If football is the religion of Catalunya then La Quiniela is la misa. If we want to be real traditional about it, la misa de domingo. From Barcelona to Ultramort faithful Catalan fans partake in the ceremonial actions of going to their lottery office, picking up their jornada, marking their picks and paying at least 1 €. As the results roll in, the most dedicated Quinieleros will know their fate on Sunday, having kept an eye on the week’s matches. The less devout might wait until Monday or Tuesday to look at the final scores. No matter, it remains certain that results are checked, most likely showing a loss, thus confirming the necessity to repeat the ceremony of the next Quiniela.
But what keeps them coming back? Like all good social institutions La Quiniela has got its urban legends. Because it’s so difficult to win, seasoned Quinieleros say that only amateurs really hit the big bucks because there’s always something that happens to throw off the logical, well informed outcome. Therein lies the magic of La Quiniela. Unlike other lotteries based on cold, lifeless numbers, La Quiniela posses a human factor. The super football fans will be able to make the most informed predictions based on players, records, statistics, the weather. But even they can’t predict yellow cards, injuries, and just down right bad playing. Mercedes, clerk at La Oficina en Pl. Urquinaona, says that her branch reports a win only about once a year. Clearly La Quiniela doesn’t discriminate based on race, creed or football knowledge. From experts to novices a blind faith is required to keep playing every week.
Most followers get started early, La Quiniela devotion being passed down by their fathers or grandfathers. Eventually they make the choice to mark la jornada as individual adults, going every Wednesday afternoon in the break of instituto with their friends. The adolescent amusement is sometimes cast aside as one grows up and away from childhood friends, but it can reemerge to bring together workmates. Indeed La Quiniela has made many a elevator chat a little less awkward. You don’t need to be the most religious football fan to reap the social benefits of La Quiniela. It becomes a weekly pastime, a conversation starter, an excuse to get together and watch the games. The games become more interactive and more fans become enganchado. The possibility of winning money, ever further away, is only a small part of the thrill of La Quiniela. But, even la bote is part of the communal nature of La Quiniela. All the winners end up sharing it.
For over fifty years, every week Spaniards have been piously participating as a way of being part of the game they worship. Each person has his or her personal ceremonial marking action. Some make sure the columns have about the same number of 1s and 2s. Others purposely mark against the clear favorite in an attempt to catch some amateur luck. Some people like Jose Maria and Oriol even try to apply reason to La Quiniela. Two IT guys who have created a program to calculate the most logical outcomes, mark their jornada based on a combination of empirical data looked over and approved by “the thinkers” a.k.a. aficionados. But, they’ve never, ever won.
Players come and go, games are won and lost, but every week Catalans devoutly X the winner of the fifteen matches. It’s ten minutes in their lives when they are alone with their thoughts and reflections of the sport. They are brought together in the uncertainty of the La Quiniela; the final outcome impossible to know. But, by participating they are closer to their beloved football and la bote.