Reflections on impromptu soccer in Madrid.
Finally, I found Spanish children playing pickup fútbol on the streets of Madrid. There were six of them, boys around ten years old, kicking a ratty gray ball across the plaza in front of the Reina Sofía, Madrid’s contemporary art museum. They used the cement walls adjacent to the museum as goals and marked no boundaries for their game, running wildly around the square between crowds of tourists and vendors and screaming nonsensical commands to their teammates. It wasn’t much of a game at all, actually. The boys were just one-upping each other, showing off their moves and hogging the ball until eventually it got stolen from them.
And I was just sitting alone on a bench staring at them with a giddy smile on my face. (Not creepy at all, right?)
Watching the boys kick the ball against cements walls reminded me of my own days playing soccer. In my driveway back home, there’s an alabaster/stone wall against which I used to kick my soccer ball. Besides my little brother—who I used to drag to the neighborhood soccer fields all the time when I was younger—the wall was my best passing partner. I can see why the boys were having a great time playing on the plaza—cement drives the ball quickly and smoothly (and for them, sometimes erratically).
On the way back to my hostel I saw several other pick-up games, a few in small parks scattered throughout Lavapiés, one even across the street from the Palacio Royal, where the recently-abdicated King and his family sometimes reside. Which got me thinking about all the other cool places in the city Madrileños could play some good fútbol. And with all this excited anticipation of the World Cup—which Spain won four years ago—generating, I’m sure the games could get pretty crazy. Here are some places I’d like to see a spontaneous pick-up game played.
- The plaza in front of the Catedral de Almudena, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. (maybe he could join in too?)
- The statue of King Alfonso XII and the area around the Great Pond of Buen Retiro park (this used to be a site for mock war battles in the 1700s, after all).
- La Plaza Mayor (I’m sure the tourists would love this).
- El Rastro on a Sunday afternoon (jk, this literally cannot be done, ever).
- Madrid’s own Egyptian Temple, Temple of Debod. (because how better to consecrate an authentic piece of Spanish culture than to play soccer on it?)
By the time I leave Spain a month from now, I hope I will have completed my one bucket list item: join a pickup fútbol game. And even better, maybe I can try to start one on a national monument.