American In Fuentealbilla By Guest Blogger Mackenzie Maloney

We here at The93rdMinute sometimes like to invite guest bloggers to give different perspectives of soccer. The bloggers here are diehard fans but it is important to recognize that there are recent converts of soccer who did not realize the beauty and fun of the sport until it smacked them in the face. Mackenzie Maloney is one of those people and below is her thoughts on how she discovered soccer and even came to live in Andres Iniesta’s hometown. She isn’t a full-fledged fan yet but it is only a matter of time. Check it out below and keep on the lookout for similar posts in the future. We here at The93rdMinute believe every fan deserves the right to show their appreciation of the sport.

Hola y Buenas Tardes! My name is Mackenzie (@mackenzmaloney) – current world traveler, non futbol fan, and honored guest writer of @The93rdMinute.

Have you ever been at a bar and experienced the entire crowd break out into the bass line from The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”? Or been in the middle of an “Ole! OleOleOle! Ole! Ole!” chant? That’s a soccer thing! I just thought it was like, a fun, party thing. NOPE! That’s typical of a soccer game.

Let me give you my soccer knowledge. I tried out for soccer during my freshman year of high school. I did this strictly because I had no interest in running cross country, but I knew my mom was going to make me do something, so I decided to try out for soccer, despite never having played a day in my life. I got cut from the team almost immediately (shocker!) and I never thought about soccer again until I was invited to my first club soccer party in college.

Have you heard of the FIFA World Cup? Unless you were living under a rock this summer, you know how insane the world gets for The World Cup, despite not including ever country (I thought it was more of an Olympics all-inclusive type deal)Fast forward to a few months ago, where I was bartending in an Irish pub in the East Village of New York City.. Let’s just say that for lack of better terms that things got crazy. I was forced to watch every single game, and I can still hear the dull roar of the crowds while men with heavy British accents discuss Luis Suarez chewing on Prosciutto di Chiellini .. err … I mean that Italian guy. Did you know that isn’t the first time he’s bitten someone? He bites people! It’s kind of his thing! It’s like if Mike Tyson called him up personally and in his tough little voice, “Hey Luis, I just have this thing inside me that wants to eat and conquer. Maybe it’s egotistical, but I have it in me. I don’t want to be a tycoon. I just want to conquer people and their souls. You should steal their souls as well too.”

So I think you are now pretty clear in understanding that I didn’t like soccer. It’s not even that I don’t like soccer, I just, I don’t know .. sports are fine. I like them! I just don’t care about them. I like college basketball because that I can partially discuss with people. But I just didn’t understand soccer. And The World Cup wasn’t making me like it anymore because I could tell that everyone who was taking work off to watch the games weren’t true soccer fans (ahem…not like the writers of this impressive blog.) However, my feelings on soccer were changed one Sunday morning this summer.

The bar that I worked at had become a Liverpool fan bar. Guess how much I cared or knew about Liverpool? Aside from that being the town that produced the Beatles, if you guessed “nothing or not at all”, you are correct. However, one Saturday night my boss called me and asked if I would be available to bartend the next day .. at low and behold,7:30 in the morning. I thought to myself , ‘What in the name of God do I need to be there for at 7:30 on a Sunday morning? Church banquet?’

“Liverpool plays tomorrow morning. It’s going to get crazy. The game is on at 8:00 am. I need you here.”

What I thought would be a giant waste of my time actually turned into the most insane and fun mornings I have ever had. Liverpool was playing Manchester United, evidently a big rival, and this game was key because it meant they would continue with the blahblahblah something something championship. I don’t know. The point is, by 8:00am, the bar was absolutely PACKED with red shirt wearing, Guinness guzzling, this-game-means-the-world-to-me FOOTBALL FANS.

“Oh. So these are soccer fans.” I said, out loud, despite not being able to hear myself over the madness.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I truly thought my eardrums were going to explode everything they scored a goal. And immediately after – “OH WHEN THE REDS! OH WHEN THE REDS! OH WHEN THE REDS GO MARCHING IN!” Oh, I can get behind this. What I loved so much about soccer fans is the passion that they felt for the sport. The games are everything to them, and when they score a goal, it’s a level of euphoria not even the most powerful drug can imitate. The world’s biggest American football fan has nothing on a European soccer fan, mark my words. But now I’m starting to understand soccer a little bit more, and seeing the passion first hand helped me change my tune, but not enough to care about soccer… yet.

So why am I, non soccer fan, writing this post? Two weeks ago, I moved to Fuenteabilla, Spain as part of a Teach Abroad program. If you are a fan of Barcelona, hopefully you already know why this is a big deal. Evidently, I am living in the hometown of one of the most talented and famous soccer players in the world. What a coinkidink!

This is, verbatim, how I found out about this dude:

Principal of my Spanish school: Como sabes Andres Iniesta?

Me: *scared, blank stare. awkward smile* (Inner monologue) – What the hell is she saying?

Principal: *laughs* Do you know Andres Iniesta?

Me: (inner monologue) *Sigh of relief* Okay she just spoke English. Andres .. HUH?

Principal: He plays soccer for Barcelona. He is very famous. He is from Fuenteabilla. You must tell the children you know him.

Me: Okay! (Inner monologue) Oh big deal, theres like 8 million soccer players, who cares.

Next day at school, I come to find out that this dude is a KIND OF A BIGDEAL. For those of you who do not know he’s like … Scottie Pippen to Barcelona’s own Michael Jordan in Lionel Messi (although, if you want to get technical about it, that Brazilian guy with the funny hair and one name is there now so I guess the comparison would better be suited to last year’s big 3 in the Miami Heat )Seriously, this guy is legit. Check out his Wikipedia page here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9s_Iniesta

He only scored Spain’s winning goal in the World Cup,on top of countless other important goals and assists. Additionally he received football’s highest recognition – Ballon D’Ore aka best player in the world. The WORLD. GLOBAL. TODOS.

So right now I am living in basically town enshrined to this guy. And there’s only 2,107 (seriously) people in this town. I’m not kidding when I say that, on any given day, at least 20% of the children have an Iniesta jersey on. Whether it for the beloved Furia Roja (Spain’s National Team) or just Barcelona. This town is TINY, but there’s a statue of him in the middle of it. There are countless jerseys and pictures all over. THE MAN HAS HIS OWN VINEYARD FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. Come ON. For the sake of Pete, this blog, and my love of wine, I will head over to that vineyard and learn. There’s a bar dedicated to him. I’ll check that out too.

So now that I’m here, and semi immersed in the soccer culture, I plan to find out exactly what it’s like to be a non-soccer fan in Europe. The love of football starts basically in the womb here, and since I am teaching ages 6 through 12, I get a firsthand look at beginner soccer fans, and why soccer is so important to them. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a full-fledged Barcelona fan by the end of this adventure.

Until next time,

You Never Walk Alone (See! I know some things!)

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