During my summer vacation this year, I visited the city of Madrid in Spain. While I was there, Real Madrid – the Spanish football club – won the Champions League Trophy. I was on a vacation with my cousin who is a die-hard football fan so it was not surprising that I was made to watch the finals. As a reluctant viewer, I spent most of the ninety minutes complaining and grumbling but also noticed the passion fans had for the sport. Every time their team scored or swiftly glided the ball through Liverpool’s defense, the Spanish supporters cheered and shouted. Every man, woman and child was glued to the TV screen in the hotel lobby proudly sporting the white and blue T-shirts of their team. They all had one common hope and pray that their team wins the game. To me, it appeared not a sport but a religion. It was as if the team was not just eleven players on the filed but an entire army of fans who had put their heart and soul into the game – chanting slogans and singing songs for their team playing miles away.
This, however, was just the tip of the iceberg. What really moved me and caused me to find a new sense of love and respect for the game was the victory parade that took place the following day when Real Madrid brought the trophy to Madrid. As an old tradition, the winning team goes through the town in an open bus. The team arrives at the fountain of Neptune where the team mounted in top of the statue lift the cup for all the fans to see. Fans had started assembling hours in advance to get a chance to see their home team and to be able to get a glimpse of the prized trophy. When I heard that we were going to see a parade, I expected to see a few hundred people om the roads. Little did I know that almost every person would be practically out with flags and banners tirelessly chanting “Hola Madrid”.
I was nothing short of shocked. We reached an hour before the parade was to start due to the incessant pleading of my cousin who claimed that he wouldn’t be able to see anything if we got thee any later. And he was right. When we arrived, there were already thousands of people singing, chanting and celebrating. Due to my cousin’s persistence and surprising abilities to manoeuvre through a crowd, we got to a spot where we had a decent view of the fountain. Within ten minutes of our arriving, the entire road behind us which was empty when we reached was somehow filled with people.
We waited there for about an hour, drinking and eating, listening to Spanish music, interrupted by the occasional Madrid slogans. I thought that was the n=best I could see but I was mistaken. As soon as the team bus arrived, every single person was signing the Madrid song, As the tune for the song blared on the speakers the crowd, in one united voice, sang the words, It was like all their heart, in that moment, beat to one pulse. Football.
Being in that moment, surrounded by the energy, the love, the emotion made me feel like all my life I had been missing out on something so pure, on something so meaningful. So we stood there, watched the team list the cup, saw the glory and pride that ran through every fan’s blood and I know that I would never see the sport the same way again, As we walked back to our hotel, throngs of people were heading home singing and smiling, happy to have been a part of something great.
I returned from my holiday with a new find love for the sport and a Madrid jersey ofcourse. Being an Indian, I used to think that Cricket was the biggest sport with the most loyal, passionate fans but having seen Real Madrid fans, I can only imagine that football which is a more global sport than cricket is perhaps much bigger. When I used to see my friends in school talk animatedly about their favourite football teams and their favourite players, I used to roll my eyes or scoff but now, I smile knowing the emotion they feel.
The following I visited the Madrid stadium which is considered as the shrine of the Madrid fans, the home of all the glory. I saw the trophy cases decorated with trophies and medals. I saw videos of victors and losses. I saw fans crying in stadiums both out of joy and sadness. This only reinforced my respect and awe fir the sport and its fans.
As I sit at home, watching World Cup matches, I see myself holding my breath every time Harry Kane moves to take a shot. While I may take some more time getting used to all the football jargon, I can surely say that I am a football fan in the making.
This is the promotional campaign for the 5th season of Indian Super League – a local football league. What captured my attention was the visuals of MS Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly (former Indian Test cricket captains) with the young and rising stars of Indian football.
India and most of the Indians have been passionate about cricket for many decades. You must witness the scenes at Oval and Azad Maidan on any weekend and it is exciting to see multiple local teams playing the sport simultaneously. The outdoor hoardings of Indian Super League has made an attempt to give space for another sport – football – alongside cricket.
I grew up in a typical Indian family which pushed TV channel ratings every time India played cricket. My vacation in Madrid this summer coincided with Real Madrid winning the Champions League trophy. I witnessed the excitement and thrill amongst the football fans for their home team and the celebration that followed the next day when the trophy was brought back to the city. I wrote a piece on my experience of those two days. The wave of happiness that cut through the entire city was fantastic. Now, I can say this about my feelings:
From no football to a fan in the making.