Soccer is a big deal in Spain. A really big deal. Last week were the semi-finals and finals of the Eurocup. Wednesday night we all decided to go down to the stadium and to watch the game. The games were in Poland and the Ukraine but there were giant television screens erected in front of the stadium. The roads were closed off and thousands of fans in red and yellow came to watch the game. Most of the fans were teens and people in their twenties, but there were middle-aged people too. We all bought red t-shirts with some sort of logo on it to support the home team. Spain had won the Euro-cup the last two years, 2008 and 2010, and were favorites this year. We took taxis to the stadium with no plan on how to meet after we got there. Somehow in a crowd of thousands we were able to meet up. Some of us didn’t have phones so we did the way it happened years ago, by chance. In Spain you are allowed to drink in the streets and people like to exercise this right. Wednesday they were playing Portugal, a team to be wary of. The TV screens were in large areas that were fenced in and a few police were making sure people weren’t bringing in anything dangerous. It was by no means an exhaustive search that often happens in the US. People were not required to remove backpacks. The police just kind of patted them lightly looking for anything really suspicious. The police presence was very minimal. We stayed for the regular game but when it went into overtime we got restless and left. We talked to some Americans outside a bar for a while and then took a taxi home. The game ended with penalty shots. Each team gets five chances to shoot a goal, one player, one ball, one goalie. It’s very intense to watch. Spain scored first but Portugal evened the score. On the fourth round Spain scored again and Portugal was unable to answer. Spain won when Portugal was unable to score on their last turn.
Sunday night was the final. I watched the game on TV with my host family. It was a great game and every time Spain scored I could hear it in the streets. The neighbors above us and people outside made enough noise that it was noticeable. When Spain won people came out to the fountain to celebrate. They jumped in and got wet. I wanted to go see what a celebration looks like so I walked to the Plaza America. Cars filled with people were driving the streets drivers honking horns and passengers waving large Spanish flags. I got to the plaza to see a fountain filled with people. The streets were blocked and people were setting off very loud fireworks. I only saw two policemen that night. They were about a block away ensuring that no cars approached the celebration. there was no police presence on the plaza. It was amazing how much the city trusted its citizens. It was an all ages impromptu celebration. I walked home that night impressed with the way in which Spain treats its people.