Having missed out on the opportunity to visit during its inaugural season, I was eager to make up for lost time as far as Atlético Madrid’s new stadium was concerned.
I was a big fan of the Vicente Calderon (I wrote a post about my final visit back in 2016) but everyone knew it was creaking a bit and becoming increasingly outdated. Now, Atlético have a stadium fit for a club who have become part of Europe’s elite and indeed will be the venue for this season’s Champions League Final.
As soon as the La Liga fixtures came out, I instantly looked for the first game week after the September international week to see if Atlético were at home and they were – due to face Eibar. On top of everything, that weekend was the first anniversary of the stadium’s opening. So I bought tickets late in August and I earmarked it as my first ‘big’ game of the season in Spain (with apologies to Fuenlabrada and Depor Fabril).
So on 15th September I packed the Atlético scarf I’d bought on a visit to the Calderon four years previously into my bag and headed to the Metro to begin my journey.
The journey there made me miss the relatively simple and short journey to the old ground, which was only a few stops away from the city centre on Metro Line 5. From my current location near Atocha station there is no straightforward route to the Wanda Metropolitano by Metro. The quickest route I worked out on that day involves four different lines and finishes on Line 7 which goes directly to the ground (Stop – Estadio Metropolitano).
But Line 7 feels like it takes forever, Estadio Metropolitano is 10 stops away from where I caught the Metro at Avenida de America, and it is something of a phone signal blackspot.
It was blisteringly hot when I arrived at the ground and I was definitely beginning to question the wisdom of the 1pm kick off as I explored the stadium concourse, looking at the myriad selection of scarves and assorted merchandise available. The club shop was too busy to enter and I have to say I missed the Calderon’s 1903 Bar connected to the museum. That’s another disadvantage of the new location, the local bars are a significant walk away, not simply across the street as before.
The story of the game itself was one of frustration. Atlético didn’t play well, but will still feel they should have been one or two goals to the good at half time. Only an outstanding performance from Dmitrovic in the Eibar goal kept things level. For what it’s worth, Eibar hit the crossbar with their only real effort of the first half, a feat they would repeat in the second.
Atlético continued to waste chances and when Sergi Enrich surprisingly handed Eibar the lead with three minutes of the 90 remaining, it looked like they would become only the second away team, after Espanyol last season, to record a league win at the Wanda.
But Atlético are made of stern stuff and deep into stoppage time they found the breakthrough that had been eluding them all afternoon. Substitute Borja Garces was the man to get the all-important goal, meaning that a point was at least salvaged. Who knows, it may be vital come the end of the season.
Some general thoughts
It’s a seriously impressive stadium. I know that’s stating the obvious but it has the potential to become one of my favourites after a few visits. Although I was at the far end from most of the singing, the atmosphere travelled around the ground pretty well.
The pitchside view was great and even the action at the far end was pretty clear. The only real negative was that my seat in the lower tier of the Fondo Norte was directly in the sun for the entire 90+ minutes. That won’t always be a problem but it did cause some discomfort on this occasion.
Leave plenty of time to get there
As I mentioned above, Line 7 can be something of a mind-numbing endurance test. With several transfers required to get there from the city centre, there’s also the high possibility of being left waiting on platforms for several minutes each time.
Or if you don’t mind walking, you could try getting Line 2 to Las Rosas or Line 5 to Canillejas which are between 10 and 15 minutes walk away. Given the high midday temperatures, I didn’t fancy this option in September, but over the course of a number of visits during the season, I found that taking Line 2 is by far the most convenient route. There are also a number of bars and fast food places on the walk down, so that might eliminate the need to…
Bring your own bocata se come en el descanso
El bocata se come en el descanso is a great Spanish football tradition. Seconds after the referee’s whistle ends the first half, the sound of sandwiches being unwrapped from tinfoil reverberates around the ground. Bringing your own sandwich will help avoid a long wait to buy something at half time and significant damage to your bank balance! There is a decent selection of food available, but it is is very expensive (€5 for a slice of pizza, €9 for a cheeseburger) so it’s better to bring your own if you think you might feel peckish.
As for drinks, I came prepared for the heat with a 1.5 litre bottle of water, which I was forced to dump in the bin by security as only 500ml bottles are allowed in the ground. So unfortunately I had no other choice but to pay €3 for one from the food kiosk at half time.
The No Smoking section is not all it seems
When buying tickets for the game, I was impressed to see that no smoking sections had been incorporated into the stadium. However, in reality this is not enforced in any way. During the Atlético – Eibar game there were numerous people in the rows in front and behind smoking (especially as Atlético struggled to get a hold of the game)
Load your Metro card before you go
This may seem obvious and it may not affect you if you’re travelling using an unlimited pass, but if you are buying single or ten trip tickets, make sure you’ve bought your return trip in advance.
As I left the ground there were two lengthy lines outside the Metro station, one to get to the Metro itself and one full of people simply waiting to top up their cards. If you want to make a quick getaway after the game, think ahead!
But if you’re not bothered about that, definitely take the time to walk away from the stadium and enjoy a drink or something to eat in one of the bars around the roundabout at Plaza Grecia. By the time you’ve finished, the massive crowds will have dispersed and your journey back will be a lot more comfortable.