Perpignan shows Spanish roots in World Cup

I knew people really liked sports, but never before had I truly experienced people loving sports.

Turning over tables, running in the streets, screaming at the TV screen. Sobbing. It happens.

Perpignan’s Catalan culture and French-Spanish history made this year’s football (for the Americans, that’s soccer) team of choice an easy decision.

Espana! Espana!”

Beginning the Saturday before, it was apparent that the residents of Perpignan were preparing for Sunday’s big game. Catalan flags lined car windows, waved from balconies and made their way to the streets via scarves, T-shirts and even some tattoos.

Football in Europe is not just a game; it’s a cultural movement. While I have experienced some die-hard San Francisco Giants fans, and a few crazy Philadelphia Jets fanatics, the way that European fans love their favorite or national football team is on another level.

As I walked to meet some classmates to watch the game, I was completely entertained watching the residents of Perpignan prepare for the big game.

World Cup Final: Espana vs. Netherlands.

Red table cloths and yellow flowers on sidewalk tables transformed indoor restaurants into outdoor cafes. Five older men carried an 80-inch flat screen down the street. People began to line the streets and congregate to watch the game together.

After more than an hour, neither team had scored a goal. Tension was rising, beers were passed. With each missed attempt even I began to get frustrated and excited for someone to finally make a goal.

I have never been excited watching an American football game. While I love basketball, I have never felt the urge to wave a flag and run in the streets. When that first and final goal was finally made on the Netherlands by Spain, we all jumped up.

All of us smiled.

And finally, in the middle of Perpignan, I knew what it was like to really love watching a sports game.

For another take on World Cup fever in Perpignan read Brett Abel’s Putting in Extra Time.