On Tuesday night, Christy, Hyunjin, and I finally had the chance to see the Real Madrid stadium filled with real people. It was a totally different experience to see the venue lit up at night with tons of people in it. When we toured the Santiago Bernabéu last Monday, it was still bright out and the stadium was almost completely empty. On game day, the stadium was alive with tons of people excited to see the game. Though the stadium didn’t look as filled as the Atlético Madrid vs. Sevilla game we attended, the Santiago Bernabéu can fit 85,454 people! That’s about about 30,000 more people than the Vicente Calderón Stadium, and a huge amount of fans in one place, so even just barely filling the stadium is quite an achievement.
The match we saw was Real Madrid vs. RCD Espanyol, a soccer team from Barcelona. Espanyol is the city’s other main soccer team after Real Madrid’s big rival Barcelona. The rivalry between Espanyol and Barça is pretty similar to the one between Atleti and Real, but it doesn’t seem like Real Madrid has any special rivalry with Espanyol. Between that and the fact that this was a Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) game rather than a regular season game as part of La Liga, we didn’t really expect this game to be that intense. We learned in our soccer class that teams don’t tend to care as much about the King’s Cup, which involves the Spanish teams from multiple divisions, because all they get from winning is a trophy and about a million euros, compared with the million they earn per game won in the league championships. Even with this in mind, we were still excited to actually see a Real Madrid game. Our friend Hyunjin was especially excited because she loves the Spanish national soccer team, so her excitement and seeing a bunch of the players in real life was contagious and enough to make us excited too. 🙂
When we got to the stadium, there were stands with merchandise and food setup outside of the stadium and tons of people with closed off streets and a police presence, just like at the Atlético Madrid game. (Fun fact: We’ve heard that most Spanish stadiums do not actually server alcoholic beer inside the stadiums because the fans get rowdy enough without it. We should try that in Philadelphia.) It was cold out, so naturally we decided we had to buy a Real Madrid supporter scarf to wear, just like all the real fans had. Most of them were 10€, but they said the one I picked out was nicer and cost 15€, which is apparently still a pretty good value. We decided our purchases were very practical since they doubled as protection from the sold and as a souvenir. I’m not sure if Real Madrid is my team yet, but it was definitely good to get our very own bufandas either way.
We were actually surprised by how good our seats were after we finally made it inside. The cheapest seats were about 40€ and the ones we ended up getting were 50€, so they weren’t crazy expensive, but they were still in a good location. We were on the second level from the bottom, almost in the middle of the field, and even though we were in the second row it was as if we were in the first because there was no row in front of ours. The lady at the box office definitely hooked us up with awesome seats!
After what seemed like a very quick game, especially with the expert commentary and fun facts we received from our resident Spanish soccer expert, Hyunjin, Real Madrid ended up beating Espanyol 1-0. This will allow them to continue on to the Copa del Rey semifinals. Despite Real Madrid’s early lead, like all soccer games, this match was definitely not without its upsets — I think there was at least four or five yellow cards and a red card given out that game, and each team lost a player on the field: Espanyol had one kicked off for the red card and Real Madrid had one replaced due to a medical injury. It was a crazy experience hearing how loud the entire stadium got when fans yelled at some of the penalties and referee calls, especially when Cristiano Ronaldo received a yellow card. Even though the stadium was not filled and the game was not a very significant one, the fans are clearly still very dedicated to their teams!
It was an awesome experience to see a Real Madrid game in their home stadium, and I can see why people say it’s a must for anyone who visits Madrid. Hopefully we’ll get to see another one soon… if anyone wants to donate some tickets to the next Real Madrid vs. Barcelona game, let us know.