I have already shared that I am not a big soccer fan, yet I went to Camp Nou in Barcelona. I briefly compared the trophy gallery in Camp Nou with the one in Santiago Bernabeu as well as FC Barca’s achievements versus Real Madrid’s. I even spilled the beans on how The Human GPS cried upon seeing the Champions League trophies. Now, I am sharing with you the complete experience of my visit to Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of the Real Madrid, to honor the World Cup kick-off today!
It all started with The Human GPS being a very nice person. You see, the Human GPS, the Mean Girl, and I have been traveling together quite a few times and he never ceased to be nice. He went with me for a Before Sunset homage tour in Paris when others wanted to go shopping, he almost got arrested for carrying a knife in his backpack when we visited the UN headquarters in Vienna so we could have our Sacher torte, and he never asked for anything in return. So one day in Madrid, when we all wanted to do different things, I saw the twinkle in his eyes and decided that I would go with him to Santiago Bernabeu and only then visit the beautiful small town called Segovia a little outside of Madrid.
I knew that soccer fans are dedicated, but never realized how much a pilgrimage to a soccer stadium is a serious affair until that one fateful day. There was a tension in the Human GPS’ face muscles and a focus to his actions. The first order of business: buy a Real Madrid scarf. Only after that we could go inside.
Our tour started with an elevator ride that opened up to the top row of the stadium. It was a grey day when the wind was blowing very strongly, so that our hair was flapping about us and I felt like I was going to be swept off the railings and fell to the ground below. It was scary, but I made me ‘Wow’ out loud. There really was something grand and exciting about seeing the whole stadium, which seats 80,354 people, from up above. The Human GPS was quiet for a while, but then he got into action with his scarf and for once I acted as the photographer.
We then descended to the Real Madrid museum, and the Human GPS narrated the team’s story to me. Real Madrid was found in 1902 and has since been at the top of Spanish football. Not only it is the richest and most successful club in Spain, it also holds the record for most wins at the Champions League and was crowned as the most successful club in the 20h century by FIFA in 2000. Although the current hype is all about Cristiano Ronaldo, Real has been the home of many of the world’s soccer legends, such as Ronaldo, Kaka, David Beckham, and one of my favorites, Zinedine Zidane. However, I believe that the true star of the team is Raul Gonzales, after spending most of my high school years listening to one of my then-closest friends, The Greenie Gonzales, marveling about his feats! She was right, actually. Raul is the top scorer of the team’s history, with 323 goals in 741 games. No wonder he has his shoe encrusted in gold and in top display!
While the whole museum was very impressive and modern, the most jaw-dropping part is definitely its trophy room. As we walked through a corridor of trophies, Queen’s ‘We are the Champion’ welcomed us to the crux of the museum: the Champions League Trophy Gallery. Twelve silver cups (all replica, of course), nine champion cups and three runner ups, were lined in a transparent casing with a huge TV screen in the backdrop playing Real’s moments of glory. The song blared further, accompanied by the screams of celebration from the TV, and even I who never even watched a Champions League game was touched. I turned to tell the Human GPS how I felt, but I saw him standing in silence. He was staring at the Champions League trophies with tears in his eyes. For the first time ever, I saw the Human GPS cried!
“I never thought this day would come,” he told me as he wiped his eyes. “I used to dream about being here when I watched all the games on TV and now I am finally here and it felt so surreal. You have no idea how much this means for a fan, how many people are so jealous for what we are experiencing right now.”
He was right. I had no idea until then, and although I found it interesting I doubt it meant as much for me as it would for a Real fan, like the Greenie Gonzales or the Human GPS. But I suppose I could make it more meaningful for the fans, so I let go of Segovia and took more photos of the Human GPS around the stadium, more photos of Raul for the Greenie Gonzales, and made some time to share the experience I had with you here at the Dusty Sneakers.
Soccer fans, enjoy the World Cup season!
Den Haag, 11 June 2010
Gypsytoes – of a trip in March 2010