Notice all the flags! ¡Viva España!

That was the chant of the night. Can you hear it? All the spirit typically associated with Spanish fútbol echoing in your ears. Well, it sure was all present at last night’s España vs. Francia FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualifier!

Getting to experience a true partido de fútbol (soccer game) in Spain, where soccer is a matter of life or death, was such a blessing. Our sweet program coordinator, Tania, found these great tickets at really good prices, and despite our midterms the following morning we were all in! It was everything I expected and more.

The Spanish believe in their team; they all wear the colors, everyone gets little plastic Spanish flags, the wave goes around the stadium several times (and everyone participates!), chants start up about every five minutes and the love for their players is almost tangible. Chants of “Casillas!” (“the goalie”…and this chant was usually followed by reverent bowing – haha, although I agree he is amazing! Oh gosh, this one save was perfect! So good!) or “Ramos!” or “Torres!” were among a few of the most common. One guy known as La Bomba de España walks around the whole stadium with a drum (the bomba) that says “Deporte No Violencia,” and starts a chant in each section of the stadium. It was so thrilling! Everything about it; the spirit, the skill, the 91st-minute goal by France to tie it up, 1-1, (boooo!!!!!!! ahhh! So frustrating!) were all components of the night that I will never forget.

Don’t worry, France didn’t score this time! ¡Casillas! ¡Casillas! ¡Casillas!

We all couldn’t get over how we were sitting in about the 8th row from the field where the best soccer players in the world were playing! And do they ever deserve that title! I am always in such awe of how all athletes have such great skills and endurance, and to get to see it up close — well that was really cool! Their footwork is unbelievable! Raha, one of the girls in the group, played soccer for a long time and almost did at SMU, so she was so fun to sit next to. She would explain things or yell her ideas at whom they should pass to etc. and then she’d stop and shake her head and say, “Wait. They probably know way better than me!” Then she’d just go right back to it – haha. It was such a fun night (The only, and I mean only, drawback was the gross amount of smokers. One lady right in front of us had at least six cigarettes during the game, and all the people she was with had at least two. Smoking is still a big thing here. Not complaining, just commenting. It is safe to say I smelled lovely afterward.)

All in all, it was an experience of a lifetime, one that I am so blessed to have had, and will never forget.

Olivia, Raha and I at the game

¡Viva España!