On November 12th, Spain’s National Soccer team (often referred to as La Roja) played a World Cup Qualifying match in Granada at Estadio Nuevo Las Carmenes. When this game was announced, Karen and I went to the stadium on the first day the tickets went on sale. We waited for 3 hours and 15 minutes to buy 4 tickets to this match. It was worth it.
La Roja doesn’t come to Granada all that often, and the city was whipped into quite a frenzy in the days preceding the match. In front of City Hall, they had competitions for fans and the 2010 World Cup trophy was on display. It was exciting.
Jackson participated in the juggling competition and earned one of the high scores with 94 consecutive juggles amidst a crowd of people and chaos. He even drew the admiration of several fans—one of whom insisted that he get a picture with Jackson after the competition.
On the night of the match, we left our apartment with our España scarves wrapped around our necks. On the way to the stadium, we saw a number of kids the boys knew from school and soccer, and the anticipation was building with each step.
Inside the stadium, we were able to experience just how much this team means to this country. When their anthem is played, the people stand and wave flags. They all sing in unison, and there is a solidarity that is unmistakable. Of course, some of this is due to the team’s great success, but it is also due to a shared pride in what it means to be Spanish. They wouldn’t trade it for anything.
On this night, España earned a pretty workmanlike 4-0 victory. For much of the match, the crowd was quiet enough for us to hear the players talking. Fans in Spain are remarkably civilized. They watch every touch intently, but they are very respectful. The decibel level only really rose on 2 occasions. The first occurred when 35 year-old Aritz Aduriz, enjoying a renaissance in the twilight of his career, become the oldest scorer in the national team’s history. And the second, and more emotional moment, was when Jose Callejón ran onto the field with 5 minutes to play. It was the first time in the long history of La Roja that a player born in the province of Granada had played for Spain in Granada. His entire family was there to witness the moment, and the crowd gave him a thunderous ovation.
All I could think about was the fact that we were sitting here, 6000 miles from Los Angeles, intoxicated by this glorious moment. We had traveled so many miles from our native soil only to see Jose Callejon come home to his.