July 13, 2011

Spain Vignettes: Locos por el fútbol: ¡HALA MADRID!

April 30 2011. Madrid.

I had been excited for the match ever since I booked the tickets, but grabbing the yellow Real Madrid tickets from the La Caixa ATM solidified the feeling: I was going to see Real Madrid play in their beautiful stadium.

All of us wore white. My journal came in handy to figure out the trains to take to Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. The crowd increased as we got closer to our destination, and there were a lot of people dressed in RMCF gear, and we spilled out of the metro station and spotted Real Madrid’s home immediately. I could have squealed for joy. I probably did. After pictures of Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, we headed to the stadium, as I wanted to catch a few minutes of the warm-up, but amidst the confusion about our seats, we missed most of that. Let that not detract from the incredible feeling you get on entering the seating area of the stadium. Our tickets, being the cheapest we could get our hands on, were located on the very top of this 80 thousand seater stadium. True to claim, you can tell this is one of the temples of football. Imagine how incredible it must be for a player to walk on to the pitch here! And how intimidating the opposing team would feel, as evidenced by the Spurs during the first quarterfinal leg of the CL.

The opponent was Real Zaragoza, on paper a dim-weight flirting with the relegation zone. We caught this La Liga match in between two Championship League semi final games. The ‘Hasta el final, Vamos Real’ banner was still there, and yet, we had just lost the first leg against Barcelona, at home. The warm up ended, and as ‘Hala Madrid’ came on the speaker system, a video showing goals and accomplishments of club greats played, while the Copa del Rey stood displayed. Then Casillas and Ramos took the cup in hand to show it to the fans, and surprisingly, Iker trusted Sergio to return the cup back to waiting safe hands in spite of what happened the last time he held it.

The first 45 minutes passed all too quickly, while I took photos and videos and squealed when I saw Mou giving instructions from near the bench. The game however, was not going to plan. Real Madrid should have decimated Zaragoza by now. But the team was without its regulars, and it showed. San Iker messed up, which wasn’t a good sign. Granero was replaced by Alonso in the second half, 2 goals were scored (including a header taken by Ramos), but it wasn’t enough. I watched in disbelief as the game ended 2-3.

There was a little boy next to us, and his family was trying to get him involved in supporting the team, teaching him chants. I asked his dad to teach me one, but I have forgotten it. I had to ask him via sign language, because I didn’t know the right Spanish words, and he didn’t know English. Every time Madrid lost possession or did something stupid, he would say “Hombre” in a very disappointed voice.

The camera pics don’t reflect it, but we could see the action on the field quite clearly. We were sitting between the goal and the benches. I could easily tell who was warming up, but then, Marcelo’s hairdo is probably visible even to a passing airplane.

Credit to Zaragoza for playing really well, but I was disappointed that the game I had come to watch ended in a loss.


May 03-04 2011. En route to Granada from Barcelona.

The day we left Madrid for Barcelona, Real Madrid also left for Barcelona to play the second leg of the Championship League semi-final tie. The next night, while they started the game at 8.45 PM, we were to catch the overnight train to Granada. I was not able to get hold of the score before we boarded, and wasn’t sure whom to ask after 10.45, by when the game would have ended. Finally, at 1 AM, I couldn’t take it anymore. We were in Valencia, a few people had just boarded our coach, and the ticket collector came by. I grabbed hold of his sleeve as he passed.

“Perdon.. ¿Barcelona-Real Madrid?” knowing I didn’t need to say anything else.

He held up his pointer fingers on both hands: “¡Uno - Uno!”

Everyone that was still awake in the coach burst out laughing, and some others up ahead asked him to confirm the score once more.


May 07 2011. Madrid.

The day we were enjoying the Feria de Abril in Sevilla (May 6th), Real Madrid traveled to Sevilla as well. However, they were to play the next day. While in the cab to drop Attu off at the Barajas airport the next day, the cabbie was listening to a game. I asked him if it was Real Madrid playing, he said they were playing at 10 PM. I tried to ask him which teams were playing at that instant, but I didn’t know how to say “who”, and the cabbie was not as chatty as our Sevilla one, so I didn’t get an answer. We bid Attu adieu, the week had passed by so quickly!

We were having a late dinner in Plaza Mayor, in the open. The only TV I could find was inside of a restaurant next to the one we were eating at. Most of its customers were seated outside too. About 30 mins into the first half, I ducked inside to check the score. A barkeep saw me look for the TV and told me the score. I checked the TV, and just as I did, Cristiano scored a goal. Pleased, I went back out.

My paella was muy mal, both in taste and appearance.

After dinner, I wanted to check the score, there was about half an hour left to be played. I went back into the restaurant. The barkeep spotted me come in, and immediately said “Cero-Tres”, smiling. Awesome!

I still hadn’t learnt how to say “who”. So I tried signing for it instead. Apparently the ‘Alapadma’(fingers spread out) mudra in Bharatnatyam is not a universal gesture for this question. So I tried listing “uno gol, Cristiano” I said, continuing, “dos gol, tres gol?”

The barkeep finally understood, as did one of the other waiters. Both of them listed, “uno.. Kaka, dos, Cristiano, tres, Ramos” at which I did a little jig for the latter, much to their amusement.

We headed to a famous churros con chocolate place, which per my journal had the best churros ever. To our great enjoyment, we can confirm this to be true. Established in 1894, it serves up the best churros con chocolate in all of Spain, any day or night. I bought a small box of chocolate and treat myself to hot chocolate these days.

On our way to Chocolateria San Gines, I heard fans singing in the streets and rightfully assumed the game was won. I tried to find the score again, but found out only after I reached Pittsburgh. 2 – 6! With Cristiano scoring a hat-trick!

Mucha suerte for the new season, Real Madrid!


Pic: El Pirata takes a free kick, which is headed in by Ramos.

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