Monday, February 13, 2012

Real Madrid vs. Levante


The wait was over, I bundled up and hopped on the Metro Sunday night for the quick ride to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for what seemed to be a good match up between Madrid's perennial powerhouse Real Madrid team and the upstart Levante club from Valencia.

Let's set the stage . . .

Real Madrid is in first place in the 20 team Spanish La Liga with a record of 18 wins, 1 tie and and 2 losses. You get three points for a win, one point for a tie and no points for a loss. Real Madrid has 55 team points going into this weekend's contests.

As a point of information, Barcelona is in second place with 48 team points and Valencia is a distant third place with 37 team points.

That brings us to tonight's opponents for Real Madrid. Levante's record is 9 wins, 5 ties and 7 losses for a total of 32 team points good for fourth place at this time in the La Liga standings.

The interesting angle to tonight's game is that, at home back on Septemberr 18th, Levante handed Real Madrid one of their only two La Liga losses by a score of 1-0.

Concession Stands outside Bernabéu

Most people do not leave their seats during the game or at halftime by brining in their own food for the games, so these concessionaires do a good business.

I added one Real Madrid banner
to my collection tonight

The Spanish word for this phenomenon is

I am not sure what the equivalent English phrase is for this.

Who can forget Spain's first ever
World Cup Championship in 2010

Certainly not this guy.

Heavy Police Presence

Were they expecting trouble at a European soccer game?

Not the banner I purchased

But I was tempted.

This one speaks of Real Madrid's Ultras, their rowdy fans seated two levels below me, and their feelings about second place FC Barcelona.

The view from my seat
Tower A
Vomitorio 530-S
Sector 532, Row 1, Seat 5

Vomitorio 530-S?

My newest Real Madrid buddy,
Pedro from Toledo

His brother Antonio, also still from Toledo, and three of their brothers-in-law have all been season ticket holders together in this same row for 15 years. Because of the cold weather, the three brothers-in-law all sold their tickets for tonight's game back to the team who then sold them to me and two college roommate students from Williams College in Massachusetts.

Now Pedro was great, we chatted about his love and devotion to Real Madrid and their storied history. When I told him that I was from California, he declared his love for the Los Angeles Lakers and asked me if I knew that Pao Gasol is a Spaniard.

Actually, I did.

I asked him why the late start in such seasonably cold conditions and he simply stated that all Sunday games start at 9:30 p.m. because people have to work on Mondays. The Saturday games start at 10:00 p.m.

When his brother Antonio arrived, all bets were off. There is a certain, small percentage of Spanish men who talk with a voice that is equal parts deep, loud, raspy, wheezing and darn hard to understand.

Antonio is one of those, Pedro is not.

I understood about every third word that he said and just smiled and nodded. It didn't help that the two non-Spanish speaking college kids kept using me as a translator to ask questions for Antonio to answer.

During half time I asked Antonio who he thought were the five best soccer teams in the world.

Surprisingly he rated Real Madrid #1. After much soul searching and in very hushed tones he reluctantly annointed FC Barcelona into the second spot. His next three chioces, in order, were AC Milan, FC Bayern München and Manchester United.

Strange that he didn't mention the mighty Finja squad from Sweden.


The overhang above our seats were loaded with these powerful radiating heaters but occasionally the strong gusts of wind disrupted their effectiveness.

Oh yes, chain smoking is indeed allowed inside Estadio Bernabú. I again use Pedro and Antonio as prime examples.

Real Madrid Stretching

Exchanging Warm and Fuzzy
Pre-Game Pleasantries

Retired Real Madrid great
Roberto Carlos would kick
a ceremonial first ball

The fans went crazy when he was introduced, Pedro from Toledo wept.

Antonio said something but what I do not for the life of me know!


High Sticking?

Another Death on the Pitch

Levante scored first

Celebrating this much right next to the Real Madrid Ultras was really not a wise career move.

The Ultras were now demanding BLOOD!

#2, in blue, for Levante is

Easily Levante's best offensive threat, he shined even though double teamed most of the night.

Ronaldo on the Penalty Kick


I like Corner Kick Action

Ronaldo Head Shot


He would complete the Hat Trick with a third goal, this one a lazer shot from about 20 meters as he accounted for Real Madrid's first three scores.

Ultras Enjoying the moment

With a 4-2 victory for the home team firmly in hand, the Ultras, in a show of true sportsmanship, started to serenade one of the Levante players who goes simply by Ballesteros. They had a catchy four word song paired with a peppy beat.

The four words you ask?


It was so nice to hear 80,000 fans, including Pedro and Antonio, loudly pouring out their love for a respected visiting player.

By the way, Antonio could indeed say these four magical words with perfect Spanish diction.

The game was over by 11:30 p.m. and after dealing with the hordes of fans all trying to get into the one and only entrance to the nearby Metro station, I got back to my stop at 12:30 a.m. still wired because of the big game experience.

Chocolaterías San Ginés, just a few blocks from my hotel it was then, to celebrate the Real Madrid experience with an order of hot chocolate and churros.

I was in bed by 1:00 a.m. anticipating my last day of adventure in Spain, an AVE high speed train trip to Segovia to the northwest.

Thun, Switzerland on Tuesday, it is indeed time to get to work!!!

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