Spain's semi-final victory, via Paris

A great roar goes up as the match starts, and there is a lot of shouted advice to the players. The chap on my right, who is hanging on to his impressive motorcycle helmet for dear life, keeps admonishing the Spanish players for their inability to score in the first half, saying 'go right, now left, kick it into the net, whoaaaaa, whaaaat's wrong with you??!"

Maheen Usmani July 08, 2010
Spain vs Germany? As I head towards the semi final match to be telecast on an open air screen in the centre of Paris, I mull over the track record of the formidable Germans who are known to never ever give up. Despite all odds being on a German win, I can't help rooting for the underdogs.

The location of the arena is superb, because the television screen has been set up parallel to the majestic Eiffel Tower.

The field is crowded with supporters of both sides adorned in Spanish and German colours, waving flags and vociferously chanting slogans. There is a smattering of applause when the giant screen shows the popular King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain cheering on the players before the match commences.

A great roar goes up as the match starts, and there is a lot of shouted advice to the players. The chap on my right, who is hanging on to his impressive motorcycle helmet for dear life, keeps admonishing the Spanish players for their inability to score in the first half, saying 'go right, now left, kick it into the net, whoaaaaa, whaaaat's wrong with you??!"

The couple on my left is engaged in a fight, not over the match presumably, but it certainly involves a great deal of whispered admonitions and arm touching by the boy, and shrugging off and irritation from the girl. Eventually, the irate guy gives up on mollifying his determined lady love and storms off, giving us some extra space to stretch our cramped limbs.

The more vociferous supporters stand in a small square, cheek by jowl, painted and adorned in their national colours, and screaming their lungs out. At every missed chance or save, a collective amplified groan goes up and heads are shaken and fists punched in the air. During the match interval, there is an electric performance by an athletic Parisian dance troupe dressed in football jerseys and dribbling with footballs. Then it's the turn of colourful cheerleaders who sway to the endearing 'Waka Waka' which galvanises people into dancing despite being crammed together like sardines. It is definitely the first time that I see a guy dancing in such a groovy style on the iron railing he is perched precariously on.

When Spain finally score in the second half, there are celebrations galore with firecrackers, feet drumming, wild dances, and enthusiastic singing. As if on cue, the lights on the Eiffel Tower begin twinkling merrily. Actually the Eiffel Tower lights do shimmer after every hour, but it seems like a good omen and from then on, I start believing that the Spaniards might just wrest this match from the Germans. With five minutes to go, wave after wave of crest fallen Germans start making their way out of the arena, averting their eyes from the jubilant Spanish supporters. As the final whistle blows, people go wild celebrating a truly historic win for Spain.

What is noticeable is that despite the presence of crazed supporters from both sides and police and iron jawed commandos on full alert nearby, there is not a single incident of rowdy-ism or mayhem. Men and women stand shoulder to shoulder for a couple of hours and everyone keeps their distance. Isn't that what respect is all about?

After the match, cars full of excited Spaniards brandishing their flags race by, honking to show their unbridled excitement as people wave back and show victory signs. I follow singing Spaniards towards the Eiffel Tower where in a quiet corner a Colombian group is playing mesmerising instrumental music. Further ahead, a musician regally attired in the Scottish kilt is playing his bagpipes. Tourists and locals alike relax on the balmy evening, snapping pictures, eating ice cream and chips and drinking beer and soft drinks. The haunting music, the victorious shouts, the ethereal Eiffel Tower and the tranquil air of bonhomie and camaraderie makes me smile, but I can't help thinking that when was the last time that we had such pure unadulterated fun in Pakistan.. free from worry, fears, security alerts, and roadside Romeos? I snap out of my reverie as thrilled Spanish supporters with billowing flags in tow race from one end of the gleaming Eiffel Tower to another, unable to contain their joy and sporting ear splitting grins.

Viva Espana!
WRITTEN BY:
Maheen Usmani A freelance writer who has covered subjects ranging from socio-political issues to women's rights to counter terrorism, sports, travel, culture and music. Maheen tweets @MaheenUsmani (https://twitter.com/MaheenUsmani)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (30)

Osama J Malik | 11 years ago | Reply Spain=Underdogs at the 2010 WC? Really? Football and Paris dont suit you Mahin. Go back to London & Cricket. La Furia Roja qualified for South Africa 2010 by winning all the matches during the qualify matches. Not one or two matches but 10 matches of 90 minutes each. If that is your description of an Underdog then please tell me what is a Favourite?
Hasan Hameed | 11 years ago | Reply What a wondefully written and evocative piece! The English team was so shambolic at the world cup that no one paid too much attention after its exit, so it must have been amazing to be in such an atmospheric place. Maheen, you bring the colours, sounds, and smells to life. Great article, great writer! I am looking forward to your next piece.
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