My apartment in Madrid was a few minutes from Retiro Park. On sunny days, which is just about every day in Madird, much of the city heads to Retiro to jog, lift weights or play football, tennis or basketball and afterwards, the men hit the little pond to take their shirts off and row each around in tiny boats. Admittedly, some of them do keep their shirts on, but who’s going to pay any attention to those losers?
Occasionally, my roommates and I wanted a break from just sitting around the kitchen table doing nothing in the little walk-in closet we called home, so we made our way to the park with the rest of the city, to sit around and do nothing with an audience. While there, we would notice people having a good time on the football pitch and eventually we decided that should be us.
Six months later, one of my roommates finally made some actual inquiries and managed to get us an hour or two on the pitch on a Sunday morning. It was a Wednesday and we were all looking forward to it. Come Sunday, what had seemed a stroke of genius earlier in the week now ranked among such other brilliant ideas as boy bands, nominating a poorly programmed Mormon robot bully for president or non-alcoholic beer.
It being Madrid and us being people with mouths, we naturally went out for a few drinks on Saturday night. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but we did in fact limit ourselves to a few drinks that night. Of course Saturday night ended an hour later and Sunday morning began. We did not show the same restraint on Sunday.
I assume we got home around six or seven in the morning. It was light out in any case. After breakfast, we jumped in our beds and basically rolled right back out the other side and got up to play some football. Yeah! I’ve never been a huge fan of physical exertion, but my distaste reached new levels that morning.
We dragged ourselves to the park followed by a contingent of homeless people trying to catch a whiff of the alcoholic fumes seeping from our pores. Somewhere along the way, while discussing possible teams, which basically amounted to agreeing on who would get stuck with the lazy, out of shape, half American (the first two described most of us; it was the last one that had them convinced I would not be a beneficial addition to their team), someone realized we were missing an important component of a football match: a football. Apparently, no one had thought of that little detail.
This meant we had no option but to invite others, people with the foresight to bring a ball when playing football, to join us. We ended up with a bunch of Spaniards and two Italians who would be matched up against our team of Germans, Brits (both English and Scottish) and me. Things were not looking good for us, especially considering most of us were standing around out of breath with our hands on our knees before the game ever began. Usually the pregame discussion involves deciding who will be forced to play goal, but on this day we had to decide who would GET to be the goalie.
The game itself actually turned out to be a lot of fun. Then we entered the third minute of play. At this point, I had two options: take over in goal or die. I chose the former. The rest of the game progressed like any game the Germans or the Brits play against the Spaniards and Italians: a bunch of us stand around like stationary obstacles while they enjoy some light passing drills up and down the pitch for 90 minutes. Occasionally they would take a shot on goal and they even managed to sneak a few past the seven of us who were guarding the net for most of the game.
Eventually, we got bored of watching the Spaniards play football from inside our net and we went home for some IV fluids. I think I saw the other team pause for a second as we were leaving, probably wondering why their spectators were abandoning them halfway through the match, but they quickly continued their game. I think they probably found it more difficult to get through our defense after we were gone.