The Football Experience:  Watching the Spain-Italy Euro2008 Football Game

The Football Experience: Watching the Spain-Italy Euro2008 Football Game

My face painted the Spain flag stripes – red, yellow, red – I stood in a Ronda, Spain bar last Sunday night. It was the big game and my first time watching a big game in a Spanish bar. I stood as a Spain traveler hundreds of miles from home watching amongst the locals, like the locals.

Spain was going against Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 – one of the biggest tournaments in the sport.

The Spain-Italy game played on the big screen as I stood amongst the chanting, singing, jumping and cheering locals, wishing my spoken Spanish was a little better.

I’ve experienced nothing like it.

Futbol, Football or, as known in the US/Canada, “Soccer”, is more than just a sport – it is a meaning to life. And this game was one of the most important games in recent history.

I imagine the rest of Spain had a similar passion as this little bar in Ronda, Spain. And the expats I’ve talked to argue that most of the world is as passionate for games like these… well, except the US and Canada where soccer competes for attention. In Spain and in Europe, I am told, it is hard to find anyone who cannot argue passionately about futbol, anybody of any age or gender.

What’s great about futbol is pace of the game. It’s non-stop action. The ball is always moving. In the bar, the cheers follow every good move of the game. The insults fly with the bad calls by referees – a common occurrence during the Spain-Italy game. The referees who seemed to favor Italy often throughout the game received frequent insult chants.

Futbol stays fast-paced except for player substitutions and during injuries. Futbol players have amazing endurance so substitutions are rare. And during injuries, they reveal extraordinary acting skills. The players possess the acting skills of the best Hollywood actors. Even the littlest bump between players can cause a player to appear to writhe in agony as if needing immediate, permanent hospitalization. Two seconds later and he’s back up, running at full pace, like nothing happened.

Games like the Spain-Italy match brings the passion of the locals to the next level. Most everyone dressed up for the occasion. Like many other bars, sticks of face paint were being passed around and many were painted in the colors of the Spain flag.

The non-stop action of futbol is helped by a lack of commercials. Ever watched a US baseball game? Watching futbol is incredibly refreshing in comparison.

During the Spain-Italy game, the place went nuts at every shot at the goal during the end of game penalty shoot-out. And when Spain won, it was madness. In the quiet Andalucian village of Ronda, Spain, people poured out from the surrounding bars and restaurants into the nearby plaza when Spain won. Several guys jump into the water fountain and there was lots more cheering as a procession of cars and motorcycles rode by, horns beeping and flags waving. The police came and closed off the surrounding streets.

Next, Spain plays Russia and the winner goes to the finals, possibly against Germany. I cannot imagine what will happen if Spain wins it all. I am told that whole country will likely close down for days to celebrate.