Bernabéu for Beginners
A newbie's guide to watching a football match in Madrid
Are you a football virgin? Well, I certainly was until some of my hardcore Madridista friends from mi tierra up north came to visit me in Madrid.
I decided to join my Danish friends in their Bernabéu adventure to see Real Madrid vs. Dortmund on a cold November night, even though football’s allure has always been hopelessly lost on me. I’m glad I did too — it was breathtaking to experience 80,000 people all in one place, all thrilled to be watching a football match.
In case other football virgins are eager to watch a match, I’ve put together a short list of good-to-know tips:
- Keep an eye out online for this season’s games for cheap tickets. For some ligas, the majority of the cheapest tickets are reserved for season card holders, so the rest of us need to act quickly if we want to buy tickets and still have money left in our bank accounts. I got mine through Ticketmaster.
- Bring binoculars for the cheap seats you got with those cheap tickets. What had sparked the slightest, remotest interest for me in going to Bernabéu in the first place were the players: Casillas’ warm smile; Alonso’s heart of gold; Ronaldo’s strong belief that he is beyond human and up there with the gods. I know little else of football except that it’s no fun to be somewhat close to a galáctico but not close enough to see him. Binoculars, my friend. Binoculars.
- Dress warm if you’re going in winter time. This might be obvious to some but contrary to what I thought, they don’t cover the Bernabéu stadium for the winter. You’re pretty much sitting out in the open, cold air for 2 x 45 minutes. It gets cold. So cold.
- Practice songs or at least melodies. It’s nice to be able to cheer for your team with something more than just shouting vamos or venga. Village People’s “Go West” and The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army“ seem to be popular right now, and if you don’t know the words, just hum. I did.
- Spare yourself the overenthusiastic cheering. My friends and I look anything but Spanish so in an attempt not be mistaken for Dortmund fans, we cheered louder than everybody else when things were going well for Real Madrid. Maybe even a little too loud, because the next morning, I woke up with a sore throat.
- Pass the pipas. You know how going to sports events means eating (good) junk food? Well, even if you could buy a hot dog in the stadium, pipas are the big thing to snack on. Yes, sunflower seeds. I recommend practicing cracking open the shells with your teeth beforehand if you want to blend in with the crowd. Stay concentrated though and eat only the seed itself, or accidentally end up choking on a shell like I did.
I’ll never learn to love football, but I could definitely get used to the fun surrounding it. ¡Hala Madrid!
About Mona Hoelzer
I am an anthropologist turned music producer turned full time knit and craft nerd, for business and pleasure. I love exploring cities in quirky manners and hope to guide you through hidden treasures and adventurous paths in Madrid.