Champions of the world! (things I like part three, football)

Does God answer prayers relating to football? And who does he answer when he's got millions of people on either side praying for the opposite thing? That's what I find myself pondering as I see the bloke pull out the St Joseph pendant necklace he got for his christening and kiss it for the thousandth time.

Please don't let them score. Please let Casillas save it. I'll be good, I'll even quit smoking, God, I swear I will. You can almost see the words forming above his head in a thought bubble.

We are in our local, bar Yuppie, watching the World Cup final. The same place we've watched el classico when it's away, yes - but back then, it seemed like a different place entirely.

I've never seen it so packed, and nearly everyone bearing something showing their allegiance to Spain. A flag painted on the face, or the full on kit from head to toe. Ramon has hung an enormous flag behind the bar, and another on the wall, underneath the giant screen which is only brought out on special occasions.

We arrived an hour early, but we weren't the first to take our seats - which we reserved after the semi final. Behind us a group of young madrileños are already chattering wildly and sporadically tooting on horns. all are wearing red, apart from one guy with a white t-shirt emblazoned with the curious slogan 'No sex, please!' His partner in crime is wearing the tiniest pair of white shorts I've ever seen and a viking hat made to look like a half football.

In front of us an elderly couple - and they must be at least in their 70s - sit down and peer around with what my dear dad would describe as 'faces like slapped arses'. They're wearing matching white Spain caps and they soon order a bottle of Moet and Chandon. Which they're soon knocking back.

On the giant screen we're seen the replaying of all the goals and are now watching the VIP guests arrive. Charleze Theron slinks past the camera flashing us a dirty look, and Morgan Freeman sits down wearing what looks like a Dutch scarf. Then the Queen of Spain and her son Felipe and his wife Letizia arrive in the VIP box with the Dutch royals Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima. And they all start hugging each other.

The rowdy Madrileños shout "guapa" when the queen comes on the screen.

Through all of this the bloke is quite calm. But when Rafa Nadal appears on the screen with his face painted yellow and white his nerves crack.

"Do you think we're going to win?" he asks.

"Of course we are. Pulpo Paul has never been wrong," I assure him.

Pulpo Paul the physic octopus. Another reason why this World Cup has been the best ever. he's predicted the winning team - by choosing between two muscle-filled boxes bearing each team's flag - every time. And tonight he's picked Spain.

The bloke retreats into himself, chaining fags with the rest of the pub and swigging his rum, until the starting whistle.

"Que nervous!" he tells me. "I never felt like this before with a game of football. I got the same feeling like I get before I've got an important meeting at work or something."

Before long I start to feel sick too. every time the ball goes near Casillas I join in with the screams of "No, coño!" and every near miss down the other end makes my stomach drop an octave.

It's soon clear this is going to be a dirty, violent match. And the British ref Howard Webb seems to be not calling it right. A clear red card - a karate kick in the chest - is let off with a yellow. But maybe he just doesn't want to ruin the game by bringing the Dutch side down to ten men so early. by the end he's given out a record 14 yellow cards and one red - double the previous final record of seven.

The first half ends nil nil, and then the second drags to the end with the same result. I can't take much more of this, really. I've perfected the the downward head between knees 'i can't believe it' move and the hands raised to the top of the head 'that was so close' formation. But it's gone to extra time.

This is torture but it's brilliant. I've never cared so much about football in my life. i remember a time I could take it or leave it. But right now I wouldn't be anywhere else in the world apart from watching this match.

And just when i think I can't possibly take any more - seriously, penalties might just kill me - Torres makes a play for it and Iniesta finishes the deal. It's going in, I can't believe it. As the ball hits the back of the net the reaction is instantaneous. the whole bar erupts, the smoked filled air filling with screams of joy.

I grab the bloke and we pogo up and down. On the screen Iniesta whips off his top - something which lands him a yellow card - revealing a dedication to Dani Jarque - the Espanyol player who died of a heart attack. Then the screen shows Casillas crying like a baby, and I realize I'm crying too. So's the bloke. So are most of the people around us. Hugging each other and crying. we're into 116 minutes but in our minds we've already won it.

The final whistle blows, and there's a fresh surge of celebration. The old man with the slapped arse face is completely transformed. He's on his second bottle of Moet and is spraying it like a Formula One winner. His wife whips a Spain scarf around her head like her life depends on it. The madrileño boys are high fiving and embracing, and still crying. A group of Brits at the bar are shouting "Champinones!" (mushrooms) instead of "campeones". No one bothers to correct them.

"I wish my granddad was here to see this," says the bloke, thinking of his grandpa Antonio, who sadly died coming out of a football match. So we toast to him and all the people we know who aren't around to see this.

Somos campeones del mundo. World Cup Champions for the first time. In history. Dare I say it, but I couldn't be more happy if England had won. There are five million unemployed in Spain and the economy has gone to shit but none of that matters now. Euphoria reins, and will do for a long time to come.

It's magic. Casillas breaks down when he's being interviewed live on TV by his reporter girlfriend and gives her a kiss. the manager Vincente del Bosque says: "Esto es la leche." (this is the bollocks)

Later we make our way home to the sounds of beeping horns. When I drop into bed, emotionally and physically drained, the chant of "Yo soy Español, Español, Español," rings in my ears and I can see a sea of red and yellow even when I close my eyes.

Viva España y viva el futbol!


  1. Brilliant! I couldn't agree more, I was so excited to see Spain win! My mother asked me, "Why are they crying?" And I answered her, "They are now and forever will be national heroes. They will be in the history books as the team that won the first World Cup for Spain! They now have a legacy, Spain has a coveted trophy and world wide honor. It's beautiful." To me she replied, "I just don't get soccer." I laughed and resumed jumping up and down yelling, "Viva Espana!" until my dad looked over his glasses at me and changed the channel to golf. :)

  2. So pleased that Spain won - apart from the fact that it's one of my favourite countries, I went to the USA World Cup back in 1994 and ended up randomly seeing a couple of the Spain games so I've had a soft spot for the Spanish side ever since.

    'Estoy es la leche' must remember that!

  3. I love the fact the english were singing 'champiñones'

  4. Wonderful wonderful story. Bravvissimo e auguri. I wish I was in Spain for the celebration.

    I was in Italy 2 days after the Italians won in 2006. The party was technically over, but people were still walking around with great contentment and satisfaction. You could see it in their faces.


  5. Your post is the ONLY account I have read or heard about the World Cup in all these weeks. I hadn't cared about any of it, but reading your story gives me a point of view and a reason to enjoy the outcome. And now I can just hear Queen's Freddie Mercury singing "We are the Mushrooms, my friend...."

  6. Kath me ha encantado tu crónica del partido. Tu eres nuestra Iniesta Blogera! me encanta tu estilo escribiendo.
    Yo también me acorde mucho del abuelo Antonio y de mis abuelos. Esto ha sido historico y todos nos acordamos de esa gente que amaba el futbol y que nunca tuvo la oportunidad de ver algo asi. Aun no me lo creo. Somos Campeones del Mundo!!!!

  7. Sonia, eres tu?

    Blissed-Out Grandma: Really? That surprises me. Am I just surrounded by football crazy Spaniards? Lol at the new version of 'We are the Champions'!

  8. We were supporting Spain as soon as England got knocked out. But the Spanish need to stop going on about it now...anyone would think they won the world cup or something!

  9. I did not see one single game, but like blissed out grandma I thoroughly enjoyed this account-I will even forgive your thinking that God had a hand in it-I'd like to think that he was busy taking care of other matters.

  10. Mr EW - Oh you can expect Spain will be dining out on this one for years. And rightly so IMO!

    Moannie - glad you like it. I'm with you though, in that I really think football isn't high on his list! But my boyfriend would beg to differ!

  11. I am a Spaniard-American, living in New Jersey (were A LOT of spaniards live)...this was PERFECT...i cried and cried and cried and was so proud of my country! I never pray, but damn did I pray for this...i made all types of deals with God so we could win and so our boys could win, because I wanted THEM to have it, to feel it...if we lost i would still be in therapy!