Campeones del Mundo

Not that I’m the first to say it lately, but here goes:

¡VIVA ESPAÑA!

Ok… let me be clear about something: Coming here I couldn’t care LESS about soccer– or I guess we should call it fúbol in deference to mis hermanos y mis hermanas.

The Robin William's view of an American soccer player

I called it a sorta-sport, even though the entire world plays the game (even, to some extent, the United States– sidenote: Robin Williams explains our proclivity for soccer best in his Live From New York show).

After living through the World Cup Fever that took over the people of this country– and will continue for, hopefully, a very long time– I have changed my tune:

Soccer is a valid sport, and can even be moderately enjoyable… as long as you are in a great tapas bar, with great friends, and all of the annoying horns and buzzers are kept out of arms reach of little children and drunken adults. But I digress…

It was one of those “you had to be there” moments:

The final minutes of the World Cup match between Holland and Spain, The Goal, The Aftermath.

This was something I have never seen in my entire life, and I am so happy that I was here to witness it:

Everyone in the entire country had red and yellow somewhere on their bodies–and some had bodies that were painted entirely red and yellow (or, at least, the parts that I saw!).

Most people draped themselves in their national flag (in the hypersensitive US something tantamount to disrespect for the cloth), and everyone… EVERYONE…. was hugging, chanting about their national pride and heritage, and displaying the kind of affection normally reserved for close relatives or lovers.

It’s pandemonium over here, people… but not in a “Lakers-winning-come riot in the streets with looting and upside-down cop cars” kinda way. This is all about love and national pride.

To understand it, you gotta see it through the eyes of a Spaniard: These are a people who have shouldered the worst impact of the global financial recession in Europe. Unemployment in their country is in the high double digits, and some people say it’s only getting worse.

In the restaurant business, things are especially ugly– you can walk down major streets in Madrid, Barcelona, and Marbella and hear the ghosts of restaurants-past in shuttered storefronts. My friends, it is ugly.

And then Spain got their asses kicked by Switzerland in the first game of the World Cup… in their national sport. To the average Spaniard, their national pride got bitch-slapped by a bunch of chocolate-eating neutrality lovers.

Everyone was hating on their luck, but they didn’t give up on their team. They hoped for a miracle– even against the odds that no team has ever lost in the first round and won the World Cup.

And then they won… and again… and again. And World Cup fever was on…

Next thing you know they beat Germany and are in the final. Flags are flying from windows and rooftops, people are arguing in bars and cafeterias over the prophecies of an octopus… and that Spanish machismo–that national pride– came back for better and for worse!

So there I was at my local bar watching the masses go absolutely ape-shit over their win, and it was like watching a country collectively let out a sigh of relief.  All of those financial woes, years and years of exasperation over their economy, their political problems, the 2004 train bombings… all of it was exhaled last night.

And to that I say let’s continue the run!

Let’s hope that this World Cup win is the catalyst that turns everything for this beleaguered nation around. It’s fun having a bunch of machismo-driven Spaniards around, so again I say:

¡VIVA ESPAÑA!


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2 Responses to “Campeones del Mundo”

  1. Hey Jeff
    Glad to see you were part of the celebration. I too never cared about soccer until I was in Mexico during the World Cup and had to time to watch. I rooted for Spain as soon as the US was knocked out of the picture.
    Hope your taking in all this experience has to offer.
    Take Care
    Yvonne

  2. my mom is from spain and you are awesome.

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