21 Apr 2011

Spanish Football Fever

Just so you don't forget my football obsession from last summer... I'm going to dip my toes back in the subject! ;o)

Although usually I go nuts for football only every 4 years - and occasionally every 2 - i.e. when Spain's National team plays the World Cup (or European Cup), it doesn't mean I'm not interested in the sport in the in-between times. It's just that I haven't been bitten by the football bug, the one that's responsible for so many "football widows" in Spain (and many other countries) on weekends. I have a favourite team (Real Madrid with goalie "San" Iker Casillas, captain of the national team and who with this victory has now won every possible title), but I won't sit down to watch them face-off with the others every week. I'll definitely choose a good movie, a TV series or going out somewhere instead of putting football on the screen. But I LOVES me a good match! So when it looks like there's going to be one, usually a particularly important event, count me in!

Right now there are cars honking their horns in streets outside my window. Twenty minutes ago someone set off a huge blast (firecracker) that sent my dog running to hide in the bathtub. A little over half an hour ago my mom was yelling "gooooooooool" out the balcony and I could hear neighbours in other appartments yelling the same thing.

Tonight was a big match for Spanish football. The final of the "Copa del Rey", an annual football competition that has been around since 1902 and is actually older than the "Liga" (1929), the main football league championship. The difference between the two is that the "Liga" is won by points (all 20 teams in 1st division play each other twice, once in their home field, once in the opponents) with 3 points given for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. The "Copa del Rey" is now played by a limited number of teams from the 1st and 2nd divisions of the national football league with the early stage games giving home advantage to the lower division teams. The next matches are rounds of 32, 16, quarter-finals and semis in which the matches are played twice, once in each teams home field. The final is a single match played on a neutral field. The Cup is given to the captain of the winning team by the King, and since our King doesn't stand much on protocol -and everyone knows it- there are usually some very fun interactions between him and the players! (happened at the World Cup last year, European Cup 3 years, and has happened in tennis too with Nadal... our King is definitely COOL!)

This year the match was particularly intense as it featured historic rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona... the two teams which have dominated Spanish football (and frequently European football recently) for decades. In fact, I'd say of the 22 players on the field tonight, about half of them are World Champions... and most of those who aren't are foreigners! In other words, a meeting between our best teams. And man was it INTENSE!!! To see the guys running up and down the field, non-stop, no changes of players (until the very end)... keeping up that level of intensity and speed and precision for 2h on the grass (0-0 at game's end so they went into overtime). They are definitely ship-shape athletes! And yest there was the usual foul play you see on the pitch, but nothing too serious and definitely nothing vicious. Mostly good sportsmanship (but sadly nowhere near the level you see in tennis), and congratulatory hugs all around between winners and losers (who were just as good as the winners) at the end. A pleasure to see!

Casillas y la Copa  (see King JC  head in corner!) pic from here
Even more fun was the cup ceremony. After the rest of the members of the Real Madrid had received their mini-cup from the King, the captain Iker Casillas (our fabulous goalie who stopped several gut-wrenching shots) hugged the King (and got a bear hug back), kissed the Queen on both cheeks... and then stood up on the ballustrade in front of them by holding on to the King's shoulder for support. The King then passed the huge Copa up to him and held his hand so he wouldn't lose his balance while he victoriously raised the cup to his cheering team mates and the fans. Fabulous moment! Only in España! :o)

The Barcelona team were downcast for sure, but the odd thing this year is they get a chance for revenge in just a week! In the "Liga" the two Barça-Madrid or Madrid-Barça matches are considered a "classic". One is in the fall, the other in the spring. Well this year there are 4 "classics" held in less than 4 weeks! Last Saturday the Madrid and Barça tied 1-1 in Madrid in the "return" match of the Liga. Tonight was the final of the Copa del Rey. And next week (in Madrid) and the following (in Barcelona) they are playing the semi-finals if the European Champions League (between top European clubs)! Considering the level these guys are at right now, football fans are in for a unique treat! I'm just glad the Selección (national team) doesn't have to play any time soon... because over half its players are going to be pooped after this intense month! :p

I'll finish off with the heart-stopping moment of the game, the winning goal by Portuguese Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo, and if you're interested there are some great shots of the game at RTVE.es:


  1. Wow! You are definitely a real FAN, Cris. Thanks for bringing me along on your adventure...

  2. only from time to time... ;o)


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