Wednesday, June 11, 2008

duende! carisma! and don't forget the hat-trick

I asked my co-worker from Madrid what the Spanish term for hat-trick is and he said there isn't one. Thinking maybe he just doesn't care enough about football (when I asked him his favorite team, he said he didn't have one... although he was perhaps being gracious, as he already knew my Catalan proclivities), I searched online and found the word SOMBRERITO. Possibly this is an invention by Englishers who cannot, like me, imagine a culture in which there is no common word for a hat-trick.

In any case, how about that "el Guaje" and his "little hat" against the Russians?

I watched the Spain v US friendly last week as a warm-up to these very Euro 2008 festivities, jumping in around the interval. I had expected a fair-to-middling football match, and I got that, just barely, but I had forgotten about La Furia and how it affects me. Not having seen the list of the starting eleven, the players came clear to me slowly, and I started to feel that familiar passion from the old World Cup days: a heartfelt pasticcio of warm affection, excitement, and awe. From Iker Casillas at the back all the way up, this pitch is full of men of playful genius.

In my pre-World Cup days of heady optimism (naive, so I was told on this very blog by some world-weary soul who'd seen it all before... "they'll crap out by quarterfinals," he intoned like Eeyore, and, indeed, he called it spot-on), I saw all that brilliance packed into all those kids and worried that the granddads, the Puyols and Rauls, would have to shoulder too much of the burden from their rambunctious charges. Now I look out across that pitch at all those ultra-promising kids... Torres, Ramos, Iniesta, little Cesc... and they're all, without exception, becoming magnificent in adulthood.

And, with ominous familiarity, I say to myself, "How can they possibly NOT win?"

Dangerous words to speak, always, in the hearing of the capricious Football Gods. So I'll try and sit as quietly as possible through the rest of the tournament, except for those times when La Roja play with such joy and elan that I can't help but laugh and holler.

Against the US, they weren't fusing properly. Probably the Spaniards were giving it all the weight of a practice session. Ramos was having a hard time getting his crosses in to Torres, and the sheer height of the Americans was proving a difficulty, which doesn't bode well for a match against Joachim Low's towering huns. Xavi's goal, off one of Cesc's perfect passes, was stubborn and utilitarian, no frills, but it did the job. Yesterday was a different matter: Aragones tucked a second striker up front alongside el Nino (these fellows need new nicknames. What happens when you're forty and stuck with "The Kid" as a moniker?) and the two went to work. Villa's finishes came off lovely set-ups from Torres, Iniesta and Fabregas, and Cesc's late and sweet diving header came off Villa's foot by way of Xavi's then the Russian keeper's punch-out.

Oh, to be in the Alps right now. Weather conditions are bad: even as we speak, Turkey struggles against the formidable Yakin and the Swiss in a sort of grassy swimming pool. But nothing in the world is shining more beautifully than the Spaniards in the Alps right now, and oh, to be there to see it.


Georgina Best said...

There are some great performances emerging. Spain, Holland, Germany, Portugal and Italy who noone in their right mind would write off yet.
I guess the likes of you and will will just have to use our imaginations and pretend we are there. It's the closest we are going to get!

lisa said...

Alas! It's true. Who needs the crowds anyway, though, right?