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goooooooooooo-livia – month eight

December 2, 2010


I’ll level with you: watching the World Cup final in the home country of one of the teams duking it out is exciting. What luck to be in Spain as the Spanish team faces the Netherlands!

We could have watched the final at some pub in the little British colony that’s been our home for the past few months, but we felt it would be more appropriate to watch the game surrounded by a bunch of Spanish folk. Wouldn’t you agree?

Now, Torrevieja isn’t much of a city, and Spanish locals like to joke that with all the northern European ex-pats in the area, it’s not really Spain. But on that night, Torrevieja couldn’t have been more Spanish if there had been a bull running wildly up and down the streets with villagers throwing tomatoes at each other.

Spanish flags were being given away freely. A woman I don’t know painted red and yellow stripes on my cheeks. The local big-ass shopping centre sponsored an event at the harbour-front plaza where chairs were set up in front of a giant screen. They created a bar that only served pints, bigger pints, and cured ham sandwiches.

The game started at 8:30pm, but we got there two hours earlier and to find decent seats. People who hadn’t gotten there early enough found seats where they could: in the nearby bushes; on the streets; on top of the Porta-Potties.

The game finally began, and even with thousands of people gathered at the plaza and all over the city, it was oddly silent.

And then I remembered the thing about World Cup finals: they take forever. Lots of “almosts.” Tons of deliberate fouls. Mostly shenanigans. Anything to disable the other team rather than just play the freakin’ game. The match was finally won on a goal kick, which – and I realize I might get lynched for this – isn’t the same as winning on account of a brilliant in-game goal.

“The final’s always a rubbish game,” one of my British neighbours tells me.

When it ended, well into overtime, we got what we came for: one big street party. It really delivered, too. There wasn’t any order to the festivities. People flocked to whatever spot on the street or sidewalk that wasn’t occupied by other people. They danced and shouted and blew into any available noisemaker. We jumped into a nearby fountain. Pure anarchy, but the kind with happy people.

We weren’t the only non-Spanish at the plaza during the match. We live in a tourist town where Germans can find German bars and the British can find British pubs and you’ll never have to learn a word of Spanish if you don’t want to. Those who embrace this country and its culture are usually from here to begin with. But during the World Cup final, people suspend their own norms.

Because of my dark hair and olive skin (courtesy of my Italian father), I’m often mistaken for a local. When the Spaniard sitting behind me at the plaza asked me if I was Spanish, I told him, in an awkward accent, “Not usually, but today I am.”



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