On a night when the French Institute screened the brilliant black and white, silent movie, The Artist, returning home was a surreal experience. It was as though the outside world had become an extension of the movie. The streets surrounding the glorious old Rex Cinema in Avenue Slaoui, were eerily deserted.
Not so the cafes. It was apparent that the rest of Fez (and probably Morocco) were glued to their television screens. They were not watching some breaking news story, or a world shattering event - they were watching football. Every cafe with a television set was packed to the rafters and when a goal was scored - you could hear the watchers response throughout the city and Medina. It probably registered on the Richter Scale. Barcelona was playing Real Madrid.
For the uninitiated it should be explained that Moroccans (and particularly the denizens of Fez) are one-eyed, rusted-on Barca supporters. It also happens that those who do not support Barca are Real fans. Why the strongest football allegiance in Morocco should be to teams in Spain is lost on many, but remains a fact of life. Wearing a Barca T-shirt into a shop almost qualifies you for a 10% discount. Go figure!
The game that unfolded was operatic in its highs and lows. And, as if the gods of football were writing the script the first goal came from the legendary Ronaldo - in the 11th minute. "Benzema the orchestrator as Real catch Barca on the break! Lovely through ball into empty space where Alves should be, Ronaldo is onto it in a flash and takes it away from Pique and slots into the bottom corner past Pinto. GOAL!!! Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 0!!! "
The silence descends as the fans take in the fact that they are a goal down. But hope is not lost and even after halftime, when it looks like Real Madrid will hang on to their lead... "Barca win their seventh corner of the evening. It's an inswinger and.. Puyol! Unmarked! A diving header! Straight past Casillas! What a finish. the 49th min GOAL!!! Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 1"
So close. But is it going to be a a lame 1 -1 finish? Not on this night . It takes until the 77th minute and the silence in Fez is punctured by an eruption of sound - GOAL Abidal scores - GOAL!!! Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 2!
|Eric Abidal - the decider|
Then there was no need to check the score. The sound of victory rang through the Medina. For a moment everything else was forgotten - the near zero temperature, the Arab Spring... nothing mattered except that Barca had won.