Spain's World Cup Victory in American Eyes

Photo by: Associated Press

By Julia Shapiro:
MADRID, SPAIN - When Spain made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, I was in Toledo, a city in the central part of the country. The entire city gathered to watch the match in The Estadio del Torro. Thousands of people were there on July 3rd, huddled together and standing on their tippy-toes to see the massive screen that showed the match against Paraguay.

When I walked into the stadium, this was the first time that I was caught off guard by how united and patriotic the people of Spain were. This was the first time I had seen everyone wearing red and yellow and had flags or noise makers. The match was full of anxious moments, from Paraguay´s Valdez´s offsides goal to Spain´s Alonso who missed a penalty kick. In the 83rd minute, David Villa of Spain brought the score up 1 to 0, and the stadium erupted with cheers. With that as the final score, Spain progressed to the semifinals.

The country kept up its enthusiasm for the game against Germany on July 7th. Again, thousands of people crowded together, and I was in the same place where I watched the final match. Spain took 7 heart wrenching shots on the goal, and in the 73rd minute, the 8th one went in. That goal was Puyol´s third international goal ever. Throughout the 90 minutes, there was never a dull moment. With the final score at 1 to 0, Spain entered the finals with a bang. Firecrackers exploded at fans´ feet and along the city´s sidewalks. Cars beeped their horns hours after the game in a "beep beep beeeep - Espana!" tune and everyone emotionally prepared themselves for the final match of the World Cup against the Netherlands the following Sunday.

Sunday July 11th was the proudest day in Spanish Futbol history. The world cup finals took place at Johannesburg City Stadium and it was a hard fought game. The two teams, Spain and the Netherlands, had never won the crown before. The screams of Spanish fans roared through the crowds behind El Cortes Ingles (a Spanish mall). Thousands of people wearing yellow and red huddled together, watching the match on the massive projector screen set up.

Reckless tackles occurred throughout the game, and a record number of yellow cards were given out. Holland's Nigel De Jong attempted to perform his best impression of a Jackie Chan kick to Joan Capdevila's chest, shockingly only to receive a yellow and not a straight red card.

The obvious passion of the fans and players could be felt as I sat in the middle of a gathering of several thousand behind that department store, in the small city of Salamanca. As the game progressed and Spain's offense became more aggressive, the crowd became more and more anxious. The referee blew the whistle ending the first 90 minutes, and tensions remained high. In the 109th minute of the second overtime half, John Heitinga of Holland received a red card and was kicked out of the game, leaving Holland a man down and seemingly deflated. It did not take long for Andres Iniesta to capitalize on Holland's recklessness and place a through ball from Cesc Fabregas into the back of the net. The game ended and the crowd exploded. Plastic trumpets and car horns sounded rampantly through the city until the early hours of the night.

I came to Spain as an American tourist. Little did I know that the country's love and passion for their soccer team would get me so involved in the game and their culture. After the game that made Spain the champions of 2010, American friends of mine ran down the streets with their new Spanish flags flying behind them. They weren't alone. Motorcycles revved their engines and people honked their car horns while their friends stood out the windows screaming at the top of their lungs. As the mobs of people entered the streets, all commuting stopped and the night became an unofficial holiday of celebrating.