Spanish supporters show the way

June 22, 2012 in Euro 2012, International

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I began writing this piece sitting in a predominantly English pub near Alicante, watching Spain vs Republic of Ireland. I was in there every evening that week, but this is the first time the Spanish were outnumbering, and the channel showing the match wasn’t an English one (by the way, if you ever get a chance to listen to Spanish commentary, do - it’s hilarious!). I was sitting in a sea of red, with the exception of the cigar smoking Irish man next to me. In front of me, and nearest to the telly, was a group of excited Spain fans, all the men and children were wearing Spain shirts and all had flags painted on their faces (apart from the bald man who has a red and yellow striped head).

If there is one thing the Spanish love more than miniature dogs (why do they all have one?!), it’s futball!

I missed the first goal walking to get here, but that didn’t mean I didn’t know they had scored. There was an obvious shouting from a nearby house and a car in the proximity did an annoyingly long and loud honk of their horn. The excitement was palpable.

What struck me about the reception of this competition in Spain is the excitement and the faith they have in their team. Then again, why wouldn’t they? They are reigning European and World champions; the pain of previous losses has been evaporated by the adrenaline of winning. Every time they got the ball they were up, jumping and shouting at the TV. Even during the Croatia game, when, in my opinion they played pathetically, there was no worry about the fact they that they were not guaranteed to win the group (or even get out of it). They just trusted that they would. There was no clenched fists or biting of nails, they were calm. Now that’s bravado! I saw the way the Spanish received each of the five out of the six goals scored by their national team and everyone was the same; noise, so much noise, and chants of “Espana!” from the entire establishment, even the waiters forgot their orders and joined in. They took so much pleasure from it, which is so unlike us English, we cannot enjoy a goal for more than a couple of minutes because we believe in the imminent threat of it being taken away.

Another thing I noticed was that there were Spain flags EVERYWHERE. Probably over half of the houses had one somewhere, I saw hundreds of cars with them attached to the windows. On markets, you couldn’t shake a miniature dog without seeing flags and shirts being sold, and even the “Lucky Lucky men” who came around bars and the beach sold flags, scarves and wigs in Spain colours.

But the thing that struck me most about the Spanish people I watched the game with was how friendly they were towards other fans. The Irish man I mentioned was sitting right next to the biggest group of Spain fans, the older ones of which reassured him as the game went on, shook his hand and generally had some friendly banter. In the final game of the group, I was blatantly supporting Croatia (for the purpose of mixing things up!) and the Spanish laughed along with me, smiled and just got on with it. Can you imagine English fans giving the same treatment in a pub here? No, me neither. We’ve all seen it happen; the people that support the other side are shouted at, mocked and picked on, but in Spain, there is none of that.

I have to say I really enjoyed watching football in Spain and I think we could really learn from their example. They may have more to show than us for their appearances at these competitions, but doesn’t that just mean they have more to lose too? I think we could take a leaf out of the Spanish book and have more belief, more pride and enjoyment in our national team. I also think we could stand to give those who don’t support our team a break. After all, we’re all chasing the same goal.