It all started so innocently...a fútbol game with the family...but over the last year, it has grown into so much more! I'm in love...with my hometown fútbol team, Real Madrid (pronounced Ree-al Madrid). Real means Royal in Spanish and along with FC (Fútbol Club) Barcelona, it is one of the most popular teams in Spain and throughout the world. So...how did this love affair start...let's go back to the beginning! We were living in Spain during the 2010 World Cup when the Spanish National Team won the whole shi-bang! It was such an exciting time and we caught "fútbol fever" and we caught it bad! Most of the team members came from the professional teams from Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. My favorite player soon became the National Team/Real Madrid Captain and goalie, Iker Casillas! I did a post about him entitled "My Favorite World Cup Moment" and about the exciting Spanish win entitled "Spain Wins the World Cup!" I was smitten with this handsome and humble player and for the first time, with the game of soccer! So when my in-laws came into town and we had a chance to attend to a Real Madrid game, we decided to go. That was it! I was head-over-heels in love with my hometown team! Now I watch games on TV, and follow the team and my favorite players on Facebook.
Like any good love affair, there has to be an element of excitement! The city was all abuzz with the anticipation of the UEFA (pronounced U-eh-fa) Cup Qualifying Games. UEFA stands for Union of European Football Associations and this includes the professional leagues of Europe, like La Liga from Spain and the Premier League of England, just to name a few. This game was last September against Ajax (pronounced I-ax, not A-jacks, like the American cleaning product, which is what we were calling it. Ha!). They are from the Netherlands, and interestingly enough, Real Madrid is also playing them in the first round of UEFA Qualifying this year too. We took the metro to the game and ended up on the same train with a bunch of intoxicated Ajax fans...in fact, many of them had beer cans with them on the metro.
Many people were taking pictures of this rowdy bunch when we got off at the Santiago Bernabéu metro stop next to stadium. Some Madrid police officers rode on the metro car with the Ajax fans. This is definitely NOT their first rodeo. These cops knew what they were doing. They were holding the Ajax fans back and allowing the rest of us to get off the metro cars. It did get a little scary for a few minutes, however, just as we were passing through the corridor to the escalators. The Dutch fans were getting a little tired of waiting for the rest of us to get off the train, and they started to push. We got a little smushed against the wall, and somebody threw a full beer can that narrowly missed my husband's head, but we escaped unharmed, if not a little rattled. How's that for excitement???
Since we decided to go at the last minute, we didn't have any tickets. I don't know why, but they don't really sell tickets online here in Spain. It is kind of a pain. We looked it up and their website seemed to indicate that you could buy tickets at one of the Spanish banks, so my mother-in-law and I headed over to a branch that was supposed to open back up after siesta at 5pm...of course, the "banker" didn't return until 5:20pm and then told us that you can buy tickets at the bank, but not at that one. Isn't it always the way when you are in a hurry? UGH! So we decided to head down to the stadium and buy them there. Here's a tip: It's cash only at the box office. They don't accept credit cards. We didn't know this, but luckily we had enough cash between us to buy six tickets.
With our tickets in hand, we started making our way into the stadium. Other than the instance in the metro, everyone was very well-behaved. It did make me think twice, however, about attending a Real Madrid-Barcelona game, in person. That rivalry might not be so tame.
|My youngest is sporting his Spanish National Team shirt--La Rioja!|
The fans start making their way inside. People don't seem to arrive too early to the games. I think they are maximizing their tapas time in the bars! Ha! Like most Americans...we show up early! Though it wasn't sold out, the stadium would fill up quite a bit more before the game started.
My guys are getting all warmed up and stretched out before the game!
Here we are, ready to cheer on our team, well, most of us, anyway...My youngest decided that he was only going to cheer for Spanish National Team players who play for Real Madrid because he is a Barcelona fan!
Notice the full stands in the corner. That is the Ajax fan section. The police and security personnel held them in the seats after the game until the Real Madrid fans had cleared the stadium. Pretty smart!
Both teams are warming up now...
Although you cannot see him very well. That little green speck at the top of the field is my favorite player, Iker, shaking hands with the refs, the little red specks, before the game...this is why we brought binoculars...
More stretching...If you ever have a chance to watch soccer warm ups, they are quite funny...lots of skipping and hopping around and seemingly random stretches...but what do I know? I'm a newbie!
Finally, it's time for the big game to start!
The stands are quite full now!
The fellas...two current soccer players, and a former player and coach...They were having a great time!
Time for a corner kick for Real Madrid...I actually sound like a know a little bit about the game...
Nice save by the Ajax goalie this time, but Real Madrid was ultimately victorious! They beat the Dutch team 2 to "nada!" As they say here is Spain, "Hala, Madrid!"
Time for us to go home. Many of these people will probably stay out for a few more cervezas. Games start so late here...8, 9 or even 10 o'clock at night. The kids had school the next day, so it was back to the house for us! Hasta luego...