Valencia is a city to fall in love with.
It’s not love at first site, granted, but a growing love that makes you feel connected. It’s not like Barcelona or Sevilla, filled with antigua that draws people from everywhere to visit in awe.
Valencia is a place you can live. You can find a regular doctor, go to yoga in the park, walk the Turia River with everyone else who lives here, find a favorite cafe and get behind the local futbol team.
I am starting to feel nostalgic already. This feeling was intensified when I spontaneously bought tickets to the last Valencia home game that we could attend. Valencia has done well this year, staying in the top four of La Liga for the first time in a while, led by their new charismatic coach from Asturias.
It was “family night” at the game, which meant a big crowd and lots of kids in Valencia shirts. Since most Spanish kids stay up late, it didn’t matter that they wouldn’t get home until after 10 p.m. on a school night. We got off the metro along with the other throngs of people who made their way in a long, packed line to the stadium.
Watching the crowd, I felt a surge of affection for this place. Going to a game has its own style, different from a Major League Baseball game or a college football game in the U.S. Looking around at the crowd, most people are dark haired and wearing black. There isn’t any tailgating or drinking, but there is a lot of cigarette smoke on the streets and in the stadium.
Futbol games are all about the futbol. There aren’t stands selling paraphernalia or food, nor are there people walking the stands selling food and beer. In fact, families bring in picnics (usually bocadillas).
The stadium seating goes straight up, and the inside is concrete and metal as people climb to their seats. We accidentally sat in the wrong section until a man came and told us that the section was reserved for a group of friends that come every time. He laughingly said we wouldn’t want to sit there. We realized the truth in his words as we saw some of his group dragging a large drum up the stairs. It turns out they were a fan group that sang songs and waved flags the whole game.
When we finally found our seats, I realized that I had inadvertently gotten the very last seats at the top of the stadium. This turned out to be amazing, as our backs were up against the wall and we could watch the game and look out over all of Valencia. We could look down on the television camera over the field, as well as the swifts flying below us.
We yelled and screamed like everyone else. The night was warm with a slight cool breeze blowing. As I looked behind me out over Valencia, it solidified my attachment to this place. We were just fellow Valencia fans on a beautiful night cheering for our team. The ache of Valencia’s 2 to 1 loss, was nothing compared to the ache of knowing that we wouldn’t see them play next year.
In unspoken agreement, our family stayed until after the crowds left to just savor the moment and look out over the city, before returning home on the crowded metro after 10 p.m. with our own young child in tow.
Sally Shuffield is a Durango resident living in Spain for a year with her family. Visit her blog at www.sallyshuffield.net/spain-blog.