The World Cup comes to the village

There are few things that bring out peoples nationalism like the World Cup. Soccer is to the Spanish what hockey is to Canadians and cross-country skiing is to Norwegians. Simply BIG! ‘Futbol’ is Spain’s national passion. Furthermore, Spain won the last cup, so expectations are running high and vulnerable victorious egos are at stake…

Personally, I rather watch a field of blowing grass than a television screen with people running after a ball for 90 minutes. Especially if you have grown men yelling uncontrollably at the TV-screen simultaneously, which is usually the case. However, when the World Cup descends upon us through all media channels, soccer ‘fever’ hits young and old. So though I do not care who wins, I have to admit that I do find the hoopla around the cup a very interesting social phenomenon.

The evening that Spain was playing their first game I left my husband by the TV, yelling interchangeably “GOAL!” and “Oh NO!” to the TV set. I met our neighbour Maria del Mar outside, telling me that her husband had told her not to cross in front of the TV. Happy to be out of the way, we walked together up the street, passing by other houses with more primal roars.

We live in a typical rural Spanish neighbourhood where everybody knows everything about everybody else’s lives and all seem to be somehow related, be it through blood, marriage, employment or fence lines. Like most Spanish villages, life here happens outside, in public view. Therefore, there was no surprise that the World Cup also took to the streets.

In our San Francisco plaza, the restaurants and bodegas had brought their televisions outside. Screens were hanging precariously from window shutters, roped onto walls or placed freestanding for public view in the plaza. The majority of our barrio residents were gathered in front of the screens, sporting their national flag, el Rojo shirts and other team paraphernalia. Cervezas and tinto de veranos were ordered in pace with the sport commentary, increasing in speed and velocity as Spain let in goal after goal, finally ending 1-5 against Netherland. The Spaniards ordered more beer to drown their sorrows.

Funny What’sApp messages started circulating. One was saying: Spain has 25.6 % unemployment and a minimum monthly salary of 666 euros per month. Netherland has 7.3% unemployment and a minimum monthly salary of 1301 euros per month. And we worry about 5 goals…

During Spain’s second game, people were back in the square in their red shirts, though the roars were somewhat dampened as it became clear that the national team would loose again. By the third game, even some of the Spaniards had to admit that their beloved players were not up to snuff. Most screens were moved back inside and many shirts seemed to have been left in the dirty laundry basket. Spain’s players were back on the plane and the last news was that the players fled through a backdoor at the airport to avoid the disappointed looks of their fans and the inevitable tricky questions of the press.

Except once, statistically speaking, the same country has never won the World Cup of soccer twice in a row. One has to ask oneself if being ‘the best’ makes the players less hungry for victory? I suppose if you are ‘on top’, the only way forward is down. As I said, I do not care who wins. To me the fact that a soccer player is sold for one hundred million euros (or was it dollars?) for a handful years, is simply sick.

However… I must admit that I was cheering on Ghana when they played against Germany the other day. If I am going to cheer on anyone, I’ll be cheering on the underdog!

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