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Visiting Vicente Calderón As A Real Madrid Fan

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A chronicle of my visit to Vicente Calderón last Sunday, to enjoy the derby with Real Madrid's fans.

Denis Doyle

Last Sunday's derby against Atlético de Madrid was a tremendous battle. The strength and the intensity displayed by both teams on the field was really remarkable and, although the match was not brilliant in stricly football-related issues, the spectacle was really impressive. Karim's early goal could have made us think it would be an easy game, but Atlético's reaction to come back at us was as spectacular as powerful. When our fate seemed decided, Carletto raised his wand (or was it his eye-brow?) and his brilliant move yielded the equalizing goal and the feeling that, had the game lasted five more minutes, a third one would have arrived.

I don't remember such a thrilling game as this was since the last Champions League semifinal against Borussia, when we put everything we had in us to recover from the dissapointing 4-1 in Dortmund, to end up dying at the seashore after swimming for the 2-0 in the last few minutes. I had definitely not screamed so much since then, but maybe this was a little influenced by the fact that I was surrounded by 600 fellow madridistas at the Vicente Calderón stadium.

I have to admit I was pretty lucky to get a ticket. I am a member of "Primavera Blanca" -which can be translated into English as "White Spring", and to which I will refer, from now on, simply as PB-, an "Association for the Pride and Independence of Real Madrid" that emerged on Twitter some time ago as a response to the bad treatment our club receives by certain sectors of Spanish press and mass media. PB have been crucial in the formation of the Santiago Bernabéu's Grada Joven and are trying to motivate Real Madrid fans to accompany our team to other stadiums to support the team. Because of it, PB obtained some tickets for Real Madrid fans at Vicente Calderón and decided to share them out among its members. Luckily enough, I could answer the e-mail we all received pretty fast and, last Monday, I received the good news that I could obtain one of those tickets. I did not hesitate and set everything up to spend the weekend in Madrid.

Although I have visited the city several times before, I had never been to Vicente Calderón. Like Bernabéu, it is not right in the city center, and it is not close to any other interesting monument in the city, so I was never tempted to visit it. Therefore, last Sunday's experience was totally new for me. I took the underground and, after my first transfer, it became quite clear where we were approaching. The train was full of colchoneros and I could not see anyone wearing a white T-shirt. You could feel how they were really nervous about the match, just looking for the lineups on Twitter and commenting how they needed to defend really strongly against Cristiano, Bale and Benzema. They were somehow silent, though, and this is something that really differs with the ocassions I have visited Camp Nou or Cornellà-el Prat, in Barcelona, when the fans were even cheering up and chanting for their team at the public transport.

The atmosphere changed drastically when I got out and reached the surface. The street was rojiblanca, it is difficult to describe it differently. Both sides of the road ending at the stadium were crowded by Atlético's fans. T-shirts, scarfs and flags were everywhere, and the only reference to Real Madrid was in the chants appealing to our mothers. I felt tension at some point, because I saw a pair of groups that had drunk more beer than they should have and were telling off those who, like me, were not wearing any Atlético distinctive. Fortunately, they did not see me, and I got to the stadium in due time.

Gate 7 was the meeting point for madridistas, and I finally got to feel at home there, and safe enough to take my white T-shirt out. I met some of the members of PB I already knew from Twitter and we all got inside at around 16:30. As it is usually done in risky matches, we were frisked by the police before being escorted to our seats. We had a whole sector for ourselves, but, unlike in some other stadiums, there was no physical separation between us and Atlético's fans, so the good behavior of everyone was mandatory and, fortunately, there was no incident, perhaps encouraged by the presence of policemen from the 25th minute of the match. The stands were already almost full, and the noise was deafening. I was impressed: it was half an hour before the kickoff and the fans were chanting to support their players and undermine ours. I could not help thinking that if the Bernabéu were half as supportive as these guys were being, no team would stand a chance against us at our home. However, we also did a good job. We never sat down during the whole match and we never stopped chanting and cheering up for our guys. For me, being used to watching football at home, it was exhausting, but I truly enjoyed it.

When the match started, it became even louder. The self-proclaimed best fans in Spain were doing a fine job to support their team, and although we, the madridistas, were doing our best to be heard, it was really difficult. However, things changed a lot with Benzema's goal. I couldn't really tell how it was, since I was busy jumping, screaming and embracing a guy I had just met, but I have checked the video today and I have confirmed that Vicente Calderón shut up for approximately twenty minutes. In fact, you could hear some of our "Olés" in the TV broadcast for a minute without any opposition from the colchoneros. I really felt disappointed, mostly taking into account the great mood they had set up before the game. It felt as if the "Pupas" spirit had just come back.

Atlético's tough play and, mostly, Koke's goal were able to reconcile the team with the fans again, and the support was even stronger in the second half, with their 2-1 advantage, but their chants had changed their direction to our players and us, the supporters, with the aim of offending us. I have always believed that whistling your rivals when they have the ball is the best way to put pressure on them, and chants and screaming when it's your team attacking is the best way of support, but this was not what I saw there. As usual, offensive words were heard about Pepe, Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, as well as some racist noises directed to Marcelo. The only cheerful chant I remember from their side was the usual "Olé, olé, olé, Cholo Simeone".

Our side was going through its worst moments and the pesimism was latent. We were really worried about the possibility of losing against our neighbours and, although our chants were still there, you could notice that pesimism was hidden somewhere. However, although some of the fans complained about Carletto's substitutions in the beginning, they soon changed their minds. As Madrid started to dominate the game, we also went up, and after Ronaldo's goal I am pretty sure that ninety percent of us thought we would end up winning. I will not say anything about the celebration of this goal, since I hardly believe I will be able to find the right words to describe it. I will just say that yesterday, when I woke up, I could barely speak. Despite the deception for not being able to finally conquer Vicente Calderón, I would say that the overall feeling between the madridistas there was that it was a good job and a golden point to keep the leadership.

It would not be fair to end this chronicle without pointing out that our collective behavior was not perfect. I am sorry to say that a big proportion of Real Madrid fans crossed a line I was not willing to go through with some xenophobic and racist chants, mostly directed to Diego Costa. I am OK with whistling, screaming and even insulting the rivals when you are at the stadium -I have to admit that the "Olé, olé, olé, Cornudo Simeone" chant, referring to Cholo's wife relation with his former partner Caminero, provoked a good laugh on me- but I believe there's a limit you must never reach. Unfortunately, as it has been previously commented in this blog, this is a big problem in Spanish football stadiums that needs to be fixed. However, this type of chants was not too frequent and I have to say that the experience of enjoying this game surrounded by this huge group of supporting fans was extraordinary, and I will try to repeat as soon as I can. I already know what it's like, so I can do nothing but to encourage you all to try and pay a visit to Bernabéu if you have a chance. ¡Hasta el final, vamos Real!