Madrid, Spain

The Rival’s Stadium

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I’d never been to a rival team’s stadium before. As a spectator, that is. It feels a little illicit, as if the stadium knows you’re not supposed to be there and is hissing in disapproval, trying to make you as uncomfortable as possible. Of course, this could just be me and I could just be overly sensitive to these things. But Melissa and I went to the Spain – Italy friendly last week, the match being held at the Vicente Calderón, the stadium of our city rivals, Atlético de Madrid.

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In football, I think more than in most other sports, stadiums hold a special place in history and lore. If football is a religion (which, depending on who you talk to, it is), then stadiums would be cathedrals and each of them has a story, a reason, fans who arrive week after week to cheer on their clubs from cold, uncomfortable chairs. Of course, some stadiums are grander and  talked about more reverently than others. Old Trafford. Camp Nou. Anfield. Estadio Azteca. San Siro. Maracana. Santiago Bernabéu. The Calderón is not on this list. It is not one of football’s greats. Not in the same way the others are. Which, ironically, is why Atlético are so proud of their stadium. Because it is not great and grand and filled with money. While Real Madrid are seen as the club for the wealthy, with their expensive, fancy players, their big stadium, Atlético prides itself on being the working man’s club. The fact that the stadium is partly built around the M-30 Northbound motorway is part of this.

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As we were sitting there, in the front row, this small stadium (comparatively speaking) with its price list duct taped to the wall behind the counter, bocadillos in a box under the counter along with bags of chips, the relatively low two tiers and I realized how much I found myself liking the stadium. For its casualness, for being inconspicuous, for being low key and feeling as if I could reach out and touch the pitch.  Of course, I said this to Melissa who looked at me in horror (I was not winning myself points that evening. Not only am I neither a fan of either Spain or Italy (while she is of both) here I was, professing to like our rivals’ stadium.) and told me to bite my tongue. Of course, nothing compares to how I feel about the Santiago Bernabéu. My club plays there. If you’re not a football fan, these feelings are hard to explain without looking and sounding completely crazy, but your club’s stadium means something special.  That doesn’t mean someone else’s stadium can’t feel comfortable, that you can’t find something there that you really like. For me, that was that there’s something about smaller, closer stadiums. Let’s not be confused here: I enjoyed the stadium but the club that plays there? How about no.  Even I know where the line is.

Things I’m Loving:

+ This video – (Pretty sure most of you saw it last week, but just in case you missed it!)
+ Lupita Nyong’o & aging in Hollywood – (She’s absolutely wonderful and might be changing the age rules Hollywood tends to play by as well.)
+ Teaching My Autistic Son Through Disney – (Another thing you’ve probably seen this weekend, but absolutely beautiful.)
+ These ombre tiles – (I’m no where CLOSE to decorating my own bathroom, but these are so beautiful!)

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2 thoughts on “The Rival’s Stadium

  1. That’s like how I love Fenway Park because it’s small and historic, even though the Mets are my team. I understand it. Sort of. I would NEVER profess to like Yankee Stadium, see.

    • Even though they’re our cross-city rivals, I don’t have the same animosity for Atleti that I do for Barca. Saying, “I like the Camp Nou,” feels worse than saying that about the Calderon. Which I know is definitely the opposite for most RM fans.

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