So what’s better– football or fútbol (soccer)? Two weekends ago our Temple group was frantically searching for a restaurant or bar that would air the American Super Bowl on February 5th. Of course, to all of us from Philadelphia, it was pretty important that the Eagles were going to be playing in the game. But when we called places to ask if they were airing the “game,” we realized quickly that we needed to specify. The majority of public places that night were swarming with fans, but they weren’t football fans- they were fútbol fans. Apparently, Spain also had a very important match that night. It was pretty lucky when we finally found a place that was going to be airing the Super Bowl, but it was quite funny, because aside from our group and several other international students, the other fans were soccer fans who had just finished watching their own game.
I grew up absolutely adoring soccer. I love many aspects of the game, but perhaps my favorite thing about the sport is its simplicity. You can play almost anywhere, as long as you have something reminiscent of a ball and some posts or goal markers. It’s no surprise that it’s dubbed the “most popular sport in the world,” because it truly is played almost everywhere. Before coming to Spain I knew that there was a large soccer culture here, and I made it one of my goals to attend a professional soccer game.
Mission=accomplished! In class last Wednesday, our program director Jaime said he had 5 free tickets for the next soccer game in Oviedo. When he asked who wanted them, I think my hand was already in the air.
On Saturday afternoon, I made arrangements to meet 4 friends (the others who were also lucky enough to snag a ticket) at the stadium before the game started. They all live across town from the stadium and wanted to take a bus, but I live quite close in city terms, so I elected for the 20-minute walk. For the first 10 minutes my face was buried in my GPS, but at one moment I lifted my head and found myself surrounded by soccer fans donned in blue and white scarves and jerseys. Clearly I was going the right way– no need to waste data on a map. I put my phone away and followed the crowd. Already, still 10 to 15 minutes from the stadium, there was an excited buzz in the air.
Although the Real Oviedo soccer team isn’t in the country’s first division, the players are of course still seasoned professionals and there is nothing short of pure spirit amongst the fans. When I arrived and found my way through the crowd to my friends (thank god for the ability to drop pins on iPhones!), we entered the stadium and climbed up to our seats. The stadium isn’t huge in terms of soccer stadiums, but there were more than 17,000 fans there that night.
Between cheering along the team as if they were my own, clapping along to the fans’ chants, and eating salted sunflower seeds, I’d say I had a pretty successful first experience at a Spanish soccer game. In the end, neither team scored a goal, but simply soaking in the spirit of the night was exhilarating and more than worth it. I’ve never eaten so many sunflower seeds, or seen so many of their shells on the ground… apparently this is the snack of choice at soccer games here.
Of course it’s not a contest, but if it were… fútbol has my vote all the way. (Sorry, USA!)