Here’s a tip: if you ever get chance to watch the Spanish national football team in action, grab it with both hands. At the moment La Furia Roja are rated as the best international side in the world. Throw in the electrifying atmosphere most games generate and you’re sure to have a great time.
So what are the things you need to know before you buy a scarf, cover your face in red and yellow paint and head off to a game?
#1 The Players’ Names
Firstly – for those of you who haven’t a clue about football but just want to see a match – you ought to remember that neither Messi nor Ronaldo are Spanish, so don’t go asking after them. The Spanish superstars include Andres Iniesta, Ilker Casillas, Gerard Pique and Jesús Navas. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the team before you head off, especially if you’re keen on impressing a local or two by striking up a conversation about Navas’s wide game or something. Also, many English-speaking commentators can get Spanish players’ names very wrong, so perhaps a quick check up on how to pronounce names like Iniesta, Silva and Villa might be worthwhile.
#2 Common Football Words and Phrases
Even if you think you have a decent grasp of basic Spanish, you will doubtless encounter certain words and phrases you’ll never have come across before, not to mention the brutal insults that are sometimes so lewd they’d make the likes of Roy Keane gasp with horror. On the pitch, the goalkeeper is el portero, the defense is la defensa, the midfielders are centrocampistas and the forwards are delanteros. The referee is el arbitro, the sideline is la banda and to score a goal is marcar un gol. Or there’s “La puta que te parió!” – ‘the whore of a mother that birthed you’, popular with el arbitro, strangely enough. Most of the words you learn for watching football will be of absolutely no use to you in any other context of Spanish life but you will still feel great using them.
#3 The Tiki-Taka Rules
If, for example, you have grown up watching British football, then you are probably much more used to a different style of play. The blood-and-thunder-never-say-die attitude that typifies British football is very different from the way the Spanish play it. They use their famous tiki-taka system, which values controlled possession of the ball above anything else. So anyone who just wants to see the goals might get a bit bored, but this style of play is an art form and once you come to appreciate it you will find yourself hypnotised by the incredible way in which the Spanish players retain possession.
#4 That You Should Show Your Emotions
Showing your emotions at a Spanish football game is normal. In fact, you shouldn’t be at all surprised to find grown men crying, screaming or gleefully hugging each other when something exciting happens on the pitch. They might even hug you. Games involving the national side are often highly emotionally charged but they are great fun.
#5 A Few Songs and Chants
Singing and chanting is a big part of the football experience and you will want to know what the ones you hear are about. “A Por Ellos” expresses a ”get stuck into them” spirit and is a very simple song you are almost certain to hear. “Y Viva España” is another often sung by the crowd. You might even want to join in. A quick look on YouTube will throw up a number of typical chants and songs that you could learn before watching a game.
Robert is a writer who lived in Spain while studying the language and is a huge fan of La Furia Roja. He now works as a freelance writer on sites such as Listen and Learn.