Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid C.F.
It is two hours before the beginning of what was to be known as the match of the Champions League
. White and blue flood the streets, chants echoe in the crowded metro, and the names Real Madrid
and Manchester City
are heard everywhere you turn. In the United States football is the game to watch, in Europe it is fútbol too, but the faster, lower scoring version with jersey's that flatter the figure more. Just saying.
I have been to soccer games in the United States, a few Minnesota Thunder
and University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
games but they pale in comparison to this. Soccer players are not royalty in America like they are in Spain and across Europe. A stadium the size of Santiago Bernabeu
wouldn't be filled to the brim on a Tuesday night at 8:45 p.m. Fans wouldn't take a personal days to travel to a game 2,027.3 kilometers away and they certainly wouldn't be told to stay in their seats until the home team fans have exited the stadium to avoid altercations either. This is the point in which a Minnesotan like myself would say, oofta.
Now, for a baseball game it is acceptable to tailgate, but here there is no such thing, and even there was it would not be up to par for serious European fútbol fans. Bars are packed with people, money is thrown down like someone won the lottery, plastic cups and spilt beer cover the floors and outside the streets are crammed with fans talking dirt about the opposing team who just happens to have fans an arms length away. A few meanmugs and death glares are exchanged between opposing fans as their adrenaline is increasing, but no hand gestures. Yet.
Crowds begin to swarm Santiago Bernabeu and the chant, typically heard from the stadiums bleachers, is loud and severely out of tune. Some things don't change no matter what country you're in. As we entered the stadium, encountering other American students and Englishmen who were appalled by our choice of team, you can't help but feel one with all the other Madrid fans.
As we approach our seats the crowd continues to chant as the players set up for kickoff.
Ale Real Madrid ale ale,
Ale Real Madrid ale ale,
Ale ale ale,
Ale ale ale,
Ale Real Madrid ale!
When you experience something that is so deeply rooted into a country's culture, you can't help but feel overwhelmed. My brain was doing overtime processing the fact that I was with such a diverse crowd at such an important game that was clearly mean for the passion of the masses. I was witnessing a level of passion I had only read about in "Among the Thugs
" by Bill Bufford.
The crowd after Marcelo scored.
People sat, stood, screamed, together. Men and women yelled "joder" each time the ball missed the corner of the goal by what appeared to be inches. When Edin Dzeko
of Manchester City scored the first goal between the 64th and 71st minute, two men in their early sixties along with a girl in her late teens lifted up their hands simultaneously and yelled a numerous expletives. Not even five minutes later Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior
scored in rebuttal to Manchester. The same three jumped from their seats with the rest of the crowd and yelled, "Ya era hora," meaning it's about time.
The race for the win continued and the fans didn't cut the players any slack as the teams were neck and neck until the last five minutes where Madrid scored two goals to take the lead from a tie. Packer fans can be opinionated and defensive but Real Madrid fans are opinionated, defensive and are really not in a good mood when their team is loosing. In Spain, if you say fútbol you're grilled about your favorite player and the latest game like as if you were being sworn into office. In the United States if you say soccer people think, why would you want to get hit in the head with a ball? My response, why would you want to be tackled by five men at once?