Last weekend I attended a Real Madrid football match, and I learned so much more about Madrid in just a span of 90 minutes. I really thought that Americans were crazy passionate about their sports teams, however what I witnessed at the San Bernabeu stadium was truly on another level of loyalty and devotion to one’s team. That football match will forever have a special place in my heart, and I can now say I’m a real fan because of the experience.
Initially, before I bought my ticket to the game, I had no intention of going to a football game during my time in Madrid. It never really caught my attention but I was aware that “soccer” was a big part of European culture, and especially in Spain. My friend, who I made during my time here, extended the invitation to me and really emphasized that we could not miss out on the experience of going to a live game. Of course I knew of Real Madrid because of their rivalry with FC Barcelona, however I didn’t understand how special the team was to the city and I’m glad that I accepted my friend’s invitation to attend the match.
Since I’m from Texas, my first thought when I saw the stadium was “Wow it is so small!”. I went to a high school that had a stadium almost half the size of San Bernabeu, so it was shocking to learn that it was considered a “big” stadium in Spain. Other things that blew my mind were that alcoholic beverages were prohibited inside. A typical sports game in America is enjoyed with a beer and hotdog in hand, however hardly anyone at the game had any beverage or food. There was also only one concession stand inside which would be catastrophic for any American football fan, however Real Madrid fans were fueled by pure excitement.
Besides those physical differences, there was also this ambiance and energy that started from the metro all the way to the actual game that was beyond anything I’ve ever remotely felt at any sports event that I had been to. It was incredible that even getting to the stadium many fans were already chanting non stop and feeding off of each other’s energy. There was not a single person who did not have some type of merch at the game as well. Additionally, we arrived very early because we thought that it would be a hassle to get into the stadium. Yet, most people did not arrive until 15 minutes before the game started and this was such a huge culture shock for me. The seats were also very compact together and the view was surprisingly amazing.
I realized that you could enjoy the game from any level or seat without struggling to see the game. Many stadiums in the United States have to provide jumbotrons in order for fans to follow what’s happening during the game. Yet there were none to be seen at San Bernabeu stadium because of its small stature which I learned was so much better than a big stadium where you can’t see anything. Around my area were many fathers and sons watching the game together. It was wholesome seeing them teach their sons the many different chants and fan gestures when something significant happened. Real Madrid fans even have jingles curated for individual players which was quite impressive. Each goal was celebrated with confetti and Real Madrid won the match with 4 goals.
Even after the game was over, people still went on to celebrate at Cibeles fountain near El Escorial. The players have a tradition of taking pictures with their championship trophy in the fountain and celebrating alongside fans that wait for them to come. Unfortunately, there were so many people that I didn’t quite get a good look and only saw the players briefly. This week they played and defeated Manchester City which means they are going to the finals for their league. I’m really excited for the next game and will be doing extensive research on the chants. I hope to feel more a part of the fan culture next game because no one does football better than the Real Madrid team and their fans.