A visit to Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Madrid, Spain
The gallery above is from April 2008, during my trip through Spain. I ended up in Madrid for a couple of days, visiting some friends, without any real travelling plan.
As a football fan though, it's hard to visit Madrid and not feel the urge to at least see from the outside the Cathedral of Spanish football, Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
To be honest, I'm not a Real Madrid fan. I'm a Liverpool man, cheering for the Reds ever since I was in my 10s. But regardless of your footballing status quo, you simply cannot help standing in awe when you see Santiago Bernabeu for the first time, especially on Match Day.
I arrived at the stadium during the early hours of Match Day (I think it was a Sunday) and the queue for tickets was already half a mile long, with people coming from all over to see the Galacticos play in what was to be their title-clinching match against Bilbao (if they'd won of course).
The line wasn't all that organized though, so we split up in commando teams to try and get tickets :) My father and I standing on one line and my brother and mom at the other line. As luck would have it, they managed to somehow get in front with their line and get 2 tickets amongst the "casual fans" section of the stadium - they were amongst the last tickets sold and they didn't even have two tickets side-by-side, they were a couple of rows across. Anyway, we were extremely lucky, there were people standing in my line that were there since the early hours of the morning and couldn't get a ticket
Fast forward 9-10 hours and we're 100 minutes before the starting whistle, in front of the imposing arena. The street is cramming with people, the sidewalk shops probably making a fortune (we bought some noise-makers and Real Madrid apparel as well). Suddenly all hell breaks loose, everyone starts going to the center of the streets, with police trying to hold back the line and clear the road. Me and my brother had no idea what was going on, but we obviously joined the crowd :) The commotion was for the Real bus, which was slowly coming through the crowd and was getting the full appreciation (and noise) of the fans. I saw the players in the bus, they didn't really seem impressed by their warm welcome (possibly due to pre-match stress/concentration) and that seemed a bit odd. Robinho was listening to music in his headphones, Sergio Ramos was talking to one of his teammates, Casillas was looking at the crowd with a focused look, but didn't really return the show of appreciation. The only one that waived towards the crowd was, who else?, Raul, the legendary captain and possibly the most loved player on Bernabeu since DiStefano.
The match itself was won by Real 3-0 and three things stood out for me in the crowd around me:
1. The mainstand holding Real's gallery was well alive, but it was nothing in terms of atmosphere/noise in comparisson to what I can only imagine the stands of Anfield, or even some Romanian teams (for example, Rapid Bucharest's gallery was far better in this sense).
2. The Bilbao supporters, numbering 40 or so were sitting IN THE MIDST of Real supporters. They chanted and cheered throughout the match and there was no tension between the supporters.
3. An old supporter to my right kept booing and jeering every time Saviola would touch the ball. When Saviola scored the opening goal, he was the only one quiet on the entire stadium. Again, I couldn't see something like this happening on Anfield.
Anyway, to close things off, being able to see a Real Madrid match first hand was an awesome experience, but in some ways it was dissapointing as heck. It left the football enthusiast in me still dreaming of my trip to Anfield to see the perfect match :)
Things about Madrid you may be interested in
Read about Madrid in our travel-guide
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Recommended Madrid Guide
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