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The Passion for The Red

What's Spain like when Spain's national team is playing a soccer game? We'll tell you all about it

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The Spanish love of soccer is something mythical, but its passion for its national team, Spain’s national selection, is truly legendary. If the team, known as “The Red Fury”, “The Fury”, or simply “The Red” (although technically that nickname also corresponds to the Chilean national team) is playing, the country comes to a standstill. Everything becomes eerily quiet, at least until one of their players begins approaching the opposite goal… And God help the channel that isn’t playing the game on TV, because its ratings are guaranteed to fall sharply! It doesn’t matter if it’s for a huge championship competition or just a friendly game: if The Red is playing, the fans will follow.

Rarely a month goes by when the national team isn’t playing, so if you’re in Spain for your Spanish course you should be able to catch one of their games.  So where can you watch the game?  There are a few options.

Watching the game in a bar

Lately, modern and aseptic sports bars with multiple TV screens have become popular, but finding yourself surrounded by men in suits eagerly hoping to win their bets, along with pretentious know-it-all’s talking soccer tactics and strategy… well, it could be a bit uncomfortable. The true passion can be found in those old, neighorhood bars: the bars that will serve you a beer with your tapas, those no-frills local spots where you might find the local shopkeeper that’s just closed up shop, the old man who spends all afternoon on the same barstool, the young married couple with kids in tow, the young students who pooled their money together to buy a team scarf, the taxi driver who knows he won’t have any fares for the next 90 minutes… And the best part is, you’ll see that it doesn’t matter that they don’t know each other.  Everyone celebrates a goal as if they were family!

Watching the game with friends

Another good option is to stay in: getting together a group of friends and organizing an evening at home.  Not only will you be in a more relaxed, intimate environment, but it’ll also be easier on your wallet, as these events tend to be potluck-style, with each guest bringing something to eat or drink. You may be surprised at how perfect the set-up is.  An exciting goal just might make your most serious Spanish friend jump up and start shouting!

Watching the game out in the street

A few years ago, many cities in Spain began installing giant TV screens in plazas or near stadiums so that pedestrians and passersby could at least catch glimpses of the games. It is certainly the cheapest option, but also the most noisy and jam-packed, so if you aren’t fond of crowds we recommend you try an alternative.  But if you love to meet new people, if you relish the excitement of feeling like part of a whole, and if you’re curious to see what our society is really like… This option is for you!

Eat, drink, play…

Sometimes, as the lovely Amélie in the movie theater told us: it’s best to look away from the screen and take a look back.  We continue to “suffer the catharsis” as our Greek ancestors did, but we’ve exchanged the theater for the soccer field.  The best – and worst – part of it all is that the enthusiasm is contagious.

Watching a national selection game is a total experience: wearing the team colors, painting the flag on your face, wearing the jersey of your favorite player…Okay fine, fans of all sports do those things (except chess fans), but for Spaniards it all holds a particularly special meaning.  The political situation in Spain is incredibly complex, due to our history of civil war and the resulting Franco dictatorship. Patriotism – and even the symbol of the Spanish flag – are sensitive topics and aren’t heartily embraced the way they might be in another country. Some even go as far to say that the only time it’s politically correct for a Spaniard to demonstrate pride in country or wave the flag is when the national team wins a game. For us, the national team is a way for us to put political differences aside and come together in celebration.

Well, as you can see, a national team soccer game is really just a big party.  And what are the two must-have’s for a party? Drinks and food, of course! In some cases you might find the typical Spanish fare such as tortilla de patatas accompanied by chorizo, jamón, blood sausage, cheeses … all washed down with beer, wine, sangria or claras (beer mixed with lemon soda… trust us, it’s better than it sounds). Among other parties, guests are contented with a few bags of potato chips, the famous “gusanitos” (or “little worms” because of their shape… think Cheetos or cheese puffs but with less of the neon orange color), pizza deliveries … all accompanied by all types of soft drinks.

In conclusion, some might argue that if you only had one day to study what the Spanish people are really about, what inspires our passion and brings us together, you should chose a day when the Spain national team is playing … the best part is that afterwards, you’d still have 22.5 hours to go to the beach or visit some monuments!

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