July 13, 2010
Buenas tardes a todos desde el país de los campeones!
(Good afternoon to everyone from the country of the world champions!)
It’s an exciting time to be in Spain, especially Madrid. We seem to spend a lot of our time watching events on the Gran Via! This week of course, was the World Cup championship.
The build up to the final game was very exciting, as Spain won first the semifinal last Wednesday – followed by partying in the street, with people dressed in red and draped in flags – then we all settled in for the final on Sunday.
Our friend Paul the octopus had already predicted the outcome of the game by Saturday, as I told you in my last email. He had his skeptics, as always, but once again Paul was right! Spain won the final game against Holland 1-0!
Many of us gathered in front of the TV to watch the game, but a few people went down to Recoletos near Plaza de Cibeles to watch it with the multitude on giant TV screens. We actually went down there to have a look, but couldn’t get past security because Dale had forgotten to leave his pocket knife behind in our room! Later people reported that it was a mob scene with barely any room to breathe. Some people threw firecrackers into the crowd on the periphery, and also someone sprayed pepper spray. This caused a mad rush to get away and one of the girls in our group reported that there were people there with small children and babies, trying to get away. Why someone would bring a baby to the World Cup final among thousands of people, I have no idea.
KF had bought some of those crayons used to paint faces, and she painted
Spanish flag stripes on the cheeks and other parts of the face for anyone who asked. We were all wearing our “La Roja” shirts in support of Spain. Some of us found red jerseys for a reasonable price in Granada and it is amazing how cool these shirts are. Anyway, I had my cheeks painted on both sides. Dale didn’t want his face painted but finally KF painted his hand anyway!!
The game was agonizing. This was a very different game than the semifinal against the Germans. The Dutch were aggressive and did not let Spain keep the ball. They were all over the field, not like the semifinal when Spain dominated the ball in their part of the field. There were more yellow cards issued in this game than any other in the Cup, a total of 5 or 6, most against Holland. However, the Dutch players often argued with the referee and a Spanish guy watching the game with us said that since the Dutch are bilingual, they can easily argue with the English referee, whereas the Spanish players are not as good in English!
Anyway, there were times when the referee let something pass that he shouldn´t have. I felt a sense of redemption when he finally red carded Heitinga, a Dutch player who had been playing very dirty and aggressively the entire game. One of the Spanish players was kicked smack in the chest! He was out of the game after that, needless to say.
At the half, the score was still tied, 0-0, but after that the Spanish changed their tactic. They began to play more aggressively and took better advantage of opportunities to get the ball near the goal. Many of the goal attempts were too high. At least Casillas, the goalie, was keeping the Dutch from scoring. He is captain of the Spanish team and one of the new darlings of the team.
Finally in overtime, in the 117th minute, a goal was scored by Iniesta. Cheers and hoots went up among all of those present in the Barradas dining room. Only a few minutes were left to play and all I hoped for was that Spain would keep Holland from scoring. They succeeded!!!!
People didn’t begin pouring into the streets immediately after the game this time, because many wanted to watch the ceremony in which the winning team gets the coveted Cup. By the time we went out to celebrate, it was nearly 11:30 pm!
That night, you never saw such an outpouring of euphoria. All the newspapers said that the World Cup championship united all of Spain in the midst of separatist demonstrations in Barcelona and the Metro strike in Madrid. The players hail from Barcelona, Asturias, Castilla, Madrid and other areas in this country of semi-autonomous regions. Everyone forgot their differences and united around their champions. In the streets, people were playing makeshift percussion using recycling bins or whatever could be found, blowing mock vuvuzelas, singing, chanting. Spanish, Americans, Brazilians, Ukranians, Chinese, Japanese, Latin Americans and people from all over the world rallied in the streets, everyone was singing the now common refrain, “Yo soy español, español, español” – we were all Spanish in this time and place. The streets of old Madrid were a sea of red and yellow. There was hardly a plaza or a street in which there were no people celebrating.
Prof. A, Dale and I walked out together, traversing many of the plazas and main streets – Gran Via, Calle Alcala, Plaza Cibeles, Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Espana. We ended up going too far west and ended up at the Palacio Nacional! From there we took a circuitous route, following celebrators, avoiding the few dark and quiet streets. We met up with others in our group at Plaza de Espana, which was a relief to Prof. A because we thought we’d seen one of them on top of a fountain in Puerta del Sol. In fact, there were people climbing the statue in
Puerta del Sol which involves shimmying up a tall cement pedestal and then making your way up, mounting the horse and standing up to wave a flag. We heard that someone who was drunk toppled all the way down from the top of that statue!
At Puerta del Sol, we took pictures of interesting people, including the ¨”heads” who are always there (three guys who paint their faces and hair and just their heads
protrude from a box. Sometimes they are silent and you think they are not even real, but then one of them will startle someone who comes near. Tonight they were growling and glowering.)
When we got back to the Gran Via, things had changed. We stopped for ice cream but then made our way back home, because the streets were now wet with spilled beer, drunk people were staggering through the streets, and broken glass was all over the place. Everyone was still partying and there was little violence, but we figured that since it was past 1:30 am, we should go back.
When we arrived back at Barradas, we found one of the students from the group from Georgia Tech sitting on the steps with cloths wrapped around his leg. We asked him what happened. He said that he had gone into a fountain (which had been emptied of water) and when he walking around in it, he slipped and fell on a grate that had been pulled up. The grate sliced right into his leg!! Fortunately, he was with some of the others in his group, and somehow managed to limp back to Barradas, where someone made him a tourniquet out of some shirts. Prof. A immediately pulled out her cell phone and offered to call an ambulance for him, but he said it had already been done and he was just waiting for them to arrive. He understood that it would take a while because ambulance services were surely busy that night! (The next day we found out the ambulance arrived at around 2:30. They took him to the hospital and gave him 19 stitches. He’s hobbling around now with a big bandage on his leg).
By the time we got to bed it was 2 am and we had class to go to on Monday!