A Love Affair with International Soccer

The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off less than twelve hours from the time I’m writing this, and I can barely contain my excitement. To count down to this year’s tournament (and Spain’s inevitable kickassery!), I’m taking a look back at the international soccer events that make up some of my all-time favorite memories.

Spain World Cup

Can anyone guess which team I’ll be supporting?

The World Cup came to the U.S. in 1994, with matches played just minutes from my house, but, at age five, I barely knew what soccer was and sadly missed out on an opportunity I surely would have gone mad for had I been a few years older. I’m envious of my parents who did attend!

However, five years later, the Women’s National Team was captivating the nation. I had begun playing soccer two years earlier and had gained appreciation for the sport, and there was hardly a young girl alive in America in 1999 who didn’t worship Mia Hamm, Brianna Scurry, Julie Foudy, and the rest of the team. The World Cup championship match was hosted in my hometown of Pasadena, and my mom, grandma, sister, and I witnessed live as the U.S. defeated China in shoot-outs and Brandi Chastain iconically ripped off her shirt in celebration. What an event.

1999 Women's World Cup - Brandi Chastain

USA!

I’m sure I watched World Cup matches in the years in between, but it wasn’t until 2006 that international soccer truly became a passion. I was spending a month in Granada, Spain the summer that, at 17 years old, I fell head over heels in love with the country. Although Spain was eliminated early in the tournament, there was nothing quite like finding typical neighborhood bars to watch the final rounds. Watching the championship game between France and Italy, featuring Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt and ending in shoot-outs, was honestly one of the most exciting moments of my life, as I recapped here.

Italy - 2006 World Cup champions

2006 World Cup champions!

During the 2008 Euro, my family was in Switzerland for an unforgettable biking and wine tasting tour. The tournament was co-hosted by Switzerland, but we weren’t in the host cities at the time of matches. Although we had a scheduled dinner during the championship game between Spain and Germany, I continuously ran to the hotel’s lobby to catch as much of the match as I could. We moved to a bar for the end of the game, and, proudly sporting my Spain sweatshirt, we watched as Spain won their first major competition since 1964. Afterwards, we took to the streets to witness all the cheering, screaming, and honking of the Spain fans of Switzerland.

Spain fans during the UEFA Euro 2008 in Switzerland

I documented this trip terribly, but Spain fans even in Switzerland!

I watched the early games of the 2010 World Cup from Spain, proudly supporting La Roja, but sadly returned home before the epic championship game between Spain and the Netherlands. My mom and I watched from a bar in Las Vegas, filled with hardcore fans of both teams, and I screamed my lungs out and practically broke my legs jumping non-stop. This post is already full of superlatives, but I really can’t think of one moment in which I burst with as much uncontainable excitement as the moment when Iniesta scored the winning goal in overtime, bringing Spain its first World Cup title.

2010 World Cup Spain Fans Las Vegas

¡Campeones del mundo!

In 2011, the U.S. played Chile in a friendly match in Los Angeles. We arrived late and were too busy socializing to watch much more than the last fifteen minutes, but it was still a fantastic experience to see two major international teams compete right in front of us.

USA vs. Chile friendly match, Los Angeles

Fabulous seats for USA vs. Chile

For the 2012 Euro, I had the unfortunate luck of, once again, leaving Spain just before the championship game, although I was in Poland, one of the co-hosts, days before the tournament started, and I did get to watch a thrilling match from Sevilla, as I detailed here. I cheered on La Roja from the U.S. for the remaining games, watching Spain take first in the second consecutive UEFA Euro.

2012 UEFA Euro, Spain

My mom and I supporting my favorite team in the 2012 Euro

Later that year, Spain played France in a World Cup qualifying match in Madrid. Although I had seen Real Madrid play previously in L.A., this was my first time seeing my all-time favorite sports team live. The game ended in a lackluster 1-1 tie, but I’m still so very chuffed that I got to see my favorite team in the world in person.

Spain vs. France World Cup qualifying match

Me with La Roja!

When I visited my sister in Geneva, Switzerland last summer, my timing was perfect, and we got to see another World Cup qualifying match, this time with Switzerland and Cyprus. Donning red, painting our faces, and shielding ourselves from the rain, we watched Switzerland defeat Cyprus, and my close encounter with the Swiss team means I’ll definitely be cheering for them in this year’s World Cup.

Switzerland vs. Cyprus World Cup qualifying match

My sister and I cheering for Switzerland

Finally, just a few weeks ago, Australia’s Soceroos (such a silly name for the national team) played the host of the last World Cup, South Africa, in a farewell friendly match in Sydney. The game resulted in a disappointing tie, and Australia played terribly, but there’s nothing like getting dressed up for a game and cheering for your team, especially when that team will be competing in Brazil in less than two days! I do have to say, sorry Australia, but I’ll be cheering for Spain hard when you two compete in the group stage.

Australia vs. South Africa World Cup farewell friendly match

Go Soceroos!

Tomorrow morning, my friends and I will be meeting at a bar before work at 6am to watch the first match of this year’s World Cup between Brazil and Croatia. On Sunday, I fly home for two weeks (!!!), and I absolutely cannot wait to watch upcoming games with two of my favorite soccer fans, my mom and sister. Will Spain take home its second consecutive World Cup title? ¡A por ellos!

17 Responses

  1. Pedro says:

    haha i love this blogpost! as i love football!

    sadly i am not interested a lot in our national team…..you may be surprised coming from a Spaniard, right? well i only really care about our domestic league and European tournaments which are the world’s greatest tournaments…even Iker Casillas stated days ago that winning the European Champions League with Real Madrid is better than winning the World Cup.

    of course i shall be watching Spain’s matches and others, but i would be a liar if i said that i am very excited about it.

    the USA national team? i have said it and shall say it again: it is a matter of time that USA will be powerful at football sooner or later because it is a vast country with millions of children who play the sport, in fact it is the country with more children playing it…..USA is a nation of baseball and american rugby, but sure that after some decades football will be the king, and they will fight for sure to get a World Cup, and i really wish it.

    as for the question….well i am not sure about it, but i think that either Spain or Germany will win the World Cup….A Por Ellos as you say!!! haha

    • Kirstie says:

      I enjoy the domestic competitions as well, but I love the excitement and national pride that comes from international tournaments.

      It’s true that soccer has yet to become truly popular in the U.S., even though many kids are playing it, although we haven’t been terrible in the last few World Cups. We’ll see how we go. Also, as a note, Americans would get very confused if you referred to American football as “American rugby,” since we see it as a very different sport (although they do have similarities)!

      Go Spain!
      Kirstie recently posted A Love Affair with International SoccerMy Profile

      • Pedro says:

        our national pride is something that upsets me a lot, i mean, we only seem to be patriotic when it comes to the national team so people wave Spain’s flags everywhere, even my mum has got a flag right now in the balcony..then as soon as the World Cup ends people don’t care about such a pride.

        would it not be better to be patriotic through the whole year as North Americans for example?

        • Kirstie says:

          True, but there’s a lot of controversy there with all the separatist movements. It’s still exciting to see the country come together occasionally, even if you’re not over the top like Americans tend to be!
          Kirstie recently posted A Love Affair with International SoccerMy Profile

          • Pedro says:

            yes you are right about the separatist movements, and it shows that you do know Spain and know what you are talking about…..such an issue deserves a whole blogpost!

            as for football or “soccer” as you call it..well the USA have been eliminated, but you have one of the best goalkeepers of the world…..i did see the match against Belgium the other day and Tim Howard is powerful and has a lot of confidence himself, which is very important for a goalkeeper.

            anyway, i think that France, Germany or Holland will win.

            • Kirstie says:

              That would be interesting to address! Maybe I’ll leave it to the experts, though 🙂

              Yes, Tim Howard is amazing! I can’t be too disappointed that we lost, because it was a great game.
              Kirstie recently posted When in Rome, All Roads Lead to Rome, and Other Such ClichésMy Profile

              • Pedro says:

                just to update it: Germany destroyed the poor Brazilians in a match that will not be forgotten through history! i enjoyed with a lot of pleasure, like a child with sweets, haha!

                tonight i hope Holland run over them as well, and tomorrow Germany will also destroy Argentina with that fool Messi 🙂

  2. …¡¡Viva España, putas!!, haha…
    Betty J. Ogburn recently posted Why Spain, Why Now (Why Not)???…My Profile

  3. 6am?! YOU are HARDCORE, lady! My boss knows how disappointed I am to have to work during the whole qualifying round (save tonight’s game), so here’s hoping she’ll be lenient on me! I think it will be tough to win, but Spain can definitely make it to the semis. I’m thinking it will be us, Germany, Brazil and Argentina in the top spots.
    Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted Spain Snapshots: My Perfect Madrileño DayMy Profile

  4. Rashaad says:

    I know this comment is a little late but I actually attended some World Cup matches with my father in 1994 and I had a blast. I would to attend World Cup matches again.
    Rashaad recently posted The Great North RunMy Profile

    • Ahh, very cool! Which matches did you get to see? I’d love to go to one, but the upcoming Russia and Qatar locations aren’t looking promising!

      • Rashaad says:

        I attended all the matches at RFK Stadium (which believe it or not, is still around). Without referring to Wikipedia, if memory serves me correct, those matches were:
        – Mexico/Norway
        – Netherlands/Saudi Arabia
        – Italy/Norway
        – Belgium/Saudi Arabia
        – Spain/Switzerland

        I don’t I’ll go to either Russia or Qatar. I would actually love to attend the Women’s World Cup next year in Canada but I’m not sure if I’ll be back in the U.S. and/or have the money to attend matches. But that would be so awesome.
        Rashaad recently posted A Caribbean and 日本-flavoured weekendMy Profile

        • Wow, sounds like some exciting matches! Ooh, I’d love to attend the Women’s World Cup as well but will likely still be in Australia then. I’ll stick with my memories of the 1999 Women’s World Cup 🙂

Leave a Reply to Kirstie Jeffries Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge