Upon my arrival into Gdowntown Gdansk ahead of the Spain-Italy game, the city was awash with fans singing, dancing, blowing horns, and proudly wearing the colors of their respective countries. So, like anyone would do in this situation, I took advantage of the festive mood by asking for free hugs and free hugs is what I received! I got hugs from Italians, Spaniards, Poles, whomever, because, I'll be honest, I'm an equal opportunity hugger.
But as fun as that was, my only goal for the day was to get a ticket to the game itself, a game I considered to be the best match-up in the group stage because it pitted the 2010 World Cup champion against the 2006 World Cup champion so I switched signs from needing hugs to needing tickets and got to work. Within the first thirty minutes of canvassing the crowd for potential sellers, some of whom looked much, much shadier than others, I engaged in a few interactions before finally settling on an arrangement with my new friend, Julian. We exchanged phone numbers and about an hour before the game kicked off, I called him to make the "deal." To my surprise, he was very hesitant to follow through on what he had previously promised because the ticket he was offering was sitting next to him and his two friends right in the middle of the Spain supporters section! He was the mastermind behind their trip, he was coming from London while his friends, who he hadn't seen in a long time, were coming from a small town in Spain where they all grew up, and he was reluctant to hand the ticket over to just anyone. He wanted to make sure I was someone they could have a good time with, someone that wouldn't embarrass him in the supporters section.
I told him I couldn't promise anything on the latter as I have a tendency to embarrass whomever I'm with at any time and at all types of events but that I was their guy on the former because I reek of fun, which I liken to an invisible version of the dust cloud that surrounds Pigpen in the Peanuts comic strip.
After a little more hemming and hawing on his part and some back-slapping reassurances from me, we finalized the "deal" and I got my cheeks painted up with the Spanish flag to make it official. I was going in! I got to sit in the best seat in the house, which was right in the heart of the diehard Spanish fans who traveled a long way to get to PGE Arena, I made three new friends, who guaranteed that they will stay in touch, and I had a great time!
The final score ended up 1-1 but I'm not sure it even mattered what the score was because I got a glimpse of what it means to be a true fan. I let go of being self-conscious, I enjoyed the moment, and I became Spanish for 90-plus minutes! It was something I'll never forget and I'm happy that we had the opportunity to document the experience.
Here are the two videos of my day. Enjoy.