I recently went to see Valencia play Real Madrid...on my own. Not because we don't have friends, but because the tickets were extortionate (~€80). I have pretty much stopped watching football matches these days, because I realised I was getting incredibly frustrated and angry with Arsenal and it was having an overall negative impact on my life. Stupid tribal ancestry was causing me to make allegiances to these millionaires who I really shouldn't care so much about. So I went cold turkey(ish) and now have better control over my emotional state. And as I have no allegiance to any Spanish players or teams (yet), I was able to go to this particular match simply for the spectacle.
The stadium doesn’t sell beer, much like the Maracana, so most people were gathered around outside the stadium, drinking heavily before kick-off. The atmosphere was buzzing before the important La Liga match and there was a sense of hope in the air that only a football match creates.
I was sitting behind the goal at the top of the top, two rows in front of the highest seats in the stadium, and it was awesome! I could peer over the edge of the stadium onto the ground below, which gave me that dizzy feeling I really need to learn to get over. The game started and there was a lot of chanting happening on both sides of me - a group of die-hard fans to the left, and a group of thirty-plus Nazi Ultras to the right (naturally). They were kicked out of the stadium fifteen minutes into the match, by hordes of policemen. It was intense.
After this drama off the pitch, Ronaldo did what he does best on the pitch and won a penalty, converting it to give Madrid the lead. The fans around me were pissed off, except for one man in his early twenties, who started celebrating the goal. But he didn't do it in a respectful way - he stood up with both hands in the air, in absolute glee, cheering in the faces of all the Valencia fans around him. It was exceptionally odd and dangerous behaviour. The 19-year-old next to him got particularly pissed off and it nearly kicked off. The guy's friend ended up sitting between the two to keep peace. The arguments continued throughout the entire game though, with a lot of aggressive men getting in this Madrid fan's face. It was a great mini-drama. The Madrid supporter didn't seem to apologise and apparently thought this was all acceptable behaviour. Thirty years ago you probably would have been killed for doing this, so the fact he escaped without even a mild a beating is very lucky for him. I bet he had moist underwear though.
Back to the drama on the pitch and Ronaldo doubled the lead with another, seemingly contentious penalty. The Madrid fan did not celebrate the second or subsequent goals. I guess his adrenaline had returned to normal and he wasn’t about to stir the hornets' nest around him.
The game was quite open and Valencia had chances, and eventually got a goal back. For a while it looked like a comeback was possible but then Madrid got a third and then a forth goal. It was game over and Zidane would live to manage another day. For now, at least.
The thing that stood out most to me was the crowd's reaction at the end. The Valencian fans clapped and cheered their players, despite the loss. They had played better than the scoreline suggests, so this may have had something to do with it, but the Mestalla stadium definitely had a different, more positive feel than the Emirates after a loss. This really endeared the club to me, and I will go back for some more games for sure. They may make a fan of me after all!
One other thing I want to mention before I end is this lady - she ate sunflower seeds for the entire second half and I got showered in shells, to accompany the aforementioned spit and piss. And yet I had fun…
|The goal scorer and second biggest legend on the pitch
|Proof I actually went!