With the end of football season approaching for the European leagues, I am reminded of one classic match that I had the luck and pleasure of watching a couple of years back. This is a dream match for any football (soccer) fan and I was truly fortunate to have witnessed and watched, The El Clasico.
For those unfamiliar with the game, El Clasico (The Classic) is a much anticipated match of La Liga (Spanish Premier League) that takes place between 2 football giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
My better half and I had plans to visit Europe in April 2011, so when we found out that El Clasico was going to take place in Madrid that month, we planned our trip around the match. We didn’t have tickets, but we knew it was going to happen somehow.
Call it good luck or the law of attraction, few random events do occur and the universe often conspires to give you what you want.
It all started here in Thailand. At the airport at check-in, we were allotted better seats with more leg room. Once on the flight, our main topic of conversation was about how we were going to get such sought after tickets for the match.
During the flight we also befriended a stewardess who was seated in her place opposite us. We exchanged friendly advice and few kind words. Upon landing, she kindly let us exit the aircraft at the same time as business and first class passengers.
While walking out the plane, we exchanged courteous smiles with a group of Thai passengers and then heard them talking about the El Clasico match that they were going to watch that night. My hubby and I exchanged quick hopeful looks. We next learned from one gentleman that they were from ThaiBev (Thai brewery giant and proud sponsor of Real Madrid) and had extra tickets. More optimistic glances exchanged; we were glowing. However, we had to contact him later that day to purchase the tickets since they were with a local agent.
We reached Santiago Bernabeu (Real Madrid home stadium) an hour before the match but our angel (that’s what it felt like) had yet to show up, so we waited, in much anticipation! We walked around outside the stadium and saw that a lot of people were also wandering, mostly looking for tickets, so while waiting we calmed our nerves with few bottles of the Spanish beer, Estrella Damm. 10 minutes before kick-off and the heavens sent their representative with our tickets. At last, it was happening!
The atmosphere inside was lively and we could see so much passion and excitement amongst both sets of fans as they sang and cheered on to encourage their teams. It was time for these giants to clash and show what they were worth.
Real Madrid was under the guidance of Jose Mourinho and Barcelona under coach Pep Guardiola at that time. We were not rooting for any team in particular but were so ecstatic to be part of this exhilarating event, and that we got to see talented players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Xavi, Kaka, Iniesta and Casillas in action. Gerard Pique was also on the field, and his girlfriend, the famous singer and hip-shaker, Shakira was also there watching and cheering him on. At one point, the fans even started chanting ‘Shakira, Shakira’! We also got to witness penalty shots from both sides, taken by Messi for Barcelona early in the 2nd half, and with few minutes left on the clock Ronaldo also equalized for Madrid. 90 minutes flew by and the final score was tied at 1-1.
The match was exciting and definitely left an impression, but the events leading up to it were no less special or extraordinary. We got to enjoy it because we obtained tickets that were almost impossible to find, because we overheard some passengers talking, because we got to exit the plane a few minutes earlier, because we got to sit on those particular seats. I know that’s a lot of ‘becauses’ but you get the picture of how small details matter in life.
I love visiting new places, regardless of events or festivals, but it’s always nice to have something a bit extra to make your trip that more special, and this experience was a highlight and enhanced my holiday in Madrid.