There’s some good news for fans of Spanish soccer, or uh, sorry, football. Spain is in the EuroCup 2008 Finals. Though I haven’t lived in Spain for over a year, I’m excited, not only to be rooting for a team in the finals (yet again: Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics), but I’m excited for the Spanish people also.
I remember sitting in my Spanish Culture and Civilization class, hearing my professor telling us that the Spanish never win anything. She was adament about the fact that all Spaniards always put faith in their national soccer team, and that they’re never surprised when they never win anything. She insisted that the Spaniards aren’t very good at soccer. I didn’t really understand this, and I had to chalk it up to her own little style of self-deprecating humor, even though the Spanish I encountered generally had no understanding of that humor.
Anytime we saw Spaniards playing, they blew us away with their skills, as they easily performed tricks I couldn’t even do in my dreams. Surely, at some point or another, Spaniards have had to have won something. Not only that, but the Spanish League is one of the best soccer leagues in the world.
That’s why I’m happy that they’re in the finals now against Germany, airing Sunday afternoon. If you thought waiting 86 years for the Red Sox to win the World Series was tough, just think about the Spaniards waiting 88 years to beat the Italians in competitive play. Whereas baseball is one of four major sports that people can pull behind, soccer, at the national level, is something that dominates the sporting lives of Spaniards.
So now that Spain has done what was thought impossible, beating Italy, they’ve advanced past Russia to face Germany, with its own powerhouse of stars. I’ll point out at this time that I’m not actually a soccer fan. I know about as much of soccer as I do about Chemistry, so I’m not going to pretend that I know what I’m talking about in terms of the game itself. But I am a bit of an enthusiast, or an admirer at the least. I don’t watch random games or follow the stats, but I appreciate the cultural impact and the joy it brings to the fans. I think there are differences in every culture with sport, and I’ve learned to appreciate the subtleties of the game. So when I see international play on TV, I don’t mind watching anymore.
When I lived in Spain I watched many games in smoke-filled, crowded bars, with men who didn’t speak, save for utters of disgust and shouts of joy. I went to two games for one of the two teams in Sevilla, and though I didn’t go to the biggest games of the year, it was an amazing experience. Even for a meaningless game, the fans were going crazy, jumping around in their seats and screaming from start to finish. Of all the sports I’ve been to in the U.S., I don’t know if there’s anything that compared to it, except for maybe playoff hockey.
I went to a soccer game back in the States last month with my dad. It was the New England Revolution vs. D.C. United. It was like watching a high school match, comparatively. With the exception of the true fan section, everyone else was there just to get out of the house for a couple of hours. No one cheered, no one stood with excitement, and no one looked happy at the end of the game, even though the Revolution won.
I’ve discussed with my friends why soccer isn’t big in America, and my theory is partly thanks to the ADD everyone in this country has been raised with. If there isn’t constant scoring, you lose interest. Soccer is a game of patience, of playing level with the other team for 90 minutes, and waiting for that one moment when the other team lets its guard down, just that one second, and then bam! A deflection off the post goes off someone’s shoelace, and into the net. Too many Americans can’t wait for that moment, however. They want the goal now! And they want a lot of them. That’s probably also why hockey isn’t very popular anymore. There just isn’t enough scoring.
In the rest of the world, however, the fast paced lives of Americana don’t necessarily transfer over the same, and maybe that helps make soccer such an enjoyable sport to watch. Human chess, just moving the ball into position one move at a time. Waiting for the right moment to strike. Wait, maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself now. This was about Spain, after all.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Spanish soccer. I was in Europe during EuroCup 2004, and it blew my mind. When I lived in Sevilla, Sevilla FC, the team I rooted for, won the Spanish League Cup, and the city partied all night long. The city center became an outdoor club. Someone showed up with huge speakers and blasted music, while tables suddenly popped up selling mixed drinks for 2 euro and beers for 1 euro. People were dancing in the street and running around setting off firecrackers. I nearly went deaf when one went off right next to me. So I know that last night Spain was ablaze with partying, drinking, and dancing. I wish I was there to see it all now.
So come on Spain, prove my former professor wrong and with that cup. !Viva Espana!