In honor of this weekend’s friendly (that’s exhibition for those of you unschooled in the rhetoric of the beautiful game) between the United States men’s national soccer team and Argentina’s, we bring you a story written by Barry Yourgrau in the current issue of Culture and Travel. In it, the spoken-word poet tells of taking in a game between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid at the latter’s Vicente Calderón Stadium. It’s not Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs, but it paints an accurate portrait of a game in Europe.
Live soccer is one of the great spectacles, but unless you’re down in the club president’s box, details are tough to follow. No TV replays or commentary even the reporters alongside us were checking the Internet coverage to keep informed. The stunned crowd buzzed and bayed. Atleti found some equilibrium and started to attack, but Robinho kept dazzling down the left side for Real. Then Atleti surged, time and again they swarmed Real’s goal, young Kun Agüero lashed thrilling shots but either Casillas, the goalkeeper, inhumanly saved them or the ball hit the woodwork. Close to halftime, while I was looking down at my notes, Real managed a corner kick. When I looked back up, Real players were rushing around deliriously. Two-nothing.