Now that I have gotten over the loss of daily soccer matches to watch, I can recap my World Cup experience. Even though most sports on TV is mind-numbingly boring I really enjoy watching World Cup football, I even yell at the screen sometimes. It was made more exciting by being in a country where football matters and, even more so, in a city that treats their footballers like heroes. It also helped that South Afrcia and Spain are in the same time zone. I only watched a smattering of the round robin games, many of those by streaming them on my laptop while “studying”. It got interesting for me when the round robin started to wind down and the games were more important for seeing who would go through.
We watched the big England vs. Germany game in a famous Irish pub with a couple we know here, she’s German, he’s English, that made for some good fun. The place was literally filled to capacity with people sitting on the floor a foot from the 52″+ television trying to see through the cloud of smoke. It was mostly fun watching our friend Vanessa clap madly when the Germans scored to the disdain of almost everyone else in the bar. J and I held up the neutral Canadian ground. The majority of the matches following that we watched with our friend Colin who had worked out a sweet deal with a hotel close to where we all live. Before moving here he used to stay there a lot so knows quite a few of the staff. We watched the games on a flat screen TV in an area that normally serves as the breakfast bar We had lounge chairs, drinks, it was smoke free and essentially private. It is conveniently located beside a very well known Dutch bar, this led to some good excitement the nights that Holland was playing. Nothing like a swarm of fluorescent orange clad tall Dutch men standing on the side walk trying to watch the screens through the window.
Leading up to the quarter-finals the mood in Barcelona was actually quite subdued regarding Spain. Even though most of the players play for the beloved FC Barcelona the Catalan people feel disconnected from Spain as a whole, they are in many ways the Quebecois of Spain. We were told not to expect too much in terms of celebration if Spain won. By the time the semi-finals rolled around the Spanish (not Catalan) flag was hanging from more windows and being streamed off the back of bikes. I overheard people in the street talking strategy and making plans to watch the finale.
Our friend Kendra was in town the day of the finale and we had spent the better part of the day at the beach. None of us was up to watching the games on the big screen at Plaza España so we wandered around the neighbourhood until we ended up in a Mexican bar that was full of Spanish people. It also happens to be just a short walk up from the same Dutch bar so it made for a good vantage point, should Spain have lost we could have joined their party 🙂 The game itself was nothing worth writing about but the tension was certainly building just before the final goal was scored. The moment Iniesta scored the place erupted into chanting, clapping, singing and dancing, it lasted as the fianl minutes counted down. As soon as the whistle blew the soundsystem in the restaurant started blasting We Are The Champions by Queen, apparently it’s universal song because everyone knew the words.
We made our way out to the street shrotly after and discovered roaming bands of people singing and spontaneous bouts of salsa dancing. Out of curiosity we followed the mob and ended up on a main street perpendicular to Las Ramblas, the main drag through the centre of town. People were on their rooftops and patios hosing down passer bys and throwing buckets of water. I later learned this a a tradition in warm countries as it helps to keep mobs of people cool, we managed to avoid the water making it all the more amusing to watch. We stayed back from the main craziness but watched the people swelling out of/onto Las Ramblas where a happy mob was doing what happy mobs do after sporting events: cheering, whistles, climbing stuff and waving flags. We dodged more water as we sauntered home to the sounds of fire crackers and vuvuzelas.
Days later there will still random people shouting ¡España! in the streets.