Forget Nadal vs. Federer, the Celtics vs. the Lakers, the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, even Rio's Vasco vs. Flamengo, vs. Botafogo, vs. Fluminense. The ultimate sports rivalry is Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona — Spain’s and the world’s top football (as in soccer) clubs. This never-ending showdown, known simply as el Clásico, is the best football played of late — save when Spain united to win the World Cup in 2010. Blitzkrieg meets ballet when the great Portuguese-born striker Cristiano Ronaldo, for Madrid, faces off against Barça’s even greater, improbably pint-sized Argentine magician Lionel Messi.
But as this ambitious student film’s subtitle says, “it’s more than a game.” Much more. It’s the Spanish Civil War, 77 years on. It’s the proud Castilian royal capital against the quirky, defiant Catalan city-state — two languages, two histories, and two cultures fighting it out on a green field. And it’s a contest between two very different fútbol philosophies: Madrid, the world’s richest team (with some of its highest paid athletes) is like the Yankees, drawing the best from everywhere. Barça is like the Jesuits, scouting out talented children and raising them up like brothers, instilling matchless cohesion and coordination: Give me the boy of 10 and I’ll give you the soccer star.
All this makes el Clásico a natural subject for a film. Eighteen Chico State University students (with professional coaching) have gone where their elders seem to have shirked to tread. The result will get one of its first screenings this Sunday at Kells Irish Pub in the Market. To judge by its trailer, El Clásico: More than a Game digs deeply into the cultural and nationalistic ramifications of the great rivalry. Whether it’s equally attuned to the sheer sport and outsized personalities involved, your humble tout can’t say; he hasn’t seen it. Like any match, even between great teams, it could be feeble or exciting. If the former, at least it’s in the right venue, with beer to wash it down.
If you go: Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub presents El Clásico: More than a Game, Sunday, March 11 at 6 p.m., at 1916 Post Alley in the Pike Place Market, 206-728-1916. Tickets $5.