The television in the bar was broadcasting a program with aerial images of stadiums. Our sight, of course, instantly went to that small screen behind the bar because the stadiums generate some hypnosis.
“What field is it?” my friend asked me.
—I think it’s the one from Mallorca, I answered convinced.
The aerial image showed a stadium with red stands, surrounded by several concreted spaces. But, immediately afterwards, the aerial plane focused on a huge American flag, so I pointed out that it must surely be the mythical Son Moix stadium in Washington. “Soccer stadiums are already indistinguishable from one another from above,” my friend added, trying to narrow down my typo.
Just a couple of days after confusing Son Moix with a stadium of soccerI was lucky enough to present the book in Madrid the last goal apache (Debate), written by José Manuel Ruiz, about Racing Madrid, specifically about a crazy American tour that the team embarked on to try to get out of their financial purgatory. I had never heard of this club until José Manuel sent me the novel and invited me to present it.
The historian Félix Martialay defined Racing de Madrid perfectly: “A break and tear chamber team. Castizo. Gulf. Football-wise, the fury unleashed. The bearded vulture team of the senoritism of Madrid”. They were born on a train, they won the championship in their debut season and immediately became close enemies of the stately Real Madrid. That group of shirtless had their first stadium thanks to the work and grace of the fans. It is not a saying, so it happened. The fans built the first stadium with their own hands, on a plot on Calle Hermosilla in Madrid. The popular experiment was eliminated, months later, by another stadium in the heart of Chamberí: the traditional neighborhood where the team was born and to which it owed all its brave personality.
During the presentation of the book I suffered an acute crisis of nostalgia, diagnosed by Doctor Fútbol. Nostalgia is like a duvet for a bed: a warm thing that keeps you warm, safe, and difficult to get out of. The past does not attack you if you are surrounded by nostalgia. So, in the middle of a nostalgic attack, I asked myself if there are teams like Racing de Madrid and stadiums like the Apache club right now, with that identity and character.
Modern stadiums often look like shopping centers, large plastic surfaces on the outskirts of cities. It seems that in ten years they will be demolished and relocated to another piece of land where land is cheaper and parking is better. A good stadium has to be in a place that represents the personality of the team. I think of Balaídos, for example, surrounded by the huge Citroën factory and blocks of unassuming buildings. It is the exact embodiment of the identity of the club and the city: worker and worker. I wonder if the new Balaídos makes sense next to the beach, with splendid views of the Ría de Vigo, or in a field on the outskirts of the city where more cars could fit and where the memorable traffic jams would not form. every weekend. Definitely not, Balaídos makes sense where it is.
But hey, let’s be honest: most of the old stadiums were uncomfortable, even dangerous. Now you can sit in winter and a heater rocks your hair from the ceiling. Seats don’t splinter your ass anymore. Your legs fit between row and row. In the bathrooms the cisterns work and the water comes out of all the taps. In some stadiums there are escalators, usb ports, Michelin star restaurants. Everything is more pleasant and accessible. So what are we complaining about? I suppose that as fans we need football to maintain something of that time when fans carried stones to build their own stands and identity; something that connects us with the past, however mythologized it may be.
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