Watching the EuroCup 2012 in Barcelona has a charm to it like no other place, I certainly never imagined I would get to watch Spain’s trip to victory in Spanish territory, but I also never thought it would be such a different experience from any other place.
Yes, it was amazing to see the football culture of Barcelona come out every night to watch the matches. Pubs were crowded an hour ahead of kick-off (or more); people wore their team’s jersey with pride and even painted their faces; but what struck me the most was that most of the football culture in the city was made up by none other than foreigners. Thousands of people from all over the world, as well as some Spanish on vacation here and, yes, you do see Catalans scream out for their Barça players as well as the Spanish team. I was amused to see that the language barriers didn’t matter in a football match; fans understood each others’ suffering or happiness.
As a Latin American football lover, I was exhilarated to share the experience with all kinds of people. Watching every single match from the beginning was the best way to get to understand the dynamics of the EuroCup. Right from the start, Spain was the favourite, but spectators also put a high value on Germany, Portugal promised to threaten the other teams and the Netherlands was viewed as a good, solid team that proved to be in good shape. Rumours about France spread all around—the team had just been renewed and intrigue surrounded the atmosphere. England came in to the tournament with not many expectations, what with having a brand-new coach and a dodgy run of results, but hope always springs eternal.
The surprises soon came: Italy proved to be more than the predictable 'alright' team that it had been labelled as and striker Balotelli showed his beast-like perfection against Germany; Portugal failed to do much right in the end, even with star player and controversial captain Cristiano Ronaldo; Croatia stood strong until Spain defeated them; the Netherlands’ Van Persie and Afellay couldn’t stop Portugal but did show intense play; and finally Germany couldn’t beat Italy in the semis as had been expected, with players like Gomez and Özil demonstrating great skill but failing to take victory.
The final match was heated; people strolled around Barcelona wearing their Spanish or Italian spirit from head to toe. Catalunya can be seen as different from Spain as a whole, but this year the EuroCup admitted little past history or prejudice; Barcelona was a place of magic and was watching, along with the world, expectantly. I had intense mixed feelings towards both finalists—having seen Portugal and Germany defeated was a shocker but I believed both Spain and Italy had advantages and weak points. The truth is that the most valuable lesson I learned from the EuroCup 2012 here in Barcelona is that no matter who wins or loses, everybody is welcome and celebration is a must.
The end was tragic for Italy, to lose 4-0 against the Spanish team was devastating, but the mood didn’t go mellow here in the city. Just as the Spanish celebrated, tourists joked around wearing Spain's jerseys while Italian visitors or residents managed to celebrate their journey to second place with joy. Like all other matches but in a much bigger dimension, Barcelona became the centre to celebrate, enjoy and unite through the love of football. If you still haven’t done it, then add it to your bucket list: go to a completely different place to watch the EuroCup and feel the warmth of people from around the globe rejoice around the passion of the game. Barcelona is a city of tourists, immigrants and locals. Everyone who decides to come is welcome, so watching the EuroCup in this international and yet traditional city was more than rivalry and sport; it was about the exchange of cultures from all over the world to praise a single event with excitement.