If you know anything about Spain, you know that attending a fútbol game is a must. High on my list of things to do while in Madrid, I made sure to pursue plans to watch the greatest in the game play. If you know anything about my sister, you know she was incredibly jealous. I have to admit, I felt a little guilty going to a Real Madrid Champions League game before the head of the U.S. Women’s National Team fan club did, but, with my sister’s soccer spirit with me, I truly appreciated and enjoyed the event.
Because this was a UEFA Champions League game (tournament involving teams across Europe), tickets were sold differently than those for the Liga BBVA (seasonal play of teams within Spain). For Real Madrid La Liga games, general public tickets go on sale five days before the match, and you have to go to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to purchase them. For the Champions League, tickets were slightly more expensive, and went on sale a month before the game, both in-person and online. My friends and I could not purchase tickets digitally, however, because of problems with American cards in foreign transaction systems, so we had to make the trip to the stadium weeks before the game to secure our seats.
On the night of the match, we took the metro to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium stop. Even at 2 1/2 hours before the game, fans for both Real Madrid and Roma, that night’s opponent, packed the train cars. Emerging from the tunnel with a sea of white versus maroon, we made our way into the stadium and up to our seats on the east side.
After a last-minute surge of fans arriving in suits, directly from work, the stands filled and the teams prepared to play. As each player was introduced, the announcer simply called out their first names, and let the crowd of dedicated followers shout the rest. With the energy and excitement of thousands of madrileños, the stadium was ready for the match to begin.
Without goals from either team in the entire first half, the game started off slow. The playing, though, was anything but. Though I my soccer I.Q. is greater than your average girl’s, I am no fútbol expert, and even I could recognize that this level of play was superior to any that I had ever seen. From passing, to control, to ball handling, each player executed his skills at a master degree. Even though they appeared a fraction of their size from my base-price seats, I knew I was watching some of the best players in the game.
In the opening minutes, both teams seemed evenly matched, each with equal shots on goal and opportunities to score. Slowly, though, Roma’s speed declined and the team struggled to maintain possession. In the 63rd minute, Renaldo scored, and the stadium broke out into cheer and song with the canción de gol, or the Real Madrid Torhymne goal song. Just a few minutes later, James Rodríguez scored, and the Real Madrid fans, after praising their players, breathed a sigh of relief at a solid lead. The game ended 2-0, Madrid, guaranteeing us a spot in the next round of the Champions League tournament, the quarter-finals.
The Real Madrid game was one of my favorite experiences abroad so far. I love the energy, camaraderie, and healthy competition that sporting events bring about. Fútbol fan or not, watching a soccer game in Spain is a recommended excursion.
The next time I will be rooting for Real Madrid will be on April 2, from outside of Barcelona’s Camp Nou for the game of all games, El Clásico!
- If you would like, bring food to the game. Because the event started at 8:30 p.m., Spanish dinner time, we were curious if we could bring our own snacks, and how much stadium food would be. As it turns out, you can bring your own food and drink into the venue. The items sold there, like in all other stadiums, are overpriced. Even if you’re willing to spend, I wouldn’t rely on the supply. My friend and I spent halftime waiting in line for popcorn and hot chocolate, just to arrive at the counter and be told that they ran out of everything except potato chips.
- The ladies are in luck! The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is one of the few places on this Earth where the line for the men’s bathroom is longer than the one for the women’s. And when I say longer, I mean that the line for the ladies’ room was nonexistent, while the men’s line snaked down the hall. Score one for the women!
- Think it’s a little cold for an open-air stadium soccer game? Real Madrid is one step ahead of you. The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is equipped with massive heat lamps to keep you warm all game.
- Players are not restricted to their last name as the identifier on their jersey. Rather, they can propose to wear any name on the field. Needless to say, we were confused to observe the inconsistency, seeing Marcelo Viera da Silva’s first name (though I understand why), Cristiano Renaldo’s last name, Sergio Ramos’ full name, and simply “Isco,” for Francisco Román Alarcón.
- Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
- Av de Concha Espina, 1, 28036 Madrid
Paz, Amor, Madrid