Soccer and Emotions

Irina Echarry

Cubans packed into the cinemas to see the Soccer World Cup live.

“What would Maceo say… so many wounds to his body while fighting to free us from the Spanish yoke…”

This was what my mother said while watching the national news and seeing the images of the crowd of people at the Yara Cinema in Havana who watched the finals of the Soccer World Cup.

You could see euphoric guys wearing T-shirts of the Spanish team, many with flags in hand or with their faces painted in their team’s colors.  One girl was cries disconsolately, hugging the red and yellow flag.  “Was she Spanish?” we wondered, but then we realized she was Cuban.

The outcome of the World Cup caused a strange type of happiness.  People went flying out of the theater onto 23rd Street waving those same Spanish flags, shouting and trumpeting their homemade bugles.  In the Centro Havana district, you could hear “Viva Spain” yelled the same way as the Spanish soldiers who marched against our native independence fighters.

Undoubtedly my mother exaggerates when she thinks of Cuban independence leader Antonio Maceo; but it’s no less true that we all exaggerate a little.

During the event, I saw my friends and acquaintances switch from one team to another.  For example: Brazil is Roberto’s favorite team, but when they lost in the quarter-finals they were instantly replaced by Argentina, which also lost.  Then Roberto began to like the Uruguayan lineup… and, finally, he went with Spain.  That was logical. It would be a bit infantile to quit watching soccer because your team didn’t compete.  It is supposed that what’s liked is soccer —the sport— because it’s normal for it to be enjoyed.

In Cuba (I don’t know how it is in other countries), the sport is accompanied by feelings of patriotism, an imposed sense of solidarity.  It wouldn’t be unusual to hear a sports announcer say, “The fans here want the Cup to stay in Latin America.”  It’s a shame that human beings have lost the true sense of the games.  Playing is to be enjoyed, no matter who wins.

In any case —since it’s already established that someone has to win, that only one side will emerge victorious while all the others will end up in defeat, that the best team will win, it doesn’t matter which continent they come from.

The girl who was crying on TV and hugging the Spanish flag probably doesn’t know why she did that.  One acquaintance told me, “It’s great that the native motherland won; we all have some Spanish in us.”  But another friend, who was not rooting for Spain, reminded me how much they had done to make the indigenous peoples and black slaves suffer.

I didn’t know what to say.  I liked seeing how Uruguay battled against major teams, how Spain played clean while Holland tried to win the game with cheap fouls.  I liked watching the games.  If the victory went to Spain, I imagine they won it joyfully.  Neither the heroism of Antonio Maceo nor the martyrdom other combatants of colonial times went through my mind.  I simply saw the ball moving from one side of the field to the other.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.