Thursday, October 27, 2011

The View - Real Madrid vs Villareal

This was my first visit to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium during a game and I was incredibly impressed by it. It was matchday 10 in La Liga, and Real Madrid hosted Villareal. The sheer size of the stadium and the atmosphere was more fun than I could have imagined. I had previously visited the stadium for a tour and I thought it was really nice, but obviously, it’s a lot more different when it’s full and there’s a game. The atmosphere outside the ground, like at the Vicente Calderon, had a very laid back vibe to it, which typifies the Spanish ambiance anyways. Alongside my very good friend, the Madrid fan I went to the Calderon with, we took our seats which were fantastically placed behind the goal towards which Real Madrid were scoring during the first half. The view was fantastic. 

As both teams took to the field, the home side were clear favourites to win the game, and it proved to be one way traffic from the kick off. Once the game got under way, we realized the Villareal fans were stuck in some top corner so high up in the stadium you could barely hear or see them. But when you did notice them, it was evident that they were English Villareal fans singing the typical English chants “can we sing a song for you” and so on, as we spotted them outside the stadium earlier. Their chants, which also included “Barca” and “Messi” songs to taunt the Madrilenos, could barely be heard, but it was still good fun whenever they were loud enough, which wasn’t often.

The first half performance was brilliant by the home side, with Real racing to a three goal lead thanks to goals from Karim Benzema, Kaka and a great team goal finished off by Angel di Maria. However that was as good as it got as the game ended 3-0, with a dull second half to completely contradict what we’d seen during the first period. Some of the interplay between Madrid’s forward line was impressive and though most of the big name stars like Ronaldo and Kaka grabbed a lot of the attention, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Marcelo, who was surprisingly good (to say the least) and Xabi Alonso, who marshaled the midfield to make sure those in front of him were liberated. His passes and vision are incredible. I can understand why Liverpool miss him so much. Those two players really ran the game, especially Marcelo who seemed to be bombing up and down during the entire 90 minutes. Villareal created very little during both halves, and their best and only potential threat, striker Guiseppe Rossi, hopped off injured during the second half ending any hopes of even a consolation for Villareal. There was however one positive note for them when substitute Marcos Senna received a standing ovation by both sets of supporters when he came in as a second half sub.

Despite the field feeling dead at times, the stands weren't; as numerous little funny incidents took place. With the Madrid rain pouring on our heads, someone sitting around us (still couldn’t catch who) managed to light up a spliff and smoke it. The smell was so obvious, and tempting, that you couldn’t help but try and look for the person. England, take notes: spliffs in a stadium could be a cool idea! Another bizarre incident occurred when the public announcement presenter said that people should stop whistling because it’s confusing the referee. Seriously, he said that! During the middle of the first half! As a public announcement! In a stadium! So obviously, the immediate reaction of all the fans, including the small section of the enthusiastic Madrid “ultras”, was to immediately start whistling or chanting songs with whistling in them. This lasted for about 10-15 and made everyone literally burst into laughter as the referee looked confused and furious. There was also chant-a-long which occurred when the supporters sections behind each goalpost, “fondo sur” and “fondo norte”, paid their respects to one another by singing each others’ praises. That was in addition to other numerous chants which were an indication that the game's second half display had gotten boring.

In England, it’s commonplace when supporters, stupidly, leave the stadium early, but I don’t think it even remotely compares to how quickly the Bernabeu supporters are ready to leave. With 10 minutes left on the clock, at least half of the stadium was empty, which prompted Iker Casillas (who looked bored and freezing alone in his penalty box) to give them a round of applause well in advance before they left. The final score of 3-0 was an indication of the gulf in class between both sides. Real Madrid’s early domination was too much to handle for Villareal, and once the second goal went in, you could tell that Villareal had already given up and were just playing to limit the damage. It almost worked as the second half was probably as dull as watching paint dry, but I still enjoyed it, as the experience was kept fun thanks to both sets of fans. I'm pretty sure that won't be the last time I watch a game at that stadium. 

1 comment:

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