The main national sport is football, and it’s true to say that in some regions, football is almost a religion! Historic battles are now settled on the pitch instead of the battlefield – although some might say that the pitch itself is a form of battlefield!
Football is followed with passion here, and people crowd into local bars to watch a match rather than staying at home to watch from the comfort of an armchair. It has something to do with the camaraderie of supporting your team with friends and others, shouting loudly together when your team scores and expressing dismay – just as loudly – when they don’t or when the other team slips a ball into the net.
Bullfighting still has a strong following in main regions, although there is a growing sense of it losing ground. It is believed to have begun in Roman times, and during the Franco years bullfighting was used as way of culturally integrating the many different regions of Spain and was almost forced upon parts of the population. The return to autonomy after Franco’s death and the rise of animal rights movements have seen bullfighting banned in Catalunya and parts of the Paisos Basques, though this is probably more a political move than one to save animals from pain.
The current Spanish Government of Mariano Rajoy is very pro-bullfighting and has overseen a return of bullfights on TV after a ban introduced six years’ ago by the previous government. The economic crisis has affected the sport badly, as famous and celebrated matadors expect a six-figure sum to entice them to perform. Many have moved to South America where they can charge the rates to which they have become accustomed.
Basketball, handball and volleyball are also very popular amongst young people. These are played throughout Spain and attract large numbers of spectators. There are numerous local clubs and many will welcome expats. Joining in with these activities is a great way to get to know the locals – and keep fit!
Tennis is played everywhere and there is no shortage of clubs; costs can vary enormously. Some clubs will just rent out courts without requiring membership, others are for members only. There are plenty of municipal courts too which are cheaper.
Spain is famous for its golf courses, and golf is indeed a major sport in the country. Expats can enjoy golf in practically every area of Spain and many do so regularly having joined a local club. Pitch and Putt courses are numerous too. Golf clubs range from very exclusive to welcoming all and sundry.
With its fabulous coastline, Spain offers every type of water sport imaginable, from kayaking to wind surfing, snorkelling to sailing. Many Spaniards and expats have small boats which they regularly use at weekends and in the summer months, though moorings are quite expensive. There are all sorts of schools teaching diving, sailing and kayaking amongst other things, even to the very young.
In Calalunya, petanca is also popular, played by locals and nationals alike. All that is required for this is a stretch of sandy gravel of 10 metres or more, preferably under shady trees, two or more teams of two or three people each, with two or three weighty metal balls, a small wooden ball, the “boliche”, a good eye and a couple of hours to spare! Many towns and villages have designated areas for petanca – and don’t be mistaken in thinking that it is just a game for elderly men wearing caps – everyone gets involved and it’s very sociable