Fear, Joy & Loathing in Catalonia

July, 2010. Three friends that were traveling for different reasons in Europe, decided to meet in Barcelona to watch the World Cup final. The desire, of course, was to follow the predictable final of the World Cup in South Africa: Spain vs. Brazil.

As rationality goes into coma (and leaves the field) every four years, that game have never took place. Only one side lived up to the expectations and so, the Spaniards faced the Dutch for a battle over the first title of both.

The three friends, did not estimate what they were to experience, while chasing the World Cup atmosphere in the sreets of Barcelona. 

The final was taking place on a Sunday and, two days before, a gigantic manifestation took to the streets of the Catalan capital. The biggest in history, until that date. Almost half a million people roared for the independence of Catalonia, waving flags and singing songs in favor of detachment from Spain.

 Flyer distributed at the event in 2010

Flyer distributed at the event in 2010

Among the protesters, there was a group dressed in a different Canarinho shirt: “Catalunya Al Mundial Brasil 2014”, they shouted. Their desire for the Catalan National Team was to join FIFA and thus had chances to play in the Cup in Brazil, four years from that day. The initiative didn’t triumph, but it was another clear example for two things: how football is important in Catalunya, and the way the Catalans saw themselves, as a group, as a football nation.

 Catalan protestor with the Dutch flag, two days from the final of the World Cup between Spain vs Netherlands | Susanna Saez / El País — 2010

Catalan protestor with the Dutch flag, two days from the final of the World Cup between Spain vs Netherlands | Susanna Saez / El País — 2010

Another highlight at the event was the presence of flags from the Netherlands. Spain, was due to face the Dutch national team in 48 hours. For the protestors it wasn’t about going against their own country, it was absolutely obligatory to support Spain’s opponent and to raise its flag.

In this atmosphere of apparent indifference to Spain’s unprecedented achievement (playinh a World Cup final), it was no easy task to find a precise indication of a decent place to watch the final in Barcelona.

On Sunday morning, between men in flip flops buying newspaper and women walking with their dogs on the street, the blasé responses prevailed the Catalan atittude: “Hmmm, I don't know if there will be anything in Plaça de Catalunya”, “certainly not on the Ramblas”, “perdón, pero que partido?”.

It became clear when a young lady, who quietly smoked her cigarette on a sidewalk, indicated: “Try Plaça de Espanya.

Red Line 1 of the Subway, Espanya Station. An ocean of  people, comparable to the manifestation of two days before, awaited the beginning of the game in front of a huge screen. So many people, probably above expectations, that they had to install a second monitor to broadcast the game.

De Jong knocked down Xabi Alonso, Arjen Robben missed two incredible chances to score and Andrés Iniesta paid tribute to his friend Dani Jarque in the celebration of the goal that earned the unprecedented world title for Spain.

Plaça de España was overcrowded and fireworks were spreaded all over the city. The streets of Barcelona celebrated for hours through the night, as Sunday entered Monday, as it was a a Saturday night.

That was a weekend in Catalonia.

In one day people was ignoring Spain, wishing their independence and supporting the Netherlands in the World Cup final.

When the match is over: happiness takes the city, with the emotion that such unique moment, as winning the Mundial, deserves.

In today’s tense times, where the sides are in full contest for power and independence, it's hard to understand the ambiguity of what happened through those days in July 2010.

Nevertheless, during a World Cup, or a match for Independence, you don’t have to find rationality or explainations, because there aren’t. And that’s the beauty of it.

 Waiting for the World Cup. Plaça de Espanya in Barcelona, Catalonia.  | Fábio Felice — 2010

Waiting for the World Cup. Plaça de Espanya in Barcelona, Catalonia.  | Fábio Felice — 2010

Fábio Felice is a brazilian football fan that drives his life calendar according to the World Cup countdown. Follow him here.