From Madrid with Love, Part 3: Cultural influences in Spanish football

In the final part of our series, Goal's Singapore-based Korean correspondent Mi-Hyun Chung explains the cultural habits that have seeped into Spanish football
By Mi-Hyun Chung

Spain is very different from the rest of Europe. These differences can be easily observed in everyday life.
La siesta is one of the most well-known examples. Most Spanish people stop working to get some rest or sleep from 2pm to 5pm. Most shops also close during this siesta period, and owners usually go back home and take a short nap.

This has also affected eating habits of the Spanish; they eat dinner relatively very late at night. Some people even say that this might be the reason why many football players become overweight in Spain. Normally, Spanish people have dinner at 10pm at night, and go for a drink at 11pm or 12am. If told about the 6 to 7pm dining habits that's common in Asia or the United States, one will be asked by the confused locals about what people normally do after they finish dinner.

Football cannot avoid the effects of this lifestyle, especially when it comes to matches times. Many fans of La Liga might have become envious of fans of the Premier League, for most matches in Spain start a few hours after the English fixtures end. Considering that Spain is one hour ahead of England, the timing of the matches is quite late even by local standards.

It is impossible to play matches at 4pm when many people go for a siesta. It is also very rare to play in the morning. Many Spanish people enjoy relaxing lives, and it is highly unusual to have commitments at 10 or 11 am in the morning. If matches are held early, many fans will not be able to participate, or even if they do, they will not be able to keep the same energy level as they do for late kick-offs.

This is why though Royal Spain Football Federation knows many of teams in La Liga desperately need marketing targeted at the Asian market, they cannot change the match time. As it a deep-rooted culture, Asian fans might have to continue envying fans of the BPL.

As Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers said, “Africa begins at the Pyrenees.” Spain indeed has a closer relationship with Africa than with Europe. Spain has a very different culture from the rest of European countries, with different history and regionalism. It is not surprising that such social phases of life are reflected in football, which itself is deemed as life in Spain.

Not all of these aspects have positive effects; having said that, however, not all of it have negative effects either, as it only makes Spanish football even more interesting.