I have to admit that I have been watching the World Cup 2022 and it brought back all kinds of memories from Franco’s Spain when my father and my brother were big soccer fans. The fact that I watched it on the Telemundo channel, I’m sure had a lot to do with the time warp.
Growing up in Madrid, my family was not into bullfights and looked down on the government and their institutionalization of such bloody sport. But, when it came to soccer, it was a different story. We didn’t have a TV then and going to the games must have been expensive. But every Sunday the radio was faithfully tunned to Cadena SER (Spanish Broadcasting Company) to listen to the results of the weekly soccer matches; never mind that the station was the official voice of the Falangist regime. I can still hear the high-pitched sound of “Comentarios Deportivos por Gilera” (Sport Commentaries by Gilera) on Sunday evenings when my father would come out of his study to hear the sport news. He often played La Quiniela, the betting game also funded by the government.
When we emigrated to the United States in the sixties, my dad couldn’t believe that soccer was not a popular sport here and the word “fútbol” was spelled football and meant a completely different game. My brother was able to join a small league at the University of Washington, where he was a student and my father taught under the auspices of the Fulbright Program. We loved Seattle, our new city, so green and lush, so different from Madrid. We lived in faculty housing, which was small and somewhat crowded, but faced Union Bay, the Pacific Ocean, no less!
During the first summer in this country, my father was a visiting professor at Purdue University in Indiana, and we lived in a large, suburban home in a faculty exchange. West Lafayette, Indiana, could not have been more different from the Pacific Northwest. The biggest surprise was that our home had a huge front yard, with a beautiful green lawn from corner to corner of the entire lot.
I don’t remember who the players were, probably students like my brother, doubtless my father recruited some young faculty as well. I think he played the goalie position. What I do know is that they had an active league and played soccer all summer long under the Midwestern sun. My father always told my mother, who missed Spain terribly, that this country was like heaven. At the end of the summer, the lawn had turned brown and muddy, it so happened that there were big thunder storms in paradise.
After the summer term, my family enjoyed an amazing journey through the American Southwest to Los Angeles and then back to Seattle on beautiful, coastal Route #1. As soon as my father was back on campus, the chair of the department told him that our Midwestern host had complained about the condition in which we left the yard. He said that the inside of the house was immaculate, but we had destroyed their lawn. My dad was truly sorry and distraught. Immigrants hate conflicts with the law; I wonder if he thought that this report would have an effect on his permanent visa. He went around repeating, as he was known to do: “I will never understand these Americans, why do they have these huge lawns if they don’t like to play soccer?”