Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Experienced Madrid...REAL Madrid (and some terrible traffic)

(Written in diary format. If you don't like my expansive descriptions and humor, deal with it. Go read Dr. Seuss.)

Way way way back on July 23rd, I took my younger brother out for his 17th birthday. It wasn't just any old gift, however; it was tickets to see the Philadelphia Union play Spanish futbol club Real Madrid. Last year, I went to see the Union play Manchester United and also wrote about it (you can see it here) and I will admit that this year's game had so much more of an exciting atmosphere than last year's.

Instead of taking the subway this year, we drove I-95 Southbound to Lincoln Financial Field. Worst idea ever. From my house, give or take a few minutes, the distance from my house to the field should take about 20 minutes or so while going the speed limit of 55 MPH. Nope, it took four times longer than that. We hit traffic about 2 1/2 miles before the Broad St. exit, and the hair-pulling began. Then again, a Phillies game was finishing up and letting out, and there was a Rihanna concert starting around the same time that night. During that time, it was rather fun to see the people from out-of-state (there was a few Quebec license plates in that mix) flipping out because traffic in Philadelphia can be complete crap. Horrible traffic issues aside, we got to the stadium about 15 minutes early, and the amount of Madrid shirts compared to Union shirts didn't surprise me one bit. The stadium was about 75% red last year, and it was about 80% white this year.

This was the best brother and I were this far from the pitch:

Faces have been [poorly] censored for legal reasons. (:
Sixth. Row. See, I'm not that smart when it comes to buying tickets. I just do the "best available" button on the website and go, "hey mom, these sound good" and they usually come out to being less-than-impressive seats. This was the exact opposite this time. I guess it was one of those things where you didn't realize how awesome you are until something lucky happens. But anyway, yes, we sat sixth row.

Because of the limbo that was I-95 South, it looked like we had missed a lot of the pre-game festivities, but it wasn't like my brother and I really cared after everything we'd been through that night.
This part puzzled me: they played the American National Anthem before any of the players came out or did any of their pre-game things. They didn't ever bother playing the Spanish National Anthem or any of that stuff. They either chose to do things that way (which is utterly backwards, in my opinion), or they had a really oblivious intern working the booth and started the Anthem at 9:00PM sharp.

Anywho, the lineup for the teams this year was 100% better than what ManU did last year. Real Madrid's side wasn't entirely made up of scrubs at any point during the game, which was a really awesome sight considering how the RMA club is a very powerful one and were willing to have all of their big names (except for Sergio Ramos...I don't remember seeing him, oh well) take a risk and play a friendly match where there's a chance that freak injuries may occur.

For people like me, seeing the big names makes all the difference. Seeing huge international players play in the United States and up close gave me an electric feeling. Never in my life would I think I'd be a stone's throw away from Iker Casillas, the best-ranked goalkeeper in the entire world. But I was...

For those who don't watch soccer, this is the goalie in my blog's banner. He's the man.
A nice breath of fresh air during this game was that the Philadelphia Union is a statistically better team than they were last year. There were a lot of scoring opportunities for them during the first half, which was incredible. However, the Union still showed a weak defense, and Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon was let out to dry on two quick goals in the first fifteen minutes of the game. Aside from that, it actually looked like a halfway decent match that could be really close. Another nice touch that head coach Jose Mourinho made was that he didn't use every big name guy in the first half. For example, you would see guys like Mesut Özil and Xabi Alonso in the first half, and in the second half you would see Kaká, Raúl Albiol, and...yeah, that guy Cristiano Ronaldo.
Insert screaming fangirls here.
I don't think I've ever heard a more mixed reaction in my life until Cristiano Ronaldo came out to play the second half for Real Madrid. He seriously pulled out all the stops--including an attempt to score goal via bicycle kick a la Wayne Rooney from a few months ago. A lot of the anti-Ronaldo fans really got a kick out of him getting faked out or tackled too. In the 80th minute, Michael Farfan of the Union chipped an incredibly sick goal right over the head of the third-string keeper Tomás Mejias. Despite numerous close shots on net toward the end of the game, Real Madrid held on to win 2-1 against Philadelphia. Let's not talk about the mass exodus and human cattle walking across the street and in front of cars, mmkay? Thanks. That was rather painful too.

Here were some other funny instances that occurred during this trip:
-- No matter what soccer game you go to, you will find some idiot wearing a Chelsea FC jersey.
-- No matter what time during the game that they stop selling beer, the general consensus in the crowd will boo.
-- I had never seen so many soccer moms in one setting in my life.
-- Some guy who claimed to be a Real Madrid fan sitting near me couldn't pronounce "Casillas" right. Awesome.
-- I found a dollar underneath someone's seat while walking out. That went to gas the next day.
-- Even though the game ended around 11PM, it was still about 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
--The Rihanna concert was done about the same time, so you'd be seeing a mix of older guys with teenage girls wearing high heels and jumpers. I also saw failed pickups. Those were funny.
-- Halfway through the second half, a wave started and went for almost five minutes. I don't know whether that's a custom at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, but I thought they only did those at baseball games, hockey games, and incredibly boring wrestling matches.

Finally, the one thing that I was somewhat puzzled about was how many Cristiano Ronaldo fangirls weren't there that night--I guess they were all across the street seeing Rihanna. However, I did find the "you're not Messi" chants quite funny from around the Union Supporters Section.

All in all, I love going to events like this because this is something you can tell your kids about and you don't ever get tired talking about it to them. I wouldn't want to tell them about the terrible traffic or anything, but this is something that I'm going to remember for a very long time.


Oh! I forgot to mention... There are more pictures from this game! Although my camera started dying toward the end of the first half, I took about 45 (decent quality) photos. You will be able to check out uploads of the game photos on Flickr soon!