Spanish football – Different culture, different class

My love of Spanish football has flourished over the past few seasons, so much so I decided last season to ‘adopt’ a team and keep track of their results in La Liga BBVA.

My love of Spanish football has flourished over the past few seasons, so much so I decided last season to ‘adopt’ a team and keep track of their results in La Liga BBVA. The team I selected were Malaga C.F, the idea of a small team trying to achieve big things excited me, and I feel there is no greater challenge than this, and no greater satisfaction once it has been achieved. Malaga are on the brink of greatness, closing in on Champions League football. In this article I intend to share with you my experience, and hopefully you can see the difference in their footballing culture.

So, with my new passion for Spanish football and a spare couple of weekends off last month, I decided to fly over and attend a couple of Spanish games, of course, one would have to involve Malaga. The games I selected were Atletico de Madrid Vs Espanyol, and the following weekend Malaga C.F Vs Valencia. Before I flew onto Malaga for my second game, I made sure that whilst in Madrid I would visit the Santiago Bernabeu for a stadium tour.

Doing my research I realised that tickets were pretty easy to pick up, and also reasonably cheap, tickets for the Vicente Calderon costing me €30 and tickets at La Rosaleda €35. Our hotel in Madrid was a stone’s throw away from the home of Atletico de Madrid, so getting to the ground was no problem, on arrival at the ground, there was plenty of merchandise traders selling all manner of scarves and tee shirts. They were everywhere, and more interestingly, something we don’t get at games in the UK, food sellers on the street selling all kinds of nuts and sweets for you to feast on during the game, in England we enjoy a nice greasy burger and a pint of your favorite alcoholic drink, but in Spain they enjoy their nuts, gummy sweets and popcorn.

So it was time to enter the stadium, the Vicente Calderon is an impressive stadium which holds around 51,000 passionate Madristians, the ground houses your typical Spanish Ultras behind one goal, they created a great atmosphere in the stadium and it is something that could easily be done in England, I’ve been to plenty of home and away games in England and the atmosphere of some teams is nothing short of woeful, if there was a dedicated singing section or Ultras section like there is in Spain, the atmosphere would improve massively.

The stadium is what I would describe as a classic stadium, of the old school type with basic facilities, but at least there was plenty of character to it, a place where memories had been made. Too many stadiums in England today all look the same, any new ground that is built will look the same as many others, a few examples would be Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, Middleborough’s Riverside Stadium, Cardiff’s Cardiff City Stadium, and Swansea’s Liberty Stadium just to mention a few. I was alarmed at how many fans entered the stadium late, it was a good ten minutes into the game and they were still entering the ground in their droves, in England fans get there much earlier soaking up the atmosphere and having a pre match drink and chat, but I suppose English fans make up for it by leaving ten minutes early, where as the both games I went to, the fans stayed long after applauding their team off the pitch. The game itself was fantastic, typical end to end attacking which included a wonder goal from Atletico’s Arda Turan. The game finished 3-1 and I enjoyed the occasion with a hunger to return once again, the sun was shining and with no roof on the stadium, football in the sun, can’t get much better than that, right?

So after Madrid, it was time for Malaga and my second Liga BBVA game in as many weeks. La Rosaleda, home of Malaga, was a much smaller ground than the Calderon, holding around 28,000 fans, it was a tidy, compact ground, one thing about the Spanish grounds that I really liked was that the stands were steep and tall, therefore giving you a real sense of feeling involved and on top of the action, the only ground in England I have been too with that characteristic would have to be Loftus Road. Many grounds in England go outwards from the pitch and you feel a long way away from the action. The ground, as I said was smaller, but it didn’t mean it took anything away from the atmosphere. The ground was rocking, and it was a big game for Malaga who needed a win against a rival team who were also pursuing a Champions League place. Again, the sections of Ultras were raising the nonexistent roof off the stadium and the players duly responded with a 1-0 win. Like in Madrid, the match goers were enjoying their in game nuts as snacks, it truly was bizarre, I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it; they were everywhere. Instead of employing cleaners to clear the mess I suggest they send in the squirrels!

So with the games over, memories made, it was time to reflect on what I had seen over the past two weeks, a footballing culture so different to what I was used to, and to be perfectly honest, one I think I prefer. You feel part of the club you’re watching. For example, when Malaga plays away from home, if you are an away fan that wishes to travel, you get to travel with the team to wherever it may be that the game is being played. You would never get this in England, not even in the lower leagues, there is way too much security these days, health and safety laws etc, in Spain there is none of this, you genuinely feel part of the club. Even in the grounds I went too, there was no segregation between the two sets of fans, everyone gets along and enjoys the game together.

I’ll sign off from this article by stating that my love for Spanish football has only flourished since seeing it for myself. I love everything about Spain and the two cities I visited, the people are beautiful, the weather was beautiful, and more importantly, the football was beautiful.