Spanish Football Match - Deportivo

Our Spanish Football Experience

By: Russell Benavides

Being the sports nut that I am, I love to throw myself into the sports culture of whatever city I am in at the time. When I was in Boston, I thoroughly enjoyed going to Red Sox games. When I visited San Francisco last year, it was great watching the Giants in the playoffs and feeling the energy of the city. Now that I am in Spain, this desire to connect with their sports culture is no different. Unfortunately, their sports culture is quite a bit different from back in the States. Basically it’s soccer..errr….football and football only.

Growing up I was never the biggest football fan. I quit playing in the third grade. But in the most recent World Cup, I was completely engrossed in the games and wanted to learn who every player was and which team was the best.

So as I was coming to Spain, I was excited to experience Spanish football. I thought it would be great to catch a few games, see some of the best players in world, see Real Madrid or Barcelona. But then we decided to live in A Coruña…..

When I looked up on Wikipedia the team in A Coruña, Real Club Deportivo, I was heartbroken to realize that the hometown team was not good and in fact, they are terrible. The team had performed so poorly last year that they had been relegated to the second division of the Spanish League. Awful.

Side note: Quick education on what being relegated means. I found out that this is a common thing in European football leagues. Basically, the three worst teams in the top league (in the US this would be MLB) are sent down a level to the second division (Minor Leagues of Baseball). Subsequently, the top three teams in the second division for that same year are sent up to the top level. I think this is a brilliant concept. Can you imagine if the teams in the US had to worry about being sent down?? The Rangers, Yankees, or Royals sent down?? Preposterous but awesome to consider.

But I digress. So yes, Deportivo stinks, and it also means that Real Madrid nor FC Barcelona would be coming to play here. No Ronaldo, no Messi, no Neymar. Face palm.

The season started about a month after we had been in Spain and I noticed people were still going to the games. I would walk around the streets on gameday and tons of people would be wearing Deportivo blue and white striped jerseys. It made me think that all hope was not lost on this football team.

When our friend Clayton came into town, we decided it would be the perfect opportunity to go to a game. We weren’t sure how tickets worked but figured we could walk up 10 minutes before the game and grab some. We were right. A Spanish couple even helped us buy our tickets. With their help, we ended up getting tickets to not one but two games for only 10 euros. Score. Rather, Goal.

The game we went to that day was rather benign. The crowd was into the game but nothing crazy. The worst part though was that the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Spend two hours at a game and see no goals. This is why Americans don’t like football. The biggest takeaway from the game was that they only serve non-alcoholic beers. Pretty wise move considering there are live fires at the games.

Fire in the stands at a Spanish Football Match
Fire in the Stands. No big deal apparently.

Also, instead of peanuts, fans enjoy sunflower seeds or pipas in Spanish as a snack during the games. Megan became quite fond of these.

Pipas. Megan's favorite :)
Pipas. Megan’s favorite 🙂

We left the first game with dry mouths from the seeds and totally sober. We hoped our luck would be better for the second game and that we would actually see a goal.

The second game was held on a Sunday at noon. I found this to be an odd start time for Spain because usually nobody is out on Sunday mornings and if they are, they are in church. But instead, they were all heading towards the football stadium.

Deportivo was playing Real Zaragoza that day. Zaragoza is a fairly large city in the northern portion of the country, so I thought there was a chance this could be a good team.

Early on, in the first half, neither team created many scoring opportunities and we headed into halftime 0-0. I thought for sure we were cursed and would not see a goal our entire time in Spain.

But to our surprise, Deportivo came out aggressive in the second half and created numerous scoring opportunities but could not cash any of them in. Luckily their defense was holding up. The match approached the final minutes and still no team had scored. What a nightmare.

Then with five minutes left, Zaragoza scored on a corner kick. The whole stadium was heartbroken and furious at the same time. The scorekeeper refused to even acknowledge the goal. It took another five minutes before the scoreboard read 1-0 Zaragoza. Megan and I were depressed. It looked as though we were going to come to two soccer games and not see any goals by the home team.

As the game stretched into stoppage time, Deportivo got one last shot at a goal. A foul had been called and they had a free kick just outside of the penalty box. Everyone in the stadium knew this would be their last chance. Everyone was on their feet.

Free Kick at Spanish Football match
Setting up for the final free kick. Please score.

The players positioned themselves for the kick. The ref blew the whistle to begin play. #19 of Deportivo struck the kick with his left foot. The ball curled in the air towards the left corner of the goal. BANG! Right off the crossbar.

But another Deportiva player came rushing into the box and tapped in the rebound.

GGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

Megan and I could not say GOAL loud enough. The whole stadium was going nuts. Who knew you could get that excited for a tie game.

The game ended a few seconds later and everyone began filing out of the stadium. Even though it ended in a tie, it felt like a win. We are happy to now call Deportivo our team. Excuse me while I go out now and buy my own blue and white jersey. DE-POR!

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