“Hala Madrid! Hala Madrid” roars throughout the jungle the madileños (the people of Madrid) call the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Home to the world’s most popular and profitable team, Madrid is the perfect place to experience the European sports culture. Yes, I speak of Real Madrid, the very team Cristiano Ronaldo plays for. And, considering my Dallas Cowboys are not doing so well this season, I figured it was time to look for a different football team to cheer for. Little did I know I would take a complete turn and root for a fútbol team, or as some enthusiastic fans like to call it, “real football”.
Their story starts in 1902 when the team was founded and goes all the way to an American exchange student sporting her Real Madrid scarf, packed in a deafening 85,000-person crowd at Santiago Bernabèu Stadium. I knew American football, but I was in for a treat seeing the world’s most famous soccer team. The entire setting made me feel like I was at the Olympics. The anthem was blasting from the speakers, and fans were screaming “Hala Madrid! Hala Madrid!” to the tops of their lungs. I would be lying if I said I didn’t listen to the anthem while writing this article. It’s a song that will empower you do anything. How perfect with final exams just around the corner! “Hala Madrid y Nada Mas”, listen to it, and I guarantee you’ll finish your papers faster than the time you spent focusing on the thesis.
Seeing the swiftness of the players’ movements (with the occasional “flop”) and the grace of the game was mesmerizing. Inside the stadium somehow did not seem like real life. The “Hala Madrid” chant, which was more like a war cry, brought me back to reality. Everyone was a best friend, hugging seatmates after each goal even if they were complete strangers. No words can describe the feeling other than absolute pride the fans had for Real Madrid. I do not think I could have experienced such an event in any other city or with any other team. Needless to say, I am truly happy to have witnessed this part of Madrid’s culture.