The sound of screaming fans was the only thing that could be heard as my mother and I looked on, confused as to why there were thousands of boisterous Madrilenos crowded outside Bernabeu Stadium. “Maybe there’s a game?” she asked me with a questioning look.
“Mom”, I answered, “Their team is in South Africa at the World Cup, I don’t think these people are here to watch a game”, as if she should of known that. Little did I know these Royal Madrid fans were at the stadium for a game, just not in the way we would have thought.
We made our way timidly through the crowd of devoted supporters with their Royal Madrid soccer, or to them, football, jerseys, capes made from Spanish flags, and red and yellow face paint. And then we saw the screens, massive screens, on which the FIFA World Cup soccer game was being broadcasted. It was Spain against Switzerland, and as of yet no one had scored.
These zealous football enthusiasts watched each second in hopeful anticipation of a good play and a well-deserved goal. When their goalie stopped the ball, or they made a good steal, a strategic slide tackle, or took a shot the fans would blow their horns, clap their hands, and scream as loud as they could. They couldn’t have been more ebullient if they were actually at the game.
My mother and I had arrived at Bernabeu Stadium with the intention of taking a tour of the home of one of the world’s most famous soccer teams, but we were easily enticed to join in the fanatical cheering.
Eventually we left the mob, thinking of ourselves as newfound Royal Madrid “aficionadas” and climbed the stairs to the top of the stadium to begin our tour. It was like nothing I had seen before, the stadium was bigger, grander and luxurious than any I had ever seen. Sheltered from the bellowing battalion outside, the silence and serenity of stadium was more breathtaking than any of the cathedrals I had traipsed through in my European travels.
In America, we have baseball, football, basketball, and even soccer, but none of those sports compared to what I was experiencing at this stadium. We compete against each other, rivals against other cities and states. But, there, in Spain, was a soccer team that united a country. They stood outside that stadium like devout worshipers, there to watch their boys fight for a victory.
I thought about my friends back home and how eagerly they place their bets on other countries, like the one I was in right then. We weren’t united to support our team, we supported whoever we thought was going to win. To these people, supporting another country would be treasonous. If you were a Spaniard, you supported Royal Madrid.
I watched that night, as thousands of fans walked by me, leaving the stadium, frustrated and saddened by their team’s loss. To them, this was a stab to the heart and shot to their pride. They were Royal Madrid, they were the best. But, Switzerland had triumphed and they felt their team’s defeat. I felt their pain, I only wish that I had been there to watch them celebrate Royal Madrid’s World Cup victory.
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