Published: June 2006

Spain

Spain

The Highlights of Soccer History in Spain

Robert Coover discusses some of Spain's best soccer moments

By Robert Coover
Photograph by Getty Images

Spain, the summer of '82, hottest of the century. The smog cap over Barcelona was like the lid of a pressure cooker, ablaze with refracted sunlight, and up on the top tier of the little Sarriá soccer stadium, known popularly as the Bombonera, the Candybox, they seemed to have sold ten tickets for every square foot of space. We had to go an hour and a half early just to squeeze in at all. No way to sit, no chance to go for drinks, by the time the matches started it was even hard to breathe. My teenaged son spent one entire game hanging over an exit from a stair railing. Each day we said: if it's not bloody sensational, we'll go to a bar somewhere and watch it on TV, this is crazy. And each day we stayed.

We'd been here before. The other time, in 1977, it was raining and nighttime and turning cold. We stayed that time, too, huddled under an umbrella high up on the roof under the floodlights in the blustery winds and pouring rain in the only available seats, and happy to have them. That night we were watching a late-autumn Spanish league match between the two archrivals of this city, FC (Fútbol Club) Barcelona and Real Club Deportivo Espanyol (the Spanish Royal Sports Club), whose home field this was, a match that was far more than a mere athletic event.

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