Friday, March 23, 2012


A couple weeks ago, on March 11, the family and I went to the Valencia CF fútbol (soccer) game with the kids and Monica and Cristina. It is the first soccer game I've been to in my life, as well as the first sporting event I've attended in Spain.

I've attended university football games, high school football games, Cubs game (singular, just once), Sox games, Bulls games, etc. I have even been to hockey games. I am no pro in the subject, since baseball is the only sport I fully understand and could explain to someone (football is completely foreign to me), but I am saying that yes, I have experience attending sporting events.

Well, as this is the first time attending a foreign sports game, I experienced quite a few things different from my American sports experiences.
The view from our seats, only 6 rows away from the field.

  1. First of all, everyone cares about the game. We were playing against RCD Mallorca, which isn't a very good team (I looked them up on the rankings. We are in 3rd place and Mallorca, at the time, was 17th. Out of 20). Therefore it shouldn't have been a real edge-of-your-seat game. Yet everyone in the stands were just enthralled. I mean ENTHRALLED.  The seats were only about 80% full, but that's still pretty good attendance, right? When you watch a baseball game on TV, count how many times the camera cuts to an audience member talking on the phone. I'll do the math for you now: 843. I never once saw someone on their phone or paying attention to anything OTHER than the game. Obviously yes, you are there to see the game, but these people take it a step further. 
  2. On that note, there are no distractions from the game. No cheerleaders. No mascots dancing the hokey pokey. No announcers blasting a play-by-play over the loudspeakers. No occasional YMCA lyrics shouted at the audience to make them dance. No entertainment during time-outs or breaks that involve 10-year-olds doing grocery cart races across the field or stuffing themselves into round cages and rolling towards giant bowling pins. NONE OF THAT. This is soccer. In Europe. Thou shall not need entertainment, other than the joy of WATCHING YOUR TEAM PLAY. And a 10-person marching band that circled the field once during halftime, playing to an apathetic crowd.
  3. I know this is the 3rd point on the topic, but seriously, this is ridiculous. On the concourse, aka the inside covered area where you can buy snacks, use the bathroom, etc, THERE WAS NO ONE. Not one soul. During my bathroom break, during the moment I wanted a snack...both times I saw no people. Other than one security guard and the people running concessions. I didn't get up during the half-time break, which I know was busy since I saw a lot of people getting up. Any other time, aka any time the team was playing, NO ONE WOULD DARE LEAVE. The bathroom was dead. I could choose any stall! No lines! NO LINES! Let me say that again: Sports arena. No Lines. Cubs game? Head to the concourse at any given moment and the line is 10 people deep for a hot dog. Or 20 people deep for a beer. Let's not even TALK about the long lines at the bathrooms.
  4. There are no people offering snacks walking down the aisles. No "PEANUTS! GET YOUR PEANUTS!" 
  5. The food offered on the concourse is obviously of a different variety. When I think of "arena food" I think nachos, popcorn, candy, hot dogs, rib sandwiches, cheeseburgers, etc. Not surprisingly, those are very American foods. Hell, you might even get sushi (at Ichi-roll at the Seattle Mariners stadium) in the US. Being in Spain, one will not find American food. They will find popcorn, since that's a staple at these sorts of events. Other than candy (which is severely lacking in the chocolate variety and instead is like, a million ways to serve a gummy bear), the food options are quite different from the US. Instead, get excited to buy a HAM AND CHEESE SANDWICH! Wooo! Nothing says "Let's go team" like a ham and cheese sandwich.
  6. Water is served in cups. No bottled water. Actually, maybe the same is done in the US. From the Spanish side of my POV, I find this odd. Bottled water is everywhere you go; it's impossible to get a cup of tap water anywhere (and the water is nowhere near Mexico-levels of stomach I don't really know what the problem is). 
  7. Speaking of food, the concourse was only open for the first half! RIDICULOUS! I went out to look for ice cream about halfway through the second half and guess what? Everything was closed. As I mentioned above, it's not like they had long lines to start with, so I guess they weren't losing too much business. 
  8. Any sports game in the US of A will begin with the national anthem because this is AMURICAH. Hands on your hearts! In Spain, it opened with a "minute of silence" for a coach that recently passed away. And the minute was only about 15 seconds. No Spain national anthem, no hands on hearts. 
  9. It's really quiet. As I said, there is no announcer or music, so there's none of that. But there also isn't a lot of noise from the crowd. Except during a goal, or a big play. Not even the occasional drunk dude shouting "C'MON JAVI! KICK THE DAMN BALL!" If you looked away, you wouldn't have any idea what was going on on the field. Maybe that's why people don't go on the concourse?
  10. This isn't so much of a cultural difference as it is a sports difference: the game is precisely the time on the clock. With time outs, delays, halftimes, etc that I am used to from almost any American sport, games never can be predicted as far as duration. Bears games can last 5 hours. Or so it sometimes feels. Baseball games are the most engaging for me because I actually understand, but to be honest, they are major nap-time material. Not a lotta action. Soccer? 45 minutes first half. Short halftime break. 45 minutes break. You are in and out of there in less than 2 hours, guaranteed. Like going to a movie. 
  11. Smoking is allowed in the seats. Recently they banned smoking in enclosed areas in Spain (a huuuuge move that makes going to dinner/bars 10000x more pleasant). However, this is a soccer stadium. Therefore it is "outdoors." So yes, there was a dude smoking his way through a pack of cigs about 5 feet away from me.

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