was also enjoying his home country's moment in the spotlight. The 18-year-old was sharing a glass of chicha, Ecuador's maize drink, with a satellite television presenter dressed in the furry lion suit of the tournament's mascot, Goaleo. Mr Olmedosaid he felt that Ecuador's World Cup run had helped to bring his community together.
Hundreds of Ecuadorians were gathered at The Coronet cinema in Elephant and Castle for the game against Poland and Mr Olmedo was expecting to watch the match against England there on Sunday.
"I'm not much of a football fan but I really enjoy the World Cup," he said. "We are playing well, we are strong and organised. I think we have a good chance."Reuse content