World Cup: What it's like to watch Spain in a Madrid bar
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Considering I was visiting one of the most football-crazy cities in the world in Madrid, home to 13-time European champions Real Madrid and current Europa League holders Atletico Madrid, I have to say I was very restrained during my holiday regarding football and the World Cup. We even arrived during the first England match, so I missed Harry Kane's late heroics as I scoffed churros and chocolate in the setting sun. Partly, this was because I actually wanted a break from all the transfer furore and only wanted to afford myself a brief check of the headlines and scores a couple of times each day, but more pertinently, it was due to my girlfriend. Although she is absolutely lovely, she has just one flaw - she doesn't like football at all. Or rather, just doesn't get it. When I was giddily getting excited about seeing Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and rattling off numerous facts about Madrid's two sides, as well as giving a brief overview of El Classico, she was somewhere between rolling her eyes and dozing off. So, imagine my surprise when she agreed to watch a World Cup game with me! Conveniently, our holiday was dissected by Spain vs. Iran and the idea of watching drunk Spaniards chanting and cheering, whilst downing sangria and scoffing tapas presumably seemed exciting. More likely, the latter reasons persuaded her. But as we sat down in a lovely bar in Madrid, crammed between hoardes of fans chanting Espana and chittering about their line-up decisions, I saw her even crack a small smile. One order of tapas later and a large glass of sangria suitably quaffed and the game had kicked off. In truth, Spain dominated the match from the first minute, but never really created clear chances. There was a nervous tension bubbling under the cheers and chanting- Isco was very popular, probably because of his connection to La Real, but his one-touch play and movement was superb. But even still, the fans' cheering and hollering began to simmer down as the minutes ticked away, save brief cries of outrage against the referee and Iranian players for perceived negative tactics and some combatative fouling. It was quite ironic to hear one of them say that Diego Costa was receiving particularly bad treatment, considering the fact he almost constantly dished this out to Premier League defenders during his Chelsea days. Half time arrived and the bar once again moved into action with the speed and precision of a well-drilled machine. Tapas was distributed to the waiting tables, rounds of beer and wine were divied out to those who ordered it and one or two punters who either had seen enough, or fancied getting some fresh air headed off. What surprised me, however, was how few people moved. The conversation, which had been a near constant hum during the first half turned up to maximum with fans chanting and singing national songs and chants. Although it wasn't a designated World Cup fanzone- indeed that was in the Central Plaza- it certainly made enough noise for it. I think this was because the fans were nervous after only drawing their opening game against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. Another draw would have been disastrous and although Spain had dominated the passing and possession, the Iranian keeper had barely needed to make a save. My girlfriend asked a few quizical questions, mainly about the identity of Spanish players and wondered why everyone was so excited even though they hadn't seen a goal yet. The second half couldn't come soon enough for the gathered crowd.
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