Why I Love…Spanish Football (part 1)

Spain can be a beautiful basket-case of a country. It’s a place where nobody is afraid to share their opinion loudly and repeatedly no matter how knowledgeable or otherwise it may be. It is a country of multiple identities, of multiple languages, of multiple peoples. There’s plenty to love and plenty to be careful of. The same goes for its football fan culture. For this piece of writing however, I will cast some light on my own favourite curiosities of football fandom in Spain.

“Soy de Madrid”

The language of this proclamation has proved confusing to me many times. This is how Spaniards tell me they support Real Madrid. There are two literal translations for this; “I’m from Madrid” and “I’m of Madrid”. The first strikes me as a geographically inaccurate statement unless you were born in the general area of the Spanish capital. The second feels more poetic. Either way, I find it confusing, especially when a Valencian professes it proudly. “Soy de Madrid” or “Soy de Barca” are two of the more commonly said phrases when discussing football. It’s impossible to know for sure, but results of surveys have their combined support at anywhere from 55-70% of the population. The bias is strong whichever camp you fall into and almost all football is viewed through this Real/Barca prism. So, apart from this opening paragraph, I’m going to ignore it.


I moved to Spain during a global pandemic that saw football being played behind closed doors. I couldn’t watch a game live for more than a year. I’d been to games in Spain before and was aching to experience my favourite sound in football once again. GOOOOOOOOOL! Greeting the best moment of a game with this word is simply better than shouting YESSSSSS! It’s more guttural. It’s more primal. It’s more intimidating. It’s more powerful, and, as someone who grew up absorbing the football culture of the British Isles, it’s more exotic. Watching La Liga or Champions League football, that sound was emblematic of Spanish football and the great teams of my youth. There are other sounds I’ve grown to love. One such sound is another guttural one and is one familiar to referees across all levels of football here. Burro. Here, the referee isn’t a clown, a cheat, or indeed a w****r. He is simply a donkey and it sounds fantastic.

F**k Health and Safety

I live in Valencia because the steep stands of Mestalla lured me here. As the camera passed by Gaizka Mendieta, Claudio “El Piojo” Lopez et al, I was fixated on what was behind them, rising up endlessly towards the sky. In person, the gradas are equally impressive and indeed terrifying but they hold and reverberate a good GOOOOOOL superbly. It’s impossible to describe how steep these stands are, but a great many of the seats have metal bars in front of them to stop you from tumbling towards your death.  Another result of these steep stands is the view. In contrast to many bowl like stadiums, in Mestalla you feel incredibly close to the action. Owing to the view, the cheap seats don’t feel so cheap. There’s a shell of a new stadium waiting for Valencia CF and I’m sure it will be lovely when building finally resumes and therefore can be finished. It will probably tick all the boxes of a modern stadium but something will be lost when they make the move 4.1km north-west. Estadio de Mestalla is like many Spanish bars. It’s loud, charming, the toilets are awful and, like the 25 Amstel crates stacked in the corner, you’re not sure how it’s still standing. I’m not sure it’d pass a strict health and safety inspection but it is brilliant.