By Julia Willis
WASHINGTON — Walking around the grounds of FedEx Field, I came to realize why sportscasters deemed the June 7 match between the Spanish national team and El Salvador a “friendly.”
Surrounded by fans sporting T-shirts, flags, and even instruments representing the colors of their favorite teams, I was amazed to see how many Salvadoran fans eagerly invited individuals sporting Spain’s red and yellow paraphernalia to chat about the upcoming game or share some prepared food.
Having grown up in a household that became visibly depressed and bitter after a favorite team lost a championship game, I could not understand what I was seeing. Why were fans of opposing camps becoming friends before one of the most publicized matches on the Road to Brazil? Although El Salvador is no longer eligible to play in the World Cup, didn’t these fans realize that they were associating with the enemy, the defending World Cup champions?
As I talked with many of the fans from both camps, I began to realize that the World Cup represents a chance to bond with people of all nations over a common love for the game of soccer.
Daniel Garcia-Donoso, assistant professor of Spanish at The Catholic University of America, explained how he is able to experience the same camaraderie that is maintained within his home country of Spain when he attends games like this.
“I am far away from my country, from Spain,” said Garcia. “I wear this jersey once or twice a year when watching the Spanish team, and I feel part of a community. I see other people wearing shirts from Spain or shirts from El Salvador, and we all form a community when we watch the game.”
Another Spanish fan, Daniel Lledo, shared similar sentiments.
“In a game like this, to be playing against El Salvador, our brothers from across the pond, it’s a friendly,” said Lledo. “Everyone is here to have fun and enjoy the game together.”