June 19, 2014
Florida State's Cristian Gonzalez Mendez is a men's tennis player from Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Throughout the summer as he transitions from a junior to a senior, Cristian will provide fans with an in depth look into the world of tennis both at Florida State and internationally in Spain.
Like most Europeans and Latin Americans, I was born loving soccer (fútbol). As a boy, soccer was my life – I began playing at only five and continued playing for seven years until I decided to focus on tennis. I inherited my passion for soccer from my dad Jose Antonio; he loves the game more than any other sport (yes, including tennis). He played soccer for more than 40 years and stopped only because of continuous knee injuries. I remember many times when I was young trying to race my dad, but he was always faster because of his countless years of running on the soccer fields. The people of my country have the same passion as my dad for the sport. With three top European teams – Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atlético Madrid – and a talented country team that won the past UEFA European Championship and World Cup in Africa, soccer is given significant importance in Spain. Coming off of these wins, I was very excited and proud for Spain to play in this year’s World Cup.
One of my favorite things about the game is the atmosphere of country and people on game nights. Every establishment is filled with loud soccer fans, or people are gathered with their families around the TV, snacking on peanuts, chips and Jamon Iberico. This is one of the things I was most looking forward to when going home this year. However, as of yesterday, Spain is the first team eliminated from the World Cup after two disappointing losses to the Netherlands and Chile. Spain is obviously upset, but we cannot win them all, and there will be plenty more championships and World Cups we’ll win. I guess I’ll just have to cheer on U.S.A. for the rest of the World Cup this year.
My teammates João Gauer (Brazil) and Marco Nunez (Mexico) also grew up playing soccer in their native countries and they are very passionate about the sport. Like most boys, João started playing soccer when he was young. His dad was also a good soccer player, and so João grew up wanting to be like him which is how he fell in love with the sport. João admits that for Brazilians, soccer is one of their biggest means of identification, and that is why they really embrace their national soccer team. With Brazil hosting the World Cup this year, João is excited (and lucky) to go back home this week and enjoy the atmosphere that all soccer fans wish they were in right now. It is easy to spot a Brazilian fan – even here in America – because they paint their faces with the country’s colors for matches. This past week, João has been spotted around town decorated in Brazil’s soccer jersey, his face painted with yellow and green, and with Brazil’s flag draping over his shoulders.
Marco started playing soccer in Mexico because, well, that is the sport everyone plays. Even though he only played for a couple years before he changed to tennis when he was 8 years old, Marco is naturally a big soccer fan. He is happy that Mexico qualified for the World Cup this year, and even though he knows that his team’s chances are low, he is still hopeful that Mexico will advance to the final rounds. If Mexico were to win the World Cup, Marco would be one of the thousands of people at the monument of "El Angel de la Independencia," celebrating the Mexican triumph, as it is a Mexican tradition. It is also tradition in Mexico for soccer fans to be with family and invite friends over for BBQs during matches.
See you next week when I'm back in Spain,