Why do I like soccer so much?
Why does the bounce of a ball obsess me to the point of madness?
Why am I fascinated by the colors of the jerseys, the hymns on the PA system, the roar of the jubilant fans?
Why does the sound of the boot hitting the leather make my skin crawl?
Many times I stop to think and try to answer these questions and I can't articulate an answer.
So, I remember.
I remember and see myself at the age of ten, leaning out of the window of the back seat of Aitite's car, my maternal grandfather, climbing the hill of Artxanda, a privileged viewpoint from which you can see all of Bilbao.
It's four o'clock on a winter afternoon.
We have just eaten as a family and Aitite has offered my cousin and me to go with him to San Mamés, whose spotlights already on at that time delimit the sacred space where an hour later the ball will roll.
From the top, we watch fascinated.
San Mamés is a flash of light in the gray and dark city.
A Sunday miracle.
On the radio the wireless of the rest of the stadiums open, reminding us that the same scene is repeated in all cities at the same time,
In San Mamés we were greeted by the murmur of the crowd, the smell of wet grass and cigar smoke.
In the stands, listening to the conversations of my elders, I learned that the fan is a suffering being, that he understands happiness as exceptional and that anticipating victory before the ball rolls is a bad luck.
Crammed into our long seats, thousands of us were one for ninety minutes plus the break, in a ceremony that ended when the referee whistled three times and pointed with both hands towards the changing room tunnel.
On the way back, from the top of Artxanda, I went back to look for San Mamés, but the lights were turned off, now everything was back to normal, dark.
When I try to understand why I love football so much, I remember those moments.
I think that every time I have gone to the stadium it has been longing to feel what I felt then: to be part of a whole.
The American writer Bill Buford found out about the value of football as a show by watching a Cambridge-Millwall match in the 89/90 FA Cup that ended in a goalless draw and was resolved in extra time with an own goal after a resounding error by a visiting defender.
At the “small and soulless” Abbey Stadium, Buford, eager to understand the reasons for England's passion for the ball, had an epiphany.
That had nothing to do with aesthetics.
He understood that the value of football is based on two pillars: the improbability of the goal and the experience of the stadium.
The stands, he wrote, "offer the experience of the crowd [...] with greater intensity than at any other time in life."
For him, a native of Louisiana, son of the most individualistic society in the world, soccer was synonymous with community.
Soccer managers seem obsessed with approaching young people through hashtags, media and engagement, forgetting that the true essence of this sport is face-to-face community.
For the British working class, football is their opera, stadiums their museums.
There, four in the afternoon on Saturday is still a sacred moment.
What do your second, third, fourth division clubs have to make the stands full of life?
They are still a meeting place.
What do their stadiums have for their fans that those of the megaclubs do not have?
Oh, it's a no-brainer: geographic proximity.
Reasonable hours and prices.
That will make real football live on, that young people will get hooked.
How many games can a ten-year-old boy go to today with his father at the stadium, here that games are so often banished to the underground of the night?
Broken the link with the stands, nothing remains.
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