October 17th, 2012
Ah… The Beautiful Game….watching a game of La Liga football on television is one thing, but actually attending a game is another thing altogether. The impossible bright green of the pitch, the roar of the crowd….
Spanish football is played differently from English football, tiki taka is a word you might hear, it´s because Spanish football is played more slowly and it´s a more technical game. Barcelona are the inventors of tiki taka – think of the seconds of a clock!
But, it´s still exciting to watch, and some of the stars are bigger – or think they are! – than the massive clubs that they play for…why not see for yourself? So let´s go to a game…
But where to go?
Have you already decided the team you want to support? Or is it just for the experience? Before we lived here we visited often, and on a couple of occasions managed to catch a game or two, mainly to please our football mad son, but really for ourselves too! Right, let´s have a look at the Top Ten Stadiums in Spain…you might have to allow me some literary license…!
1. Barcelona and Camp Nou
Nº 1 because..it´s probably the best!
The largest stadium in Europe for a starting boast – with a cheering capacity from a huge 99,000 seats.
Atmosphere? Oh yes , definitely!
Come just to see the best players making history…Dani Alves, Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol, and Piqué – Shakira´s other half – and naturally if you are lucky enough to go then it will guarantee to be a Messi show…
2. Real Madrid and Estadio Bernabeu
Only slightly smaller with capacity at 85,000 – our first taste of Spanish football – good to start with high expectations! On a Winter holiday in Madrid several years ago as a family of four we queued up for tickets for our son and my husband, the team bus stopped beside us as we stamped our feet in the cold, and I glanced up to see Beckham a few feet from me and my red nose…four tickets then!
Surprisingly it´s not a fortune at all, and you get a padded cushion for your seat, a free programme and heaters right over your head! I´m not kidding, forget the Bovril and the microwaved pie, eat your delicious Chorizo or Jamón Bocadillo in comfort as you watch the players – and one petulant kid - play ball.
Now who´s the Petulant One? Okay, a little game, Ramos, Casillas, Ronaldo – you guess!
3. Sevilla and Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán
Absolutely up there in the top 3 and deserves the title of one of the best stadiums in Spain.
A full house seats 45,000, but this doesn´t stop it from being one of the most intimidating pitches to play on – this is the away teams least favourite place to land a fixture. Expect to see Perrotti, Negredo, Navas.
4. Valencia and the Mestalla
Head East – Valencia and the Costa Azahar has a lot to offer for a superb holiday. But if football rather than Paella is on your mind then ensure that you have no fear of heights as no roof and really high, teetering stands are the order of the day here. 55,000 seats to choose from, to watch Soldado score, or Albelda the captain – coming into retirement now but still astounding..
5. Bilbao and Vizcaya – or The Cathedral
Ask where the Cathedral is and you might find yourself directed here…put down the guidebook and pick up a programme, find a seat in the cloisters of Vizcaya and enjoy a show by Los Leones.
Why the lions? Because the stadium is built close to the church of San Mamés – and Mamés – or Mammes – was an early Christian thrown to the lions by the Romans…the only ones sacrificed and eaten these days are Real Sociedad, at the local Derby game.
Bilbao are Basque fanatics – all players in history to date have been Basque, and the atmosphere is electric, aided by the 50,000 singing fans cheering on the likes of Llorente, come and soak it up for yourself…
6. Malaga and La Roselada
Not just for the airport! If your flight falls on a match day and you have a few hours to spare then join in with the 29,000 strong party and head to the stadium which is located close to the city. There are great views from this one as there are no covered roof areas, and now that they are back in the Primera and the Champions League you will be sure of a class act involving the likes of Saviola and Baptista…
7. Valladolid and Estadio José Zorilla
Also with capacity of 29,000 this is rather a compact stadium with great view seats all round. It has a funny local name too – dubbed the Stadium of Pneumonia as it stands high on a plain above the city of Valladolid -maybe wear a vest under the footie shirt!
Something I don´t like about this one, their mascots are a Bear and and Eagle – unlike the UK where that would be some chap with a Saturday job dressed up in a furry suit – these are real – a full sized Grizzly brought out at half time on a chain -not for me…
8.Seville and Estadio Benito Villamartin
Seville – so much to see! How about the spectaular sight of Real Betis at the estadio Benito Villamartin?
A bit of a jigsaw look to this stadium, with three amphitheatre sides and bright green and white seats – the atmosphere is electric though. 56, 000 will fill it and the best time to go is when the Seville Derby takes place, although it can get a little heated – and I don´t just mean the Seville sunshine! See Beñat and Ruben Castro show you how it´s done…
9. Madrid again – but this time the Vicente Calderon
Back in the capital city – but not as a Real supporter!! Athletico Madrid are rivals,with Colombian players such as Perea and Falcao to cheer on…Actually an architectural delight with three curving sides and an enormous stand sandwiched between the river and the motorway, the arena is curved around the pitch. Join 56,000 others and boo the competition!
10. Almeria and the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos
Stop laughing right now!! I am under pressure here, there are season ticket holders in my house…! Humour me.
Seriously now…built for the Mediterranean games, this stadium has been much improved for this season – the former running track has been removed bringing the fans closer to the pitch – instantly more atmosphere. Capacity is just an intimate 22,000 but the fans are great fun, it´s a family atmosphere and there´s always a good time to be had. Currently made up of experienced players and stars of the future, Almería are currently in the Segunda but soon will return to where they belong in La Liga – Ulloa was the top scorer in the whole of Segunda last year with 28 goals – more than most overpaid stars of football. If you happen to be in Almería – the Mirror of the Sea – then come along, especially if you are a family with young kids – you will enjoy it! At only €5 for a kids ticket, so will you!
That´s it – the final whistle! Did I get any red cards? What´s your favourite place to watch the beautiful game?