Greetings from Madrid on Champions League Final day!
The football season and academic year are almost over, the summer is fast approaching and I’m winding down my first year of living in Madrid. There’ll be a lot of looking back in the next few weeks, but first, time to sum up the last month and look ahead to an exciting June!
Where I’ve Been
After the travel-heavy month of April, I’ve not actually left the greater Madrid area this month. Trips to Fuenlabrada and Majadahonda were about as good as it got.
I did manage to get around the city a little bit thanks to the number of public holidays we had during the month. I started off May with a five-day weekend for the combination of 1st of May and then Día de la Communidad de Madrid and then two weeks later, the week was cut in half by the local festival in Rivas, where I work, and San Isidro on the 15th.
I managed to spend this time well, visiting the lake at Casa de Campo, the Dos de Mayo fiestas at Plaza Dos de Mayo in the city centre, finally going back to the abandoned Metro station museum at Chamberí and going to the Mirador de Madrid above Plaza de Cibeles.
Game of the Month
Erm, May has not been a vintage month in this regard.
I’ve been to four matches this month and seen a grand total of four goals. The goals-per-game average has taken a severe hammering in recent weeks. My trips to Villaverde and Fuenlabrada were enjoyable enough, but more as social occasions and because of the lovely Madrid weather.
Then the biggest game of the month, Atlético v Sevilla, was more of a warm-up act to the Diego Godín tribute which followed the final whistle. A game that Sevilla needed to win, but showed little inclination to do so until late on, while Atlético went through the motions.
So that leaves one game, ironically the only one with no goals. For the second time this season, a 0-0 draw involving Rayo Majadahonda is my Game of the Month. The atmosphere was great and it was an extremely tense affair, with Rayo desperate for a win to boost their survival hopes. Both teams hit the post, Córdoba’s goalkeeper made a couple of ridiculous saves and Rayo’s hopes of staying up took a potentially fatal blow.
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Top of the charts for May was Purple Rain, my look back at my April trip to Valladolid, where I saw Pucela lose 2-0 to Sevilla.
Despite this defeat, Valladolid eventually managed to secure another season of Primera football, winning at Rayo Vallecano to stay up with a week to spare. It’s a nice place to visit and I hope to return next season (in better weather of course!)
In terms of old posts, one which performed pretty well was my look at Fuenlabrada, presumably given a boost by their success in Segunda B Group 1 and entering the play-offs. I was able to use my recent visit there to update some of the information and add some more photos, so why not have a look?
Mis Viajes En Tenis
As I mentioned last month, One of the things I was most looking forward to was my return visit to the Caja Magica for the Mutua Madrid Open. Fortunately this year the draw was kind to us and we were handed an evening session which featured Rafael Nadal against Stan Wawrinka.
Taking the day off work meant I could enjoy a relaxed morning in the build-up. Breakfast at a city centre café, a great value menu del día at an Indian restaurant near my flat. We had plenty of time to explore the Caja Magica beforehand, watch some of the players warm-up for the evening session, have a relaxing drink in the sun while watching the end of the afternoon session on the big screen before heading inside the main stadium to watch eventual women’s champion Kiki Bertens brush aside the challenge of Sloane Stephens.
The stands filled up for the arrival of Nadal and the home favourite wasted no time in getting past a below-par Wawrinka.
It’s always a great night out at the Caja Magica, all being well we’ll be back again next year!
What’s Up Next?
Well, the small matter of the Champions League Final tonight.
I’ll be honest, when I got the e-mail telling me I’d been successful in the ticket ballot back at the start of April, this was not the final I was hoping for. Barça v Juve would have been nice, for the Messi v Ronaldo factor, Ajax v anyone would have been fun because of the support they would have brought, I spoke to quite a few of their fans around their tie with Real Madrid in March and they were extremely sound, and simply because their run has been one of the great stories of European football this season.
But ah well, Spurs v Liverpool is what I’ve got and I’m determined to “enjoy” the experience as much as possible. I’ve had plenty of people asking me if I’m selling my ticket, plenty of others telling me I could pay for my whole wedding if I put it up for sale to the highest bidder, but I’ve never considered it for a second. The astronomical prices being quoted on some re-sale sites are a disgrace and anyone, especially anyone who claims to be a fan of either side, who tries to exploit someone’s passion and love for their team for their own financial gain is a disgrace.
Last weekend I read an article about the night Man Utd clinched the Treble in Barcelona 20 years ago (happier times, eh?) and fans talking about face value tickets being sold for between £12 and £15. This year, the cheapest tickets start at €70.
The other reason I never considered selling my ticket is that this is probably a once in a lifetime experience. I may never get the chance to go to a Champions League Final in the city I live in ever again. It feels depressingly inevitable that UEFA will continue to chase the money and will soon be taking finals out of Europe to places such as the USA, China, the Gulf states. The farcical situation surrounding the Europa League Final in Baku already shows that supporters are a secondary concern.
So yeah, I want to make the most of it. I’ve already had a chance to look around the fan zones which have been set up in the centre of the city ahead of the big game, I imagine that matchday will be too busy to properly enjoy them.
After all that, I’ll be winding down the academic year and making my preparations for returning home to NI for the summer. My Mum is also visiting Madrid for the first time shortly after I finish work, so that’s something else to look forward to.
I do plan to travel a wee bit during my holidays (I’m particularly excited by Coleraine confirming an away friendly with Stranraer at the start of July) but I’d say the summer will be mostly taken up with getting busy preparing for the wedding in September. So the remainder of June should be a chance for me to relax and enjoy some nice weather here in Madrid before heading back to the much cooler climes of the North Coast of NI.
I also hope to finally publish some of the posts which have been sitting in my drafts folder for weeks now! This last month has been a busy one and it’s been hard to find the time to sit down and write properly. The holidays will be good for that!
So until next time,
All the best,