I have to admit, ever since the trip last year, I was kicking myself that I did not make time to visit Real Madrid’s stadium, Santiago Bernabeu. I was not going to let another year pass by without a visit! Now don’t let me fool you, my soccer knowledge is minimal but I have a full appreciation for the passion surrounding soccer in the Spanish-speaking world. When I studied abroad in Argentina back in 2007, they did not recommend going to a soccer game due to how rowdy the rivaling teams can get but I did get to experience watching Argentina play the United States on TV in a bar. The energy was overwhelming! With teaching a sports unit in class students have shared with my various soccer video clips that have intrigued me even more over the past couple of years. The three main soccer teams in Madrid listed in order of popularity and talent are: Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid. Today, I got to check one of these stadiums off of my list and I wish I could describe all of the feelings I experienced.
I started my day on the blue line as the stadium is a bit of a walk from Gran Via. I was happily surprised that the metro stop let off right in front of the stadium. What a great start to the day!
I picked up an unguided ticket for 19 euros and headed towards Tower B (there are four towers total) where you enter the stadium for tours.
After multiple security checkpoints and escalator rides, I had finally reached the top and could feel the emotion building inside of me. I could only imagine the seas of white and chanting of “Hala Madrid” in Santiago Bernabeu on game day.
The tour then led to the musem portion of the stadium. Every trophy Real Madrid has won, signed soccer cleats, memorabilia from the teams beginning, interactive picture/video screens, highlight videos and more was present in this long hallway of team and country pride. I found myself repeatedly saying “oh my gosh” and “this is unbelievable.” I was standing in the midst of some pretty impressive pieces of sports history and was in awe. I wished in that very moment I could transport every single one of my soccer loving students to Madrid to experience what I was living. They would have loved it.
Next stop on the tour was a player specific trophy, memorabilia, and video gallery. It also had interactive screens for visitors to explore and every award from the FIFA World Cup trophy (unreal), Ballon d’Or trophies and the trophy for most goals scored for Real Madrid by a single player. I was seeing these in real life and could hardly believe it. Again, if only my students could have been there.
I then walked into yet another trophy room, this one with the most impressive display of all…every UEFA Copa de Europa Real Madrid had ever won. There was confetti blowing behind them with their silver shining brightly, a proud display of hard work and skill of the team. I just stopped and stared.
As the self-guided tour had already taken a couple of hours, I was getting hungry and fortunately stumbled upon the concessions serving “perritos calientes!” Ah, a taste from home with an added twist, fried onions. Yummy!
After my merienda (snack) I headed towards the Real Madrid locker room. I could only imagine what it would look like with how much money the team has to offer it’s players. Cristiano Ronaldo is the team’s top paid player and makes $82 million a year. Holy cannoli.
The locker room was decked out in Real Madrid’s logo and was in pristine condition. As impressive as it was, the real emotions hit walking down to hallway to go out onto the field. I could not believe how many incredible athletes had walked down the same hall and out onto the field in the same way. I was not worthy. As I stepped up onto the sideline I did a 360 slowly to fully take in what was happening. Imagine being a player on that sideline during a game. Imagine sitting in those super comfy seats on the sideline. Imagine being a part of this soccer culture.
As foolish as it sounds, I walked out of the stadium different than when I entered. I found a completely new appreciation for the soccer culture in Spain, an understanding of my student’s who follow the world of soccer so intently and new knowledge and experiences to share with my students next Spring. I felt so many emotions during those three hours that I never expected I would feel. If you ever are in Madrid, this is a must-see. My final words for this post are probably already assumed.. Hala Madrid y nada mas!