Wildcats Visit Hallowed Grounds of European Soccer: Real Madrid’s Stadium
While in Spain, players, coaches, alumni, and family of the Chico State men’s soccer team have been enjoying historical sites, dabbling in local cuisine, and exploring the culture. But at its heart, this trip revolves around soccer and the Wildcats’ first stop was the home of one of world soccer’s most famed squads: Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. Chico State visited the stadium the morning the group arrived in Spain, and senior midfielder Dylan Wakefield describes the experience.
Even though I am a Barcelona fan, it was breathtaking. I never imagined I’d ever be standing in Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, home to Real Madrid. The sheer mass of the stadium was unbelievable.
As I stood on the top level staring down at the field, my heart throbbed inside my chest.
The stadium was colossal and decorated with an endless sea of blue plastic seats—81,044 seats, to be exact—only to be broken up by a series of white caps that read “Real Madrid CF” near ground level on one side of the field.
Even though it was empty, I could feel the intensity of a sold-out stadium. Eighty-one thousand fans packed next to each other like sardines, roaring in unison for 90 minutes as the heart of their city battled against rivals. Chanting and singing as one unit and defending their warriors on the pitch to rival hecklers at all costs. The passion that rests in that stadium is unbreakable—and proven as such by the squad’s trophy collection.
Protected behind glass cases, the trophies organized by names and dates lined the stadium’s inner walls. Some stood tall and broad and looked heavy enough to necessitate a dolly for transportation, while others were smaller and more detailed. All shined brightly with various blends of brass, silver, and gold gleaming off their unique curves. The ones that stood out to the group the most were Champions League hardware from the Union of European Football Associations. Champions League is the European Cup where the top 32 club teams from various countries in Europe play out-of-league competition.
The tournament winner is deemed the best of the best in European club fútbol. Real Madrid has won this competition a record 12 times and proudly displays the family of trophies in a separate room. With gold, animated confetti rapidly celebrating in the background, the trophy display sang success.
The rest of the tour was just as astonishing as the beginning. As we navigated through the Bernabéu maze, we walked through the locker room where our childhood heroes prepare for games. And although a fence restricts anyone from sitting in their cubbies, we could imagine James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modrić, and all the other great players sitting in front of us preparing for a game with a mural of themselves at their backs.
As we continued on, we wandered to the lower end of the stadium, walked down some steps and found ourselves at the field looking up at the sea of blue seats surrounding us. It was a blissful moment in the coach’s box as we stood a couple of feet away from the pitch where the great Real Madrid players leave their blood, sweat, and tears. To add to the experience, we also got to sit on the squad’s bench, complete with individual, leather Audi bucket seats. We geeked out.
Everything about the tour was unbelievable and left our team in awe and wonder. Later we toured Real Betis’ stadium and although beautiful, that squad’s home didn’t have the same tingling sensation as Bernabéu. In a couple of days, we tour Camp Nou—Barcelona’s heart and soul—and I will let you know how it goes.
—Dylan Wakefield, journalism
This is the third installation of an ongoing series chronicling the Chico State men’s soccer team’s trip to Spain before the preseason. Earlier stories include Spain and Fútbol and Spain Awaits.