Weekends in the fall mean Charger football games. In the last few years, the San Diego Chargers have actually put together a decent team. I say ‘decent,’ since the Chargers should have won the Super Bowl at least once, but always lose in the playoffs. Everyone has high expectations for them, but the Chargers never do as well as their hype. Most people in San Diego are apathetic about our sports teams at best. They only seem to care when one of the teams is doing well. Then people will root enthusiastically and proudly sport team jerseys. There seems to be quite a large portion of Charger fans these days; however, I think there are few die-hard fans. Many San Diegans are oblivious to the teams even when they are doing well. The Padres, unlike the Chargers, have been terrible for way too long. Very few people nowadays are proclaiming their support for the Padres. Probably most people go to games just for the fun of attending a baseball game, not because of their love for the team. I am not calling San Diegans fair-weather fans, just unconcerned.
However, things are very different in Barcelona. While there are some ‘haters’, most citizens of Barcelona root enthusiastically for their soccer team, F.C. Barcelona. I don’t think that the fans would be much less supportive of a losing team. However, Barça did very well last year. They won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League. The city went crazy when they beat Manchester United for the Champions League title, which cemented their treble. Everyone rushed the fountains in Plaça Catalunya. There was cheering and banner waving for hours and cars honked their horns in the time with team cheers. Even in less important games, everyone finds a place to watch the game. They go to the stadium, attend away games, watch in their house, or join friends at a local bar. The newspapers report detailed descriptions and explanations before and after each game and the players are revered. F.C. Barcelona also has the biggest stadium in Europe and can pack in almost 100,000 screaming Barça fans.
I had the pleasure of watching Barcelona play their main rival, Real Madrid, last Sunday. I am not quite sure which rivalry is more heated, F.C. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid or USC vs. UCLA. Both rivalries extend far beyond the field of play, so wins and losses have a deeper significance than just pride. Barcelona’s rivalry with Madrid extends even to economics and politics. I joined members of my club at our restaurant to cheer on Barça. The room was packed full of people who cheered and booed whenever something significant happened. We witnessed one goal and many fantastic defensive stops, as Barcelona ruled over Real Madrid 1-0. Because the club is near Camp Nou, Barça’s stadium, we were able to witness the massive number of people going to and from the game. Normally on Sundays, the streets of my neighborhood are quiet. Most people are just out for an evening stroll with their dogs. Every store is closed, so the streets are used for relaxation before the workweek begins anew. With the number of people out for the game, you would not know it was Sunday. It parallels what happens every Sunday in the United States, but with much more vibrancy. I guess I’ve just traded one type of football team for another.
The same weekend I also had my own personal Barcelona vs. Madrid experience. My team travelled to Madrid to play C.N. Moscardo. We took about an hour long flight to Madrid in the morning and were bused to the club. We had a long and relaxing lunch there and played our game at 4:30. We knew going into the game that the referees would not be unbiased. It is similar to a Los Angeles team travelling to San Diego or vice versa, but with a greater dislike. We found the referees were as we expected. I swear that I saw one of the referees smirking at some of the calls he made. I don’t believe that they were purposefully trying to hamper the game, but they did not make our lives easy. Luckily we won 22-12, but we should have let fewer goals in. I was glad to leave and head back to Barcelona after the game. The pool was indoors, with a warm air temperature and a much too warm pool temperature. I felt like I was burning up during the game. The outside was colder than Barcelona, so I was glad to head back home. A few of my teammates and I sampled the Barcelona nightlife afterwards to celebrate our win. All-in-all, it was a fun and victorious weekend for Barcelona.