It is said that football in Spain comes very close to Catholicism as the national religion. If this is true, it can be said that in Madrid, Atletico Madrid comes very close to second place behind Real Madrid as the capital’s favorite sports attraction.
While Real Madrid’s history is one of European championships and dominant teams, their neighbors in the cross-country city of Atletico Madrid are one of “almost men” and barren trophies. Such has become common for spectacular capitulations from winning positions that the club and fans are known as “los suffrodores”, the sick!
If Atletico are so poor on the football field (นักเตะสเปน to the contrary) what makes 55,000 people show up week in, week out, in the congested center of Vincente Calderon Stadium?
Match day experience!
Take the party atmosphere of the Rio Carnival and the passion of a political rally and you still have not come to the intensity generated at the Atletico Madrid match days. From the believing Atletico supporters, known as the “Ultras”, who populate the southern end of the stadium, comes a three-hour attack on the senses. The only short respite from the noise level when the teams switch ends at half time.
Football matches in the “la liga”, the league, typically start at. 1700 on a Sunday afternoon (this is often changed to meet the TV requirements), but the match day experience starts much earlier around 1300. In the many small bars around the world and even up to 3 km away, the believers Atletico prepare to enjoy one of Spain’s other great traditions: Lunch!
As in the rest of Spain, lunch is a two-hour marathon consisting of five or six different Spanish dishes accompanied by and washed down with copious amounts of beer or wine, where players from a bygone era are remembered, team selection is criticized and games are repeated in the minds of those present . The salt, pepper and sauce bottles are quickly arranged as a particular measure or movement is repeated to the shouts, screams and arguments of those who burden their memories of thirty years.
With the laid-back affair of lunch over 1500 and despite the vocal cords being sufficiently lubricated, the audience begins to move towards the street party building in the neighborhood that immediately surrounds the Vicente Calderon.
Traffic lanes are closed by police as the streets are quickly filled with a sea of singing red and white that is only marked by the sound of drums and horns. This happens every Atletico Madrid match day, and every match day the staff at the many small bars that line these roads try hard and fail to serve refreshments to the crowd right outside the door.
“Athletes! Athletes! Athletes!” Is the boring roar that becomes more apparent as you approach the stadium itself. After arriving just over thirty minutes before the match is due to start, “Ultras” begins to whip up the rest of the audience, so as the kick-off approaches the sound of singing, chanting, drums and trumpets is blurred in an inseparable sound. Five minutes before the start, and when the teams go out on the sacred square, the PA system bursts into life and fifty-five thousand voices sing like an “Atletico Hymn.” Should the players have needed to remind how important the game is, the flowers are placed next to the corner flag in memory of the players who died in the Spanish Civil War, certainly bringing things into focus.
What follows the referees’ brief explosion on the whistle to start the game is 90 minutes of continuous vocal encouragement from those who were the red and white stripes. Well almost persistent as this can be interuppted to sing a few election songs that question the origin or virtues of the referee, the opposition or the other team from the way up (Real Madrid).
Almost as a relief, the last whistle blows as the referee stops the case on the pitch, but for Atletico Madrid fans, this signals a wild rush to the nearest bars and restaurants to analyze the day’s performance and to quench the dried out throats!