Fútbol the Way It Should Be Watched
That’s soccer to you estadounidensans (U.S. Folks). With my brother in town and no other plans for the afternoon, we decided to head out and see if we could find a likely bar to watch the UEFA Champions Cup match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. For the uninitiated, this is basically the European Championship and is possibly the most important fútbol match outside of the World Cup finals. Well, the challenge wasn’t so much finding a bar as finding one that had space for us.
And eventually we did, the Belfast Restobar, which had little of either Belfast or resto (restaurant), but did have space for us. Barely. We had to pull out a table and drag up a chair and adjust so we could see the large projection tv, but once we did it was all good. At Belfast, you order and pick up your drinks as you enter, I guess to make sure you’re not just there to watch. We started with a couple of Beck’s and settled in. The match was about ten minutes in but we didn’t seem to have missed anything.
As the back and forth without many scoring opportunities continued for much of the first half, it was difficult to tell the loyalties of the crowd. We were mostly there for a good match and atmosphere and were quite content. Late in the first half Atletico scored when Real’s goalkeeper made quite a boneheaded play, and we could tell at least the two tables near us were Atletico fans.
The first half ended 1-0 and the bar, as we suspected, emptied out as people went out to smoke. But they know the schedule, as they were back in time to use the baños and stock up on the large bottles of Becker’s to which we had also moved before the second half started.
The second half was back and forth, but as time wound down you could see Atletico play more defensively and Real press more on offense. They missed several good scoring chances and Atletico was piling up the yellow cards but couldn’t hit the back of the goal. And then an Atletico player overplayed a foul and laid on the pitch for several minutes longer than necessary, undoubtedly adding several minutes to stoppage time at the end of regulation. And this would turn the match. Without about a minute and a half left in stoppage time Real finally capitalized on a corner kick with a beautiful header into the back of the net, tying the score and sending the game into overtime. It became clear that most of the patrons were Real fans.
To make a long story short, Real ended up scoring three times in overtime, including the last by Renaldo on a penalty kick, giving them their long sought 10th title and denying Atletico their first. But more importantly we got to enjoy a major fútbol match in the proper atmosphere, among fans who know, love and understand the game. And as we real baseball fans say of our game, anyone who thinks soccer isn’t exciting doesn’t understand the game. This was one of the more exciting sports matches I’ve seen, and I didn’t really care who won.
Can’t wait to see some World Cup (Cupo Mundial) games down here and for Joel to see them too.