Football: Fierce start in Qatar for Spain but countrymen not quite partying just yet

Spain thumped Costa Rica 7-0, in stunning fashion and while there was fiesta on the pitch. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID – The Spanish national football team had a ferocious start to its World Cup campaign in Qatar on Wednesday but more than 7,000 kilometres away in its capital city, Madrid, the Spaniards are only just warming up.

Spain thumped Costa Rica 7-0, in stunning fashion and while there was fiesta on the pitch, it was not quite the party in the heart of Madrid’s city centre.

Perhaps it was the fact that the match was taking place at 5pm local time in the middle of the week or this was just their Group E opener and the Costa Ricans were seen as easy prey. But the lack of buzz in the heart of the city was evident.

There was no sea of red and yellow, no horns, no big congregation of people apart from the snaking queues that had formed outside several stores and shopping malls with early sales ahead of Black Friday. 

Miguel Angel, 55, a private hire driver in the city said most football fans would be giving the match a miss, especially since most in the capital normally head home from work past 6pm, an hour into the match.

The die-hard Atletico Madrid fan added: “Maybe in the next few matches, we will see more Spanish people go to bars to watch the game. But today, there is no excitement like normal in the previous World Cup or European Championships. It is very early in the tournament for us Spanish people.”

With 10 minutes to kickoff, several cafes and bars were still largely empty.

On the pitch, Spain made a quick start and by half-time, had ghosted into a 3-0 lead and in Madrid’s Sport Bar, two-storey watering hole, slowly started to fill. By the time the fourth goal came in the 54th minute, it was elbow room only with about 100 people cheering Spain on.

Diego Villalobos, 18, a Peruvian in Madrid for a holiday, said he had arrived an hour before the match but was surprised to find the bar mostly empty. He said: “I thought it was going to be really, really crowded. But people came in after the match has started and now you can see how crowded it is. At least I can go back with pictures to show my friends that I watched a Spain match with so many people here.”

A trio of 18-year-old Spanish fans, Lucia Ramos, Chatman Amrin and Ana Humanes were taking in the action. They were one of the few dressed for the occasion, with strokes of red and yellow painted on their faces and Spanish flags wrapped around their body.

Local fans packed into a sport bar in Madrid watching Spain take on Costa Rica in the World Cup. ST PHOTO: DEEPANRAJ GANESAN

Ramos said she and her friends have planned to catch every match together. A big fan of Marco Asensio, who notched the second goal of the game, Ramos said that this is her first World Cup experience.

She added: “Before this World Cup, there was the Covid-19 and we did not have this chance (to watch together). It is such a nice experience to watch and support the team. We have a really strong team and I hope we can go to the final.”

Spain’s performance was not a surprise but few had expected the goal glut. A 30-year-old Spanish fan who wanted to be known as Pablo, was especially delighted to see young guns like Pedri, 19 and Gavi, 18 play a starring role in the thumping.

Garcia said: “This is a perfect start for us. Not many Spanish people think that we can win the World Cup but to see the young players play so well on their World Cup debut is special. Maybe this result will make the country sit up and take notice.”

Spain fans Lucia Ramos (from left), Chatman Amrin and Ana Humanes cheer on their country during the 7-0 win over Costa Rica back in Madrid. ST PHOTO: DEEPANRAJ GANESAN

He shared that in previous years, the main plaza in the city, Plaza de Colon, would host World Cup screenings but this usually happens when Spain reaches the knockout rounds. Garcia is certain he will make it to a screening this year in the Plaza.

He added: “Maybe now there are not many people to support Spain but I can see us going far in the tournament. I can already imagine the plaza filled with thousands of Spanish people cheering the team in a quarter final or maybe even semi-final.”

If Spain’s start is anything to go by, it will not be long before the city starts to feel the buzz of the World Cup. Like the team, the people of Madrid are only just getting started.

Track every Qatar 2022 World Cup match here.

SPH Brightcove Video
Sports journalist Deepanraj Ganesan talks to fans at a sports bar in Madrid about Spain's 7-0 drubbing of Costa Rica.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.