I couldn’t very well live in Spain for five months without attending at least one fútbol game, now could I? I have never been particularly into soccer since a) I’m an American, and b) I didn’t play YMCA soccer as a kid like many of my classmates. Nevertheless, this was a part of Spanish culture that I wanted to make sure I experienced. Even though, to my surprise, my host mom and sister said they don’t like fútbol much, which I thought was pretty much a crime in Europe.
I didn’t see the more famous Real Barcelona or Real Madrid, but I did go to a game for each of Sevilla’s teams, Real Betis and FC Sevilla. FC Sevilla is part of La Liga, while Real Betis is in the second-tier league (I think there is some inter-league mobility, but I’m not exactly sure how that process works). Team loyalty is strong and dependent on what part of the city you live in, like the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago. FC Sevilla plays in the more urban part of Sevilla, in the Nervión neighborhood, and Real Betis plays on the more traditional side of town by Triana and Los Remedios (where I lived).
To me, fútbol is a pretty slow sport, because I’m used to watching fast-paced and more physical hockey (and the dramatic exaggeration of “injuries” in soccer drives me crazy). But I did enjoy seeing just how passionate fans are at the games. A little girl sitting near us at the Betis game kept turning around to share the highs and lows of the game. At the FC Sevilla game, the entire crowd loudly sang their team’s song, “Himno de Sevilla,” and the father in front of us which was teaching his young son the words. I didn’t learn all of the lyrics prior to the game, but bits and pieces of the song still get stuck in my head every now and then and make me a little homesick.
I don’t think Spain converted me into a fútbol lover, but attending the games was fun way to feel like part of the Sevilla community. Fútbol stayed with me right up to my final moments in Spain–I wore my FC Sevilla jersey on my flight back to the US, and as I was standing at the Torre del Oro bus stop to go to the airport at 4 AM, some people still out from the night before asked me to take a photo of them. They were a little offended that I was supporting the wrong team, haha. So since I lived in Los Remedios, I guess I should stick with the home team and say ¡Viva Betis!