As most of my friends at Wake know, my favorite soccer team is Atletico Madrid. My love for them goes back to when I knew I wanted to go to Spain to study abroad. As I went through the Spanish teams in La Liga while playing Fifa on my Xbox, I came across Atletico. They're not the best team in Spain, but good enough to not be an embarassment every season (I put up with that enough while watching the Lions!) After playing Fifa or 'getting to know my players,' I felt properly equipped to come to Madrid and discuss 'los colchoneros' with the locals, since my time in the city would overlap with the begining of La Liga and the Champion's League. After looking over the schedule, I saw that there was a came against Racing Santander today. I decided last night that I was going to go. I headed out at 3:00 to make sure that I would get there early enough to purchase a ticket. I exited the metro and was greeted by numerous stands selling concessions and souvenirs as they lined the streets directing me towards El Estadio Vincente Calderon. The only way I can really described what I experienced was a Wrigley-esque atmosphere, except cooler. The streets were lined with supporters sporting the red and white stripes of los rojiblancos and holding their team scarves high, a staple of Eurpoean football. The organized chants of the fans could be heard hours before the match began. To properly prepare myself for the game, I went to 'la tienda oficial' to purchase my very own jersey. In the back corner of the store, I found what I was looking for; a 2009-10 long-sleeved home jersey. However, I found that none of these uniforms had player names on the back, which I wanted. Thankfully, the store personalized the jersey to have your favorite player's name and number. I chose Atleti's best player, Diego Forlan, who also happens to be my favorite. I was then ready to enter the stadium fulling supporting my team in my new #7 jersey. I was greeted by Atletico's mascot, Indi, a racoon superhero with an indian head dress. The stadium began to buzz with energy and my education on European football began. Here's the Top Ten things I took away from my soccer experience.
1. People park INSIDE the stadium. You can walk directly out of your car to a concessions stand. Ridiculous.
2. fans are not allowed to walk around the stadium and get to different sections or see different areas of the stadium. There are large, iron gates manned by security that prevent people who don't have a ticket to that area from getting into it. I had to beg the security guard and tell him I was a tourist that only wanted to take some pictures in order to get let through, and that was the second try.
3. Sunflower seeds are a food that should be eaten at any sporting event.
4. Singing and chanting at games increase the value of the game by ten.
5. If players aren't playing well, don't get made at them, just wave your scarf, program, or fist at the managers suite. When an entire stadium of fans is doing this, it seems to get the message across.
6. Whistling is only for bad plays. When an entire stadium whistles after a miscue, the ref and players get the picture.
7. Seeing a goal live is one of the coolest experiences I've had at a sporting event. So is seeing the misery of someone receiving a red card.
8. betting on games is advertised and encouraged in the stadium. I guess Pete Rose chose the wrong country to play in.
9. It's hard to find someone to take a good picture of you with an SLR camera.
10. I have to go back. There is no way I'm only going to one of these games.