Tuesday, November 30, 2010

El Clásico

Last night was the one of the most important days in the Catalonian calendar: the FC Barcelona v. Real Madrid game, nicknamed “El Clásico.”  Let me explain why it’s so important:

To better understand the situation in Catalunya let me describe the following hypothetical situation.  The United States has been a free and independent country for 200+ years right?  Well imagine Mexico invading and conquering the US and imposing Spanish as the official language. Furthermore, if you spoke English in the streets you would be arrested on the spot.  What if they also banned our national anthem, our flag and holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July.  If this happened, would you start to feel Mexican or would you still call yourself an American?

Now change Mexico to Spain and the United States to Catalunya because that’s pretty much exactly what happened over here.  For centuries, Catalunya was an independent nation with its own language, culture and customs.  Even when Spain was “unified” under the crown of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel in 1479, Catalunya was still able to be separate from the rest of Spain.  Catalunya first came to be suppressed by Spain following the Spanish War of Succession in the early 18th century.  Spain took control of Catalunya and built two fortresses overlooking Barcelona to keep the city under control (and of course Catalan was banned).  Catalunya enjoyed a little bit of freedom when it became an industrial powerhouse in the 19th and 20th centuries but once Franco won the Spanish Civil War it was all over for Catalunya.

Franco ruled Spain from 1939-1975 and he completely suppressed anything that was “deviant” from a unified Spanish culture, that’s to say anything that related to historically significant regions like Catalunya, Euskadi (the Basque County) and Galicia.  As a result, each of these regions saw their native languages banned and their traditional customs and traditions suppressed. 

So you may ask, how the hell does all of this relate to a fútbol game?  Well, under Franco the Catalans still felt like they were Catalans (and not Spaniards) but they had no way to express this pride without being thrown into jail; they couldn’t fly la senyera (the Catalan flag) nor speak their native language openly in the streets.  However, they could become a supporter of the largest fútbol club in Catalunya, FC Barcelona.  Anyone who was a die-hard Catalan was a fan of FC Barcelona and would wave their club’s flag as a way to “stick it to the man”; "we're still Catalans even though you try to keep us down."  The club's motto “més que un club” (Catalan for “more than a club”) comes directly from this point in the history.  This is why the game versus Real Madrid has become what it is today, a great display of the two best teams in Spain mixed with some political overtones.  It’s like the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, but throw in regional nationalism and years of suppression into the mix.

So I went to a bar last night near Plaça de Catalunya to watch the game with the rest of Barcelona.  Even before the game, there was more people out on the street than normal and it just felt like the entire city was alive with excitement and anticipation.  The bar (Cafè Catalunya, perfect for the occasion) wasn’t too packed but there was this big table of Catalan students that made the game very interesting.  I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I knew I was going to be studying in Barcelona and it didn’t disappoint my expectations.  Barcelona absolutely DESTROYED Real Madrid with a score of 5-0.  Barcelona looked like the better team throughout the entire match and they deserved to win.

There was one interesting scuffle in the match.  Ronaldo, the cocky Real Madrid player, pushed Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach after Guardiola was holding onto the ball before a Real Madrid throw-in.  As soon as Ronalado pushes him the Barcelona players come to the defense of their coach, including Barcelona’s goalie (who was yellow carded for leaving the goal area).  Here’s video of the scuffle (I don’t agree with the commentary but this was the only one I could find in English).

The best part of the game was my favorite player, David Villa (striker #7), scored two goals in the second half; he scored the first one with 54 minutes of play gone and the second one 3 minutes later.  The game ended with a stunning 5-0 score in favor of Barcelona, which was a shock to me (I thought the game would be really close, like 2-1) but of course I was ecstatic. 

As is tradition in Barcelona, whenever Barça beats Real Madrid everyone gathers at the top of La Rambla at the font de Canalets.  Here’s a picture of the fountain without the masses of Barcelona fans:

I was there for a good hour, celebrating the win with the rest of Barcelona.  Everyone was in a good mood, jumping up and down while chanting some of Barça's cheers.  I have few favorite ones that I would like to share:
  • Madrid, cabrón, saluda al campeón”: Spanish for “Madrid, carbón (a very vulgar Spanish swear word, close to our motherf-er), salute the champion.  
  • "Villa, Villa, Villa....Villa maravilla": This one refers to David Villa.  They repeat his last name and add the Spanish word for "a wonder" b/c it rhymes :)
  • Ese portugués, hijo de puta és”: This one deals with that cabrón Ronaldo.  It means “this Portuguese (Ronaldo is from Portugal), son of a bitch he is." 
  • "Visca Barça i visca Catalunya!": Catalan for "long live FC Barcelona and long live Catalonia." (a personal favorite)
Here’s my video from the celebrations:

My Youtube Video (it's probably better to just click this link):

Last night is something I will never forget (despite having a liter of beer, haha.  I asked for a cerveza and the waiter came back with huge chilled glass filled with beer).  My FC Barcelona pictures have been updated so you can see all of what happened last night.

Visca Barça i visca Catalunya!

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