As we’ve more than learned by now, Spain (and Europe) really cares about fútbol. It was completely awesome then, that our last night in Spain was the final match of the European Champions League between the best clubs in the continent. What’s more, for the first time ever, the competition was being contested between two teams from the same city and those two teams were the ones we had been following around the entire semester, Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. Madrid was crazy excited because of this, and as we were packing our bags, the entire city was getting ready for an amazing match.
Beyond it simply being contested by two Madrid teams and typically being the most watched sporting event in the entire world, the match was also very significant in soccer history. Because Atlético de Madrid had just won the Spanish La Liga and Real Madrid had won the Copa del Rey earlier in the season, the winner of this game would also earn a doblete for the season, having won two competitions. It would mark Atlético de Madrid’s first ever win at the Champions League, and only their second appearance in the final. For Real Madrid, however, the win would be even more significant: they are already the club to have won the championship the most times, but this win would earn them the coveted la décima, or tenth win in their history. Part of the reason soccer is so popular is because of crazy statistics and firsts like this used to draw comparisons. 🙂 As we learned in our soccer class, context is key; a goal really only matters and gets recognition because of the content not only within the game, but within the world.
We ended up hanging out in the area surrounding Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Though the sea of white shirts hurt since I was rooting for Atleti, I was happy the trophy would stay within Madrid (gane quien gane, gana Madrid) and we had a great time enjoying the crazy party atmosphere. Christy and I ended up returning to that area to watch the game after dinner. After a while wandering around for a place to watch it, we finally settled on crowding around a tiny TV outside of a bar with more than a hundred other people. Not quite the best place to go for actually seeing the game, but the atmosphere was amazing.
The game was really tense, especially for the Real Madrid fans because Atleti led the game 1-0 from the first 36 minutes until the 93rd minute, which I quietly rubbed in the face of a few of our friends who were supporting Real Madrid. (I didn’t dare say it too loudly though… or I really think we would’ve caused a problem because the fans really are that hardcore.) But then Real Madrid pulled ahead and tied the game in the extra 5 minutes, requiring extra time to break the time. Somehow, el Madrid scored 3 more goals in the last 10 minutes of the game, bringing the final score to a very sad 4-1. Though I was disappointed, at least the city as a whole won, and the people we were watching with were excited enough for all of us. Real Madrid really is the better team and had much more time to rest considering Atleti had just beaten Barcelona in La Liga.
In the face of the win, Madrid shut down for a huge party centered around the Cibeles Fountain in the middle of Plaza de Cibeles. If Atlético had won, they would have celebrated at the nearby Neptuno Fountain. Because of this, referring to Cibeles or Neptuno in conversation acts as a form of metonymy referring to each team and showing your allegiance to one side or another. I had told quite a few people I would be seeing them in Neptuno that night. 😉 The whole city came together after the win though and we ended up hanging out around downtown with thousands of other people until 4am. We left with the party still in full swing, but we had to get up at 7am to catch our flight home. Despite having mixed feelings about the results, the final and party were a great way to end our time in Madrid and say goodbye to a great city!