Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Trip - Day 31: Madrid, Spain

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Andy and I took the AVE (Spain’s high-speed train that maxes out at over 300 km/hr) to Madrid.  We got to our hostel, for which we had our own room and bathroom so it made it much more hotel-like but it was still pretty cheap.  We then walked around downtown for a bit and then tried to find public viewing area.  I was originally told that they would set up a screen for the public around Real Madrid’s stadium, so Andy and I got on the Metro and started heading in that direction.  On the metro we met some guys who were clearly doing the same thing as us, but they had heard of another location and given that they were Spanish, Andy and I tagged along with them to try to find the best spot to watch THE GAME.  Well it turned out that both of us were wrong and the huge public-viewing screens were actually set up about 3 blocks away from where we had originally got on the Metro… so we just turned around and went right back. 

This was the 8th time that I had been in a country when they played a World Cup game… and the 64th game of the tournament.  Previously there was always a ton of energy and people celebrating with their flags and horns AFTER the team won.  This time, it was absolutely ridiculous even before the game.  Everywhere around the city people were wearing their red and yellow… people in the subway were blowing horns and cheering for Spain.  The crowds close to the public viewing area were enormous.  They had a screen set up at the bottom of one of the bigger streets in town, but actually set another screen half-way up because of how many people they expected to show up to watch.

Before the game started everyone was giving a variety of “A por ellos”, “Yo soy Español”, and the Spanish national anthem as loud as they could.  The fire department had set up firetrucks along the side of the crowd and was hosing everyone down to keep them cool (so much fun!).  I ended up making a ton of friends for about 30 seconds each as we put our arms around each other… sing part of a song while jumping up and down a bit.. then move on to the next group.

During the game was all of the same: songs, chants, group gasps, yelling and exclamations… flags waving, griping at every call against Spain and cheering at every call for us.  I’m really glad of my slightly above-average height because it was pretty hard to see the screen over so many people (I don’t know why they didn’t just raise it up another 20 feet) but watching the game for most people was a secondary priority to just being there in the environment.

I shouldn’t have to retell what happened in the game as I should assume anyone who’s read this far in my blog must have some slight interest in the World’s game and the biggest sporting event in history.  However, when Iniesta (sorry Andy, Ramos is still my boy!) scored the goal in the 117th minute for Spain… the crowd absolutely EXPLODED.  I remember 4 years ago for the World Cup Final I hosted a party and whenever a team scored… my friends jumped in the pool and/or just cheered for their team.  This was on a different world.  Unbelievable celebration… if I were a better writer I’d go on and on about how crazy it was… but just know that it was the biggest celebration I’ve been a part of… far exceeding Cal beating Stanford last year and rushing the field.

The only time the cheering died down at all was right before the final whistle, only for everyone to explode back up again. The same thing happened when the Cup was awarded to the team; everyone wanted to see Casillas lifting the cup, and then went right on partying again.  Eventually Andy and I slowly made our way through the crowd toward Madrid’s central plaza.  The party there had already begun with firecrackers being sent off, people climbing the statues, everyone just having the best time ever.  Andy and I eventually made it on top of a newspaper stand to get a better view and party up there.  I’ll keep this story a little short and add some video/pictures for you guys to see.
This was, by the way, consistent for pretty much all of the downtown area… for hours and hours into the night.

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