Get­ting sporty at his­toric, cul­tural sites

Bangkok Post - - OPINION - By Dave ave Wigg gins

Wig­gins’ World re­cently ex­panded its hori­zons, go­ing on a south­west­ern Eu­rope so­journ that in­cluded stops in Bordeaux in France, Madrid and Barcelona in Spain and Lis­bon in Por­tu­gal.

WW’s main ob­jec­tive was t o ob­serve his­tor­i­cal sites first­hand and sam­ple the cul­tures of those re­gions.

But in each place, WW found a way to mix in some sports as well.

For ex­am­ple, at WW’s first stop, it learned that Bordeaux’s team in the top divi­sion of French foot­ball is known as the Girondins de Bordeaux.

Later, while vis­it­ing the Aquitaine (Bordeaux re­gion) Mu­seum of His­tory, WW found out how the lo­cal club got its name.

Dur­ing the French Rev­o­lu­tion, the Girondins were a mod­er­ate group of rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies — many hail­ing from Bordeaux — who made the mis­take of dis­agree­ing with the rad­i­cals in Paris led by Robe­spierre.

Branded traitors, many Girondins were forced to flee to Bordeaux but were hunted down and guil­lotined. To­day they are con­sid­ered mar­tyrs, vic­tims of Robe­spierre’s in­fa­mous “reign of ter­ror”.

In a way, then, the Girondins are the French foot­ball equiv­a­lent of the NBA’s 76ers of Philadel­phia, the city where US in­de­pen­dence from Eng­land was de­clared in 1776.

Upon learn­ing this, WW just HAD to pur­chase a stylish pur­ple and white Girondins team sports shirt as a keep­sake. (At each trip lo­ca­tion, WW tried to pick up a sporty mo­mento.) Next stop: Madrid.

And Las Ven­tas — the Yan­kee Sta­dium of bull­fight­ing.

Wig­gins’ World can see why the Span­ish them­selves are split re­gard­ing t he moral­ity of bull­fight­ing (it has been banned in Barcelona and other places in Spain).

It was at once spec­tac­u­lar and grue­some. But it is not WW’s place or mis­sion to pass judge­ment on any coun­try’s cul­ture.

Ar­riv­ing early at the sta­dium be­fore the gates were opened, WW no­ticed a crowd form­ing around an en­trance at the rear of sta­dium.

The as­sem­bled were there to see the mata­dors en­ter, WW was told.

Ea­ger to snap a close-up photo of the bull­fight­ers in full re­galia, Wig­gins World awaited their ar­rival.

A lo­cal told WW he knew one of the mata­dors and could ar­range a photo op.

Re­sult: a shot of re­splen­dent mata­dor Guillermo Gar­cia with his arm around the au­thor of WW like they were old pals.

Alas, come fight time, WW’s new BFF would earn a few whis­tles (Euro boos) for fail­ing to kill his bull by sword at the “mo­ment of truth”.

The bull had to be fin­ished off by knife. Fol­lowed by re­spect­ful au­di­ence ap­plause for the de­ceased bull — ac­com­pa­nied by an en masse white hanky-wav­ing good­bye — as its car­cass was dragged out of the ring by a team of horses.

On to Lis­bon.

If you’ve ever been, you’re fa­mil­iar with the de­light­fully rick­ety trol­leys that trans­port folks up and down and all around the his­toric parts of the Por­tuguese cap­i­tal.

But do so rather slowly.

While vis­it­ing the team shop of SL Ben­fica, Lis­bon’s top team in the Por­tu­gal’s pre­mier foot­ball league, WW saw a clever re­mem­brance it had to have.

It was a T-shirt that fea­tured a draw­ing of a Lis­bon trol­ley, the team logo and the fol­low­ing mes­sage: “We may move slowly but we al­ways get there.” Amen.

Alas, the XL size was more like a medium. And WW had to later set­tle for a slick Por­tu­gal na­tional team jersey — with the name Ron­aldo on the back.

Th­ese days, Ron­aldo may not be too pop­u­lar with the “Me Too” move­ment in the US but Wig­gins’ World still be­lieves in due process.

So, it had no prob­lem plunk­ing down €15 for a nifty knock-off Ron­aldo num­ber.

Fi­nal stop: Barcelona.

On a high Mediter­ranean sea­side hill, ris­ing above the city, lies Mon­tjuic Cas­tle. From its lofty perch, this fortress has played a key role in Barcelona’s his­tory from the leg­endary time of Her­cules right on through the Span­ish Civil War of 1936-39.

Nearby the cas­tle is the site of the 1992 Olympics.

WW re­mem­bers see­ing a mar­vel­lous photo of a plat­form diver soar­ing high above t he im­pres­sive Barcelona sky­line. It left a per­ma­nent im­pres­sion.

When WW saw first hand the spec­tac­u­lar view of Barcelona from the div­ing and other for­mer com­pe­ti­tion venues on Mon­tjuic hill, it was truly a breath-tak­ing “WOW!” mo­ment.

Could there ever be a more re­mark­able Olympic set­ting? WW thinks not.

Among venues still stand­ing on the gor­geous hill­side site: the Track and Field Sta­dium that saw Lin­ford Christie be­came just the third Brit to win gold in the 100 me­tre run, the in­door arena where the first US Dream Team routed the rest of the world in bas­ket­ball and the base­ball sta­dium that hosted the ini­tial Olympic base­ball com­pe­ti­tion — a ball di­a­mond that is still in use.

On the day that WW vis­ited the ball­field, the fi­nals of an in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment had been held.

Too late for the com­pe­ti­tion, Wig­gins’ World talked Es­pana base­ball with lin­ger­ing mem­bers of the Span­ish team who were drown­ing their sor­rows with cervezas, hav­ing lost the tour­ney ti­tle game to an Ital­ian ball club.

Dur­ing its trav­els, Wig­gins’ World also tried to find some type of snazzy Real Madrid and FC Barcelona gear that wasn’t avail­able at ev­ery Su­perS­port lo­ca­tion in Thai­land.

Af­ter much fruit­less search­ing in those teams’ re­spec­tive cities, WW fi­nally landed a spiffy Barca cap in, of all places, the Madrid air­port.

And then even­tu­ally dis­cov­ered a sharp Real sports shirt in — ready? — a shop off Las Ram­blas, Barcelona’s main tourist av­enue.

Go fig­ure.

But, then, that was em­blem­atic of Wig­gins’ World’s abil­ity to find the sporty among the his­toric and cul­tural dur­ing its whole trip.

Like The Good Book says: Seek and ye shall find.

A man pre­pares to jump at the Mon­tjuic swim­ming pool as part of the pre­sen­ta­tion of the new FC Barcelona jersey for the 2018-19 sea­son.

Con­tact Wig­gins’ World at davwigg@ gmail.com

Girondins de Bordeaux play­ers cel­e­brate a goal.

A bull­fight­ing match at Las Ven­tas in Madrid.

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