World Cup 2010: Spain
World Cup 2010 was finally upon us, and now all of a sudden, it’s over. Saints and sinners, winners and losers, heroes and villains, easy wins and dramatic upsets: the World Cup has it all.
Now that Spain has actually won the competition, and we are in the thick of it here, what was it like? In a word, surreal.
Many Spaniards are football-mad. The most vehemently one-eyed fans join forces when a player swaps his team shirt for the country colours.
Spain and the World Cup haven’t been the best of friends according to history, so the fan base appeared to have that rock-solid belief of victory, but with a suppressed but niggly feeling there is a layer of quicksand under the rock
This turned out to be a good planning move given Spain eventually won; as they advanced through the stages, the demand for tables at the bar which televised the games went through the roof.
South and Central American countries were well represented, and a number of their matches were televised at the bar, but not NZ or Australia games.
The crowd at the bar was as lively as a Barcelona/Real Madrid game. The Spanish team did what was necessary to qualify for the knockout.
The knockout stage sparked a gear shift in the expectation: the bar audience changed: faces and arms marked red/yellow, Spain shirts, small flags waving about etc.
Spain versus Portugal went at a furious pace, the audience wound up the energy – they were as primed as a shaken-up champagne bottle with an dodgy cork… near-misses and fouls releasing a bit of tension now and then.
A nervous half time at 0-0, where many vacated outside for a breath of air and/or a cigarette, to calm the nerves down.
In the second half, a goal from David Villa. The bar erupted, 6.0 on the Richter scale. The final whistle put everyone out of their misery and the realisation that they were through to the next match appeared to be a relief as well as a blessing.
One down three to go. Still no bravado posturing – most Spaniards were hopeful but realistic. Spain versus Paraguay was a similar affair, with Villa again doing his magic.
Now the locals were getting a lot more confident of maybe going all the way, with one hitch: Germany was next on the cards.
Spain versus Germany: add in more people marked red/yellow on any bit of available flesh, larger flags, vuvuzelas, air horns and a larger mix of dread and joy.
Carlos Puyol’s goal just about blew out the bar windows…. and our ear drums. Got covered in flying popcorn and beer. Spain hung on to the end, and the noise got even louder. The bar owner let off huge fireworks in the street outside.
Spain actually reaching the World Cup final was unprecedented. As was the buzz of hope, ‘it might just be possible’. By the time the day of the final arrived, Spain enjoyed four days of build-up, where Spanish flags and red+yellow suddenly adorned most cars, buildings and even people.
Places selling 'Spain' football kit were doing a roaring trade. The queue for replica football shirts was five deep.
Suitably attired for the occasion, we both sported Spain shirts and copious red/yellow markings, so as to fit in with everyone else at the bar. When Iniesta scored the only goal, the bar audience pushed the Richter scale past the maximum… momentarily… it felt like it, anyway.
The referee quickly shuffled the players back into place for the restart, which prompted the bar audience to put the cork back into the bottle, and endure the remaining minutes of the match. An endurance it was too. You could almost smell the adrenaline, fear, anxiety, excitement. You could certainly see it. All ages, both genders: shaking hands, wide-eyes, heavy breathing, half-set look of horror on the face. Some young girls cupped both hands over their mouths. One even closed her eyes, like she was at a horror movie.
Squeals of hope and excitement crested above the constant barrage of ‘Vamos Espagne!!!’ as the extra-time clock neared the end, then the referee blew his whistle to end it... despite the TV sound turned up to the maximum, we never heard it as the bar audience exploded in delight and drowned every other sound out.
Seeing football fans on TV go wild when their team wins a competition is a joyous sight to behold. Being in the midst of a passionate country that has won the World Cup for the very first time is even better. Never mind being doused in every alcoholic substance known to man, plus popcorn, chips and nuts, and then having it all bear-hugged into you by ecstatic locals… that’s the fun of it. Messy, noisy, deliriously happy.
Exiting the bar, ears a-ringing, they got hammered again from the fireworks bonanza in the street; a deafening crackle of firecracker strings going off, huge rockets lighting up the sky, plus the obligatory people dancing around. Every car that slowly drove through the village almost wore out their horn.... tooting until they disappeared in the distance. Quite a few cars had people riding on the roof, some wavingflags and others with air horns - we hoped they hung on when the cars disappeared around the corner into the dark.
Just around the corner, a rival bar had installed large TVs outside in the square for the match; a completely different atmosphere to our experience.
We met friends and stayed there for a few drinks al fresco, since the temperature was still about +22C. Our conversation was regularly and happily interrupted with celebrations from the locals, and horn tooting. Finally got home at 4am. Found out the next day, that almost no-one else went home... they stayed up all night. As they did in Madrid, Barcelona, and most other cities, towns, and villages in Spain.
The match was four days ago... local and national media attention ensured it was front page (and almost to back page) for three days running, although in time it will gradually lessen. But nothing can dissipate the happy glow of the locals.
The World Cup win is a brilliant start to the Valverde annual fiesta, which starts this coming Friday.