Four years ago, when my sister was studying abroad in Spain, my family flew 4,000 miles across the Atlantic to visit her in Toledo. While I was very excited to see my sister, there were obviously a ton of other things I wanted to see, eat, watch, and experience during my trip. Above the Alcázar, Parc Güell, el Prado, and Sagrada Familia… I wanted to go to a Real Madrid game. Having played soccer almost all of my life, I’ve always enjoyed watching it. So when my dad and I found out there was a Real Madrid home game during our time in Spain, we immediately bought tickets.
After a delayed flight, lost luggage, and a lot of confusion getting to Madrid, we mixed up the days of the game. Sitting in our hotel room on Saturday night, we checked to make sure we were ready for the game we thought kicked off Sunday at 6 pm. Dumbfounded, we realized the game was actually happening at that moment. My dad, little brother, and I ran out of the hotel, on the metro, and onward towards Santiago Bernabéu. Getting into the stadium around the 90th minute, everyone was leaving as we finally arrived. Not only did we lose over 200 euros and the chance to see a game, but Real Madrid had lost the game 1-0 – their first lost at home during 2011.
Now, 4 years later, I’m studying abroad in a city less than 3 hours away from Madrid via AVE train. I knew I’d have to return to Santiago Bernabéu before I came back to the United States. I was finally going to see a Real Madrid game.
While I’ve been fortunate enough to attend NBA, MLB, and NFL games in my life, I’ve never had an experience quite like the game in Madrid. The entire 81,000 person stadium was electric. While my friends and I sat in the nosebleeds at the very top of the stadium, there wasn’t a single person around us that wasn’t completely invested in the game. Every free kick from Ronaldo, breakaway from Gareth Bale, and miraculous save from Casillias left the entire stadium breathless.
In Madrid for three days I was able to go back and see the museums, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, and many other touristy things, but I don’t think many other experiences abroad will compare to the Real Madrid game. You’re not only sight-seeing or looking at the culture from afar, you’re actually part of it.
Here’s a video of my time spent in Madrid. (Pretty happy to say I caught Isco’s goal on camera!)