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Lyrics and Life


By Caitlin Ward


La Roja Baila
By Sergio Ramos and Niña Pastori
(an excerpt)

La la la,la,la (Red One)
La la la la la . . .

Gritaremos con más fuerza una vez más,
Vamos a ponerle ganas.

Pon tu alma, pon tus sueños a volar,
Ganaremos la batalla.

Sobre el campo y el terreno está el colour
Que nosotros defendemos.
Por la ‘Roja’ moriré, soy español.
Con orgullo lucharemos.

Soñaremos por tí, lucharemos hasta el fin
Y te haremos sentir que la ‘Roja’ juega y canta.

España ey ey!
Cantamos gol gol!
España ey ey!
La roja baila

The Spanish words my sister knows can be divided into two categories: the names of small animals, and words related to soccer. The first category has come about largely because she periodically asks me how you say bunny (conejito), or little bear (osito), or turtle (tortuga). Later, she will call a member of our family her tortugita preciosa (precious little turtle). The second category is down to how often we watch soccer games with Spanish commentary. Even with the most basic understanding of soccer or Spanish, it’s hard not to pick up the words they say over and over: pelota (ball), el campo (the field), peligroso (dangerous), and of course, gol (goal).

My Spanish is better than hers, but we both miss most of the commentary. It’s an occupational hazard of following the Spanish soccer league, La Liga — most people who watch it are native Spanish speakers, so there’s not much call for English language commentary unless it’s one of the more famous teams. Of course, we don’t follow one of the more famous teams, like Real Madrid or Barcelona FC. We follow the lesser-known and less successful Atletico Madrid, because — well, to be honest, it’s a rather complicated and winding story that’s not of much interest to people who don’t follow soccer, so I’ll spare you the details.

The point is, though, that we watch a lot of soccer. We talk a lot about soccer, too. I commiserated with her when her favourite player retired young because his arthritis had gotten the best of him. We rant about the misuse of statistics in the game. We have long and serious conversations about the poor choices the Spanish national team’s managers have been making this year. Well, mostly, she’s annoyed that Fernando Torres wasn’t called up for Euro 2016, and I don’t see why Cesc Fabregas has been dropped for the World Cup qualifiers. When I was helping her pack up her belongings last week, we put some serious thought into which team jerseys she would take with her to England. She settled on her old No. 5 Liverpool FC jersey (Daniel Agger) and her No. 9 Spain jersey (Fernando Torres). I am keeping the rest in trust for her until she can ship the rest of her belongings across the Atlantic.

The last game we watched together was three day before she moved to England to be with her husband. It was the Madrid derby — Atletico versus Real — and for our side, it was a disaster. Our father retreated upstairs as we commandeered our parents’ living room to eat cookies and yell expletives at the television for the better part of two hours. I’m not sure he understands where this fervour has come from.

To be honest, I’m not sure I understand where it’s come from, either. I’ve always been a little wary of sports culture: the huge sums of money invested in it, the sexism of professional sports, the way it distracts us from the world’s problems. The way it creates some of the world’s problems, too, if you look at the debacle that was the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, or the hideous things happening with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

And yet. And yet. There I was, yelling at Cristiano Ronaldo for being such a cabron, worrying that Filipe Luis had been kicked in the face yet again, and being secretly grateful that Alvaro Morata and Sergio Ramos were both out with injuries so it didn’t complicate my negative feelings toward Real Madrid.

Morata and Ramos play on the Spanish national team as well as Real Madrid, you see, so in certain contexts I like them. They both made valiant efforts at the 2016 Euros, though Spain was eliminated from the competition quite early. The Spanish national team’s real triumph this year, so far as I’m concerned, was the song next to this column, La Roja Baila. In addition to being one of the best defenders in the world, it turns out that Sergio Ramos is also a gifted singer. This year, the team released a song for Euro 2016. It’s more silly than properly good, and the music video demonstrates that you can be both Spanish and a very talented soccer player, and still have absolutely no sense of rhythm. But the song is upbeat and hopeful, and it’s contributed a lot to my sister’s Spanish vocabulary. Now, she’s learning about struggling (luchar) and dreaming (soñar) and singing (cantar).

It’s a complicated business in one sense, but in another, it’s really not. If you ask any sports fan why they watch, the answer makes a lot of sense. My officemate loves the Blue Jays because he watched them with his dad growing up. One colleague watched the Jays with her grandfather from the age of 12, and another has a love-hate relationship with the Edmonton Oilers because though he can’t stand what they do, that’s his hometown team. My brother-in-law supports Hull City because that’s where he’s from. And I watch Atletico Madrid games, because even though my sister and I once again live on opposite sides of the Atlantic, I know we’ll be watching them at the same time. It’s almost like watching them together.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at