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81,044 silenced. That is what happened in Santiago Bernabéu this past Sunday when Messi’s shot landed in the back of the net seconds before the game was over. A single game that can either cause a city to celebrate through the streets or head home with tears in their eyes. However it was not all quite for some of the Madrid natives. Throughout the stadium and city, sprinkles of Barcelona flags and jerseys were lifted high into the night in the middle of a sea of white. Being a Barcelona fan in Madrid almost seems worse than robbing a bank. I got the amazing chance to not only watch people arrive to Madrid to watch El Clásico but also attended the game behind enemy lines. It gave me chance to talk to both sides about not only the atmosphere of El Clásico but also how Barcelona fans are treated in Madrid.
During the week that led to El Clásico, I stopped at places that sold Barcelona gear to talk with people about how Barcelona fans are treated in their rival city. I ended up spending most of my time in the Nike Store talking with not only employees but also customers and noticing their reactions. I can safely say that it did not take long for me to notice all the smirks and looks of distain whenever I mentioned I was a Barcelona fan. If it was not eyes being rolled it was a quick dig at one of the players. Especially Gerard Piqué that is honestly the most hated man in Madrid.
Thankfully one of the workers, Angel Garía, was a Barcelona fan. My eyes were immediately drawn to his red and blue jacket and knew he had to be a Barcelona fan. He told me that for the most part, everyone at his job cracks jokes about Barcelona being a bunch of divers and how they think they are too full of themselves. Mr. Garía also went on to tell me how there have been fights, sometimes right outside the door between Barcelona and Real Madrid fans.
That this rivalry can be dangerous when two extremely devoted fans cross paths. For the most part however he personally has never had an issue as he believes the game is ruined when people begin fighting.
At the end of the day he just wants a good game where Barcelona wins of course. The other workers at the Nike store told me similar things with the exception of them wanting Real Madrid to leave the match with the win and how people cheer way louder for when Real Madrid scores then when Barcelona does.
Before long it was Sunday and I could not believe that a kid from a small town back in Washington was about to witness two of the best teams leave it all on the field for 90 minutes. Little did I know that was actually going to be the case as the game was decided in extra time. However, prior to watching the best soccer game of my life, I sought out Barcelona fans between all the Real Madrid faithful’s. While all the Real Madrid fans were going nuts about the team bus arriving at the stadium, I noticed a man with a Barcelona tattoo on his right calf.
I instantly introduced myself and talked about the Barcelona team for 10 minutes. Within those 10 minutes I learned his name was Chris Donaldson, he was actually from Vancouver B.C., he had been a Barcelona fan for around 15 years now, and that this Clásico would be the ninth he has attended. He told me as an outsider in both the context of being a Barcelona fan in Madrid but also Canadian, he has not been harassed in any of the past games he has been to. But he did state like the Nike employees that he has witnessed fights in both Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabéu. Most of which was the result of over consumption of alcohol and the accumulation of insults traded throughout the game between fans.
Another fan I talked with while in the stadium before the game was named José Fernández who travelled all the way from Guatemala to watch the game. He was in the middle of tying down his Guatemala flag off railing when he noticed me taking his picture. We talked about both being Hispanic and how we both dreamed of coming to Spain to watch Messi play. We both agreed that we would have preferred to watch the game at Camp Nou. Now even though we were surrounded by Real Madrid fans, no one said anything but their body language told it all that they heard our comment and did not like it. A couple of the children made a face as if I had just punched them right in the gut. Considering the fact we were at their home stadium that they love above anything else I was not too surprised we got a couple of glares from fans. Once we finished our talk, I headed up towards my seat and prepared for what became a historic Clásico for Barcelona and Barcelona fans everywhere.
For 90 minutes I was in awe. Witnessing the two best players in Messi and Ronaldo battle it out for their clubs. Blood was even shed by Messi that played an entire half with a gauge in his mouth. Madrid fans got rowdy anytime Piqué touch the ball expressing their hatred towards him. The whole stadium roared to life when Madrid drew first blood and scored. Then in an instant all the chanting and celebrating vanished when Barcelona scored two goals.
Then when Madrid answered back in the 85th minute all hell broke loose. I continued to stay seated but everyone around me jumped up and down. Believing this was the last nail in the coffin to secure at least one point and win La Liga title. But then the impossible happened and in the 92 minute, when the little Argentine sent the ball past the keeper to end the game three to two and breaking the hearts of not only the players but the whole city.
Players and fans covered their faces with tears streaming down their cheeks. I kept my emotions in check because I did not want to cause a scene and single myself out. Though I managed to escape Madrid with no altercations it is safe to say that if Madrid fans did not like Barcelona before, it is going to be a lot worse after Messi scored his historic 500th goal that gave Barcelona the win.