27 June 2008

vamos al final!

last night the spanish football team qualified for the finals of the 2008 eurocup, to be played sunday against germany. they beat russia in a 3-0 blowout to advance.

i'm not much of a soccer fan, but i do like big quick tournaments. this one lasts under a month from start to finish. i also like international competitions. in europe this happens all the time, but we americans like our sports confined to our stateside teams, occasionally letting canada play along. usually it's only during the olympic games that we get a chance to feel national pride for our athletes.

nothing beats being in a country whose team has just won a big match -- the excitement pours out from the houses and bars into the street: a palpable buzz that builds to a frenzy. flags are waved, crowds veer on becoming mobs, pure joy momentarily approaches complete chaos. last night horns were blaring and people were laughing and shouting in the street well into the night. and this was just the semifinal.

two years ago while watching the world cup, i remember watching the tv and hearing the rattle of the spanish announcers, seeing players running across the field, understanding very little. last night i noticed that just as words have emerged from the chatter and i can now follow the commentary, the movements on the field are also distilled, clearer. i see offense and defense, the strategy of certain plays, the advantages of certain players. i am becoming more fluent in this sport.

the moment your team qualifies for a final is a bittersweet one; you feel the unbridled release of accomplishment, yet you can't help but nervously anticipate the next game. i don't know enough about soccer to predict anything, but i'm told that germany is a tough team. i'm going to just be optimistic and believe those who tell me that just making it to the finals is good enough. we'll see on sunday.

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