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Monday, November 30, 2009

Barça 1, Madrid 0

If you live in Spain this game, this “classic” as they call it, is a huge deal. When I first arrived in Spain three years ago I remember that they were running TV spots advertising the Madrid-Barcelona game on the national TV channel La Sexta. “Only 100 days to go before the big game” and then they counted down the days until the apocalypse. Teams in the Spanish league play each other twice a season and last night was the first match up of these two perennial Spanish powerhouses. The hype on TV wasn’t as thick this time because the game was on a pay channel but it was still incredibly big news all over the country. Miss it at your peril!

I certainly wasn’t going to miss it. The problem was that because the game wouldn’t be shown on regular television everyone in Valencia would be out searching for a bar that shows games on the pay-per-view. As many bars as there are in Valencia—and there are thousands of them, thank god—there are even more football fans who wouldn’t miss this game to go to their own weddings (Ladies, check the football schedule before making nuptial plans). We decided on a place just a few blocks from my apartment that seemed a continent away. Almost all of the other people in the bar were Latin Americans and just about all of them seemed to be rooting for Barça. I can understand why most Valencianos will root for Barça against Madrid; it’s sort of a solidarity of language and culture as Catalan and Valenciano are just about the same thing. I don’t really have a theory as to why the Latin American would pull for Barça. I suppose I lean more towards being a Barça fan, too although for me the ideal result of this game would have been a draw, giving both teams—both of them above Valencia in the standings—only one point, thus limiting their advancement over my team. Even in Valencia it’s lonely being a diehard Valencia Club de Fútbol fan.

If I were a bar owner in Spain I would petition that all football games be played on the pay-per-view channels which sends everyone and their grandmothers out into the streets to find a bar playing the match. The little corner where we watched the game is home to three bars, all of which were packed to the rafters with fans. During the half I walked across the street to look into the two other bars. One of the bars was filled with sub-Saharan African fans. A few of them were wearing Real Madrid jerseys although I don’t know if this reflected the general sentiment of that group of fans. The other bar is a pool hall with a giant projector screen and seemed to cater mostly to Spanish fans.

I wiggled my way back to the bar where we were watching, ordered another bottle of beer, and waited to see what would happen after the scoreless first part. After making our way through a mediocre plate of patatas bravas (fried potatoes and a staple in every bar in Spain) we ordered a plate of grilled cuttlefish which was quite good. I need to practice making this dish more at home. It is sort of a pain in the ass to clean cuttlefish and squid but it is worth the effort if the end result is as good as the dish we had last night in Bar Sabina.

Barça prevailed in this game and also took the lead in La Liga. Valencia CF hangs on to fourth position after a bitter draw against Mallorca on Saturday.