dedicated to fans of the 2010 FIFA World Cup - all around the globe
let's celebrate together.
"Da-aaaad," I whined. "I cannot miss it. It's the World Cup final. Only the biggest sporting event ever. And Spain is playing."
"Alexi, honey, try to understand. If we fly out the next day, we'll miss a day of vacation and you know how hard it is for me to get leave from work," Dad replied, looking at me over his newspaper.
I glared at my brother. It was all his fault. He was the one who insisted that they take a vacation like a real family this summer. Basically, he was a sixteen year old who thought that he could hook up with some hot European girls. Fat chance.
After a few minutes of terse silence, Dad broke. He grinned over the top of his newspaper and said, "Well, our flight is only at 5.45 PM. The game should be over by then, shouldn't it? We can watch it at the airport."
Ecstatic, I catapulted out of my seat and grabbed Dad in a tight hug. "Thanks."
"I wouldn't let you miss your team's first final. I know it's a big game," he replied.
Few people understood my obsession with soccer. I didn't even call it soccer anymore – I called it football, which of course led to tons of confusion at school when everyone thought I was talking about John Terry's defensive tactics in American football and they were like, "Who's John Terry?"
Ever since I was seven years old and had watched my first real football game, I had become absolutely enamored with the sport. My life was dedicated to the Primera Liga games, the EPL season, the UEFA Cup, the Champions' League, and of course, the FIFA World Cup.
The glorious event that occurred once every four years and enthralled people across the globe in one sport was an event of such magnitude for me that I arranged my entire schedule around it. I even asked for leave from work on game days. It was lucky that the manager of my restaurant had known me for so many years and was willing to let my eccentricities slide sometimes.
With a renewed bounce in my step, I returned to my room. It was an explosion of red. A large poster of Fernando Torres decorated the wall behind my bed, David Villa winked at me from the screen of my computer, and an official 2010 Spain Jersey lay haphazardly on the chair.
"Bring it on, Holland!" I whispered to myself as I sunk down into my pillows.
It was hard to deny my nerves. For all the confidence I exuded and the stats I spouted, I was nervous as hell.
There was a jittery anxiety filling me that nothing but the promise of an exciting match could bring. My heart had been broken in 2006 when Spain lost to France, but this year, there would be no more defeats. This year, we would make history.
My father took Max, my brother, to the gates where they both dozed off as I headed towards the pub screening the game. The pre-game analysis was on. ESPN's commentators were okay, but sometimes they made really stupid or obvious remarks. I only half-listened to what they had to say as I mulled over the past month. It had been the only time I could really talk to others about football because everyone was watching the World Cup. I wished it were like this all the time. This month had been nearly magical for me and I would do anything to stop it from ending.
The bartender looked up at me and I asked for lemonade. I didn't want to risk using my fake ID in the middle of the airport. Although I was only nineteen a few months ago, I could pass off as a couple of years older with the right make-up.
"Spain supporter, hmm?" A young man slid into the seat at the bar next to me, interrupting my train of thought.
Usually, I wouldn't have answered. But he had a boyish grin on his handsome face and seemed friendly enough, so I replied. "Always." I didn't question how he guessed; I knew my jersey was a dead giveaway.
"Always? Does this always constitute the past month?" He asked, a bit of a smirk on his face. The smirk made his green eyes glint mischievously and he didn't look simply handsome but rather drop-dead sexy. On top of that, there was a hint of an accent in his voice. His r's were more pronounced and his s sounds rolled like jelly off his tongue.
I wasn't the only girl to notice this. A few other girls at the bar were slipping him surreptitious glances and one was blatantly checking him out. He didn't spare them a single glance.
However good-looking he may be, he had just insinuated that I wasn't a real Spain fan, and that was simply unacceptable. "This past month and the eight years preceding it, yeah," I replied, resisting the urge to flick him off.
He raised his eyebrows. Maybe he was impressed I hadn't simply bandwagoned onto this year's favorite. "So World Cup '02 started you with Spanish fandom?" He asked, doing some quick math. "Did you enjoy their loss to South Korea that much?"
"Yeah, World Cup 2002. Oh come on, that was not supposed to be a loss. Spain had two completely legitimate goals that were disallowed by the ref." I nearly launched into a tirade, but then held myself back. He was still a stranger.
Said stranger rolled his eyes at me. "I'm a Spain fan too, but one of them was definitely off-sides."
I was taken aback. Not only did he know the goals to which I was referring – eight years back – but he had also studied them enough to point out the truth I would never admit. In spite of myself, I was impressed.
"Whatever," I replied. I know, it was rather eloquent of me.
He grinned again, and that devastating smile made my heart beat a million times faster.
He extended his hand towards me, "I'm Leo."
"Alexi," I replied, shaking his hand. His was lightly calloused and warm, comfortable. Inexplicably, I didn't really want to let go.
"Well, it's nice to meet a girl who's into sports. Do you play too?" He asked, resting his elbow on the bar and his head on one hand as he stared up at me with those unforgivingly green eyes.
I felt a blush begin to spread across my face. This guy – this incredibly good-looking guy – was focusing entirely too much attention upon me. "I used to play football - erm, I mean, soccer - in high school. But I'm not into sports; I can hardly explain what an inning or a field goal is. I'm just into football."
"Even better," Leo replied and then he winked at me.
I felt heat begin to pool between my legs at that action. He was unfairly gorgeous with tan skin, beautiful dark hair, and sparkling green eyes. I was now blushing profusely. To hide my reddening, I turned my face up towards the television screen and asked him, "What about you?"
I could still feel his eyes upon my face as he answered. "I played a bit of this and that, but I'm more into football than anything else. In fact, I had started going through the youth ranks in Spain, but when nothing big came along, I came here to study."
Leo told me all this in a casual manner, but I nearly got a crick in my neck at the speed I turned to face him again. "No fucking way!" I exclaimed. It was a little louder than I had anticipated and I got some odd looks from others in the pub. Thank God Dad had decided not to watch the game.
He chuckled. It was a low, deep sound that lit something up deep within me.
"Yeah, I grew up there, played in the streets then played my way up to youth ranks. I hate to break your romantic image, but there's a shitload of bureaucracy involved in Premier League football. Finally realized it wasn't the life for me, and came here a few years ago," he expanded.
"Wow," I whispered. "Well, that does explain your accent. Did you know anybody I might have heard of?" I knew I was acting like a star-struck teenager but I couldn't help it. He was the first legitimate footballer I'd met.
Leo chuckled again, "Pablo Hernandez was on my U-20 team for a bit; he was a few years older." He went on to name a few more players of the famous players he played alongisde. By the end of it, I was gaping at him with my eyes wide-open.
"Holy shit," I said, having nothing else to say.
His eyes were twinkling in amusement at my reaction, but I couldn't help it. Hernandez? He played for bloody Valencia! I was still trying to digest this information when the bartender walked toward us and Leo gestured for a beer. He pulled out his ID and I saw that he had turned twenty-one on April 23rd.
"You want something else?" he asked, indicating my nearly empty glass of lemonade. "Can't watch a game without a drink."
"Thanks," I replied. "Beer is fine."
When the bartender brought him the second glass, he glanced suspiciously at me. Leo picked up both mugs and we moved to a discrete table towards the back, which still had a decent view of the television screen.
Five minutes until game-time.
"What do you think our chances are?"
Sipping the cold beer, I threw him a confident smile and replied, "No question about it. We're the next world champions, baby!"
He nodded in agreement, but I could tell he wasn't completely focused on what I said. His eyes darkened slightly and his gaze slipped down to my lips. My smile slowly slid off my face.
Suddenly, a loud cheer went up in the pub and de Oranje walked onto the field. We both stared at the screen as Spain came on in their away uniform, an elegant black.
"Halloween colors!" some already drunk man shouted.
Leo and I shared an exasperated look. But inside, I was bursting with joy. The drunkards, the adrenaline, the drinks, the atmosphere – it was all a part of the experience. An experience I was sharing with a real footballer. Well, ex-footballer anyway. "This is way better than watching it with my college friends," I told him. "They don't really know all that much about football yet."
"Agreed. It's great to have such a lovely, knowledgeable girl to share the final with," Leo responded. I felt butterflies erupt in the pit of my stomach.
"Torres in back in the starting line-up," I observed, trying to focus back on the screen. "Guess Pedro's big screw-up on Wednesday cost him."
"El Niño has good spirit. This may be the game where he finally finds the net," Leo added. "I know he hasn't been playing all that well this tournament, but I guess he hasn't fully recovered from that surgery."
As the ball rolled into play, we watched the game with heightening enthusiasm. In the seventh minute, when a powerful kick Ramos took flew wide over the goal, I cursed the Jabulani ball. Leo and I both declared our undying love for Casillas twice during the game as he pulled off spectacular saves against attacks from Robben.
Spain dominated the first-half of the game with their brilliant passing. They worked together like a well-oiled machine and it was a privilege to just watch them play. Still, at half time, neither team had scored.
"Come on," I lamented, taking a rather large gulp of my beer and finishing it.
"Let me get you another one," Leo insisted, picking up our mugs before I could even reply.
When he came back a few minutes later, I tried to pay him back. He wouldn't let me. A little bit tipsy already, I folded up the money and tried to stick it in the pocket of his jeans myself. He caught my wrist and gently pushed me back. "Don't do things like that if you want me to maintain my self-control," he warned, oddly sounding a little breathless.
Pouting, I leaned back against my chair and resolutely looked away from him, even as I suppressed a smile. I didn't want to read too much into it, but it sounded like this attraction wasn't one-sided.
"Alexi," he coaxed. "What kind of a gentleman would I be if I let the pretty lady pay for her own drink?"
I giggled. "There aren't any more gentlemen left in this country. And I'm pretty sure I'm not a lady, as you've witnessed me standing on top of my chair yelling curses like a sailor at the Dutch – who actually are a playing a pretty good, clean game."
Leo shrugged in response.
As soon as the game restarted, I forgot that I was supposed to be mad at him. Once again, we were yelling enthusiastically at the television screen.
"Torres, fucking pass to Villa – he's open, he's open!" I yelled. Thankfully, Torres did just as I instructed.
And David Villa, the lovely, fantastic, magical David Villa, lifted the ball right over the goalie's outstretched hands and beautifully into the corner of the net.
"YES!" I exploded, and I jumped up out of my seat to see Leo with a wide grin on his face next to me. In one movement, we both moved towards each other and engulfed each other in a tight hug. I jumped up and down as I hugged him, feeling his hard muscles rub against me.
When we broke apart, I declared, "David Villa, I'm going to have your children!"
I felt Leo's eyes turn towards me. "Fucking David Villa," he muttered under his breath, but I still heard. A wide grin spread across my face.
There were fifteen minutes still left in the game, but Spain was playing gloriously, dominantly. And then, there were only six minutes left and the Dutch got a counterattack and they were running down the field and only there were only two defenders and the goalie between them and I buried my head in Leo's sleeve, afraid to watch.
Vaguely, I noted he smelled delicious. "He hit it wide," Leo informed me, and I came out from behind him, breathing a sigh of relief.
Casillas took a long goal kick, Iniesta controlled it, and after a series of short passes, Torres had the ball inside the box again.
"SHOOT!" yelled Leo, and shoot he did.
Torres hit the ball on the ground towards Stekelenburg who dived and stopped it, but failed to catch it. Torres ran forward and lightly chucked the ball over the fallen form of the goalie, who lifted his arms to deflect the ball. It still went comfortably inside the net.
"OH MY GOD!" I yelled. This was it. We had done it. We'd won!
I stood up and did a mini-jig in the middle of the pub. By now, half of the population was totally sloshed and others had performed weirder antics so nobody really spared me a second glance.
The extra time passed comfortably with Spain making a substitution to kill some time and backing the Dutch into a corner. When the final whistle blew, my heart stopped for a moment.
The final score blinked on the screen. Netherlands – 0, Spain – 2.
I turned to Leo to see his face and eyes shining with the kind of excitement I was sure mine reflected. And without thinking, I grabbed his face with both hands and planted my lips upon his.
When I pulled away, we were both still grinning. Maybe he thought it was just a victory kiss. Maybe it didn't mean anything else for him. Maybe I was the only one who felt as if someone had just kicked a football into my stomach when I touched him. Maybe I was the only one who wanted to do that again.
"We did it!" I exclaimed, trying not to let on the series of thoughts running through my head.
"World champions!" he enthused, but he was staring at me intensely, stepping closer.
"Yeah," I said. My voice was softer now, nearly a whisper.
His eyes dropped to my lips again. Glancing up at him through my lashes, I knew just what to do. My tongue darted out of my mouth and gently licked my top lip, as if it were dry.
Leo groaned lowly, "You're killing me."
I swallowed, waiting.
I didn't have to wait long. Leo wrapped one arm around my waist and the other cupped my cheek as he brought our lips and bodies together. His lips worked over my own in such a manner that my knees became weak and I leaned against him. He gladly pulled me in closer and I gasped as I felt him brush against my center. Leo took that opportunity to delve inside my mouth and I responded as well as I could. One of my hands rested on his shoulder but the other was inside his gorgeous hair and this onslaught of sensation was nearly too much for me.
When we finally broke apart, I was glad to see that he looked breathless as well, because I could hardly catch my breath.
"You look so gorgeous," he whispered, leaning his forehead against mine.
I scoffed. He tells me this after he had messed up my hair, my lips were swollen, and my clothes were askew?
Probably sensing my thoughts, he explained, "You don't know how much of a turn on it is to know you look like that after making out with me."
"Oh yeah?" I smiled shyly.
He nodded, and then paused. In an extremely serious voice, he asked, "Do you still want to have David Villa's children?"
I couldn't help but giggle again. "Well, he is David Villa."
Leo's eyes darkened. "Maybe I can convince you."
Gladly, I let him try.
Disclaimer: I do not own Valencia or any of the footballers/teams mentioned, and least of all FIFA, UEFA, Champions' League, or Primera Liga. They have all been borrowed for the purposes of this story and belong to their rightful owners.
A/N: A little bit of fact mixed with a little bit of fiction and hope. As the 2010 World Cup approaches its inevitable end, I decided to dedicate a story to it. Hope you guys enjoyed it! Please drop a review and share your own WC experience.