Friday, February 21, 2003

At last I have been to the Bernabeu to see Real Madrid in action. It was the European Champions League match against Borrusia Dortmund and I couldn´t have chosen a better night to go because they put their best possible team forward. I got to sit back for the night and watch the magic of Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo and Raul. I was hell of alot of fun. Of course what made it even better was the fact that it was a free ticket. The score was 2 - 1 to Real with Ronaldo ( Rony to the fans) and Raul scoring.

The stadium has a capacity of 85,000 ( just like Croker ). However it feels alot more impressive because the stands are almost vertical and so when you are near the top of the stand you feel as if you would actually land on the sideline if you jumped. The top of the stadium is not a place for people scared of heights. One of the die hard fans who was beside me has to smoke a joint before climbing to his seat.

The supporters are certainly passionate about their team and when they talk about the Bernabeu it sounds as if it is a temple, and you feel that you should be taking your hat off your head. When the team arrives out on to the pitch the whole stadium twirls white scarfs above their heads. It looks really impressive and definitely charges up the atmosphere. However, being perfectly honest and unbiased, the atmosphere for a big game in Croke park is easily as good. I have never been to a club match in England so I can´t compare.

I was surprised to see it being such a family occasion with husband , wife and children all singing club songs or else shouting abuse at the referee in unison (depending on the moment of course). I didn´t have a clue of the chants but they sound funny when an entire stand of people are rolling their "r´s" together.

The thing that amazed me the most is that there is central heating in the stands ! This is neccessary because no matter how committed the fans are the one thing that will keep them at home is the cold. It is not an indoor stadium so the heaters are pointing down on the seats from inside the stand covers. The Spanish are terrified of the cold and so despite the heaters (which had me sweating) it was the biggest "Eskimo Fancy dress" that I have ever been to.

I went to the anti war protest on saturday last. There are varying accounts of how many people turned out on the day but it was between 1.5 and 2 million people. It was carnival like with samba drums , costumes and dancing. I took two roles of film of the event. Most of the banners were condemning Aznar for his allegiance with Bush. I was surprised to see the effort that so many ordinary people went to for the march. Every second person (including babies in prams) had their faces painted or a home made banner or a customised T-shirt. It is probably incorrect to call it a march because you were unable to move anywhere. The most interesting fact is that according to the newspapers most people there had never been on a march before.

Despite the huge turnout Aznar is defiant. People say that he is using this as an opportunity to give Spain a stronger voice on the world stage. His government who are very rightwing are said to resent the power of France and Germany within the EU. Aznar has also never made a secret of his desires for Spain to join the G8 and to be counted among the USA´s closest friends. Something like this could work out to be the perfect oppotunity to achieve those goals. . The PP won the last election with an absolute majority. Surprisingly they will probably win the next election (but without an absolute majority). Although they rate second in opinion polls, as a result of both their Iraqi position and the handling of the Prestige Affair, my friends say that when it comes to the election day people will vote for them again. The reason being that Spain is still an extremely right wing country.

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