Uncovering the Game in Madrid: El Campo de la Cebada

It wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan, which was exactly the plan.
The itinerary was set in the most flexible stone that can be found in all of Spain. The trip had its destinations, of course, but it was as much about a city as it was exploration.
Must See Madrid was the mission statement, which meant hitting up more than a few highlighted circles on a map.
The goal was to see Madrid and the beautiful game that lives and beats on so many different wavelengths here. The journey featured Real, Atlético, and Rayo, but before we get there, I want to show you part of Madrid’s unseen scene. The spot where the game is not only rampant, but integrated with every subset of culture that can be found.
I arrived after a tip-off from Twitter recommended that I go to La Latina. Specifically, El Campo de la Cebada. I found out quickly that it’s a place you discover, even after you set foot within the park’s barriers and smell its surrounding tapas restaurants.
Gates surrounded the pitch, and the welcome sign outside stated quite clearly, “we’ll leave when we want.” The following few steps did not disappoint.

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Uncovering the Game in Madrid
Just a couple hundred meters from the Santiago Bernabéu, there are a hundred little Madrileños playing on a rooftop. A bell rings every 20 minutes. Each time, the pitch empties for a moment, only to be filled by another hundred students-turned-footballers who dream of playing on a patch of grass that’s only five minutes away. They may stand in the shadows of giants and galacticos, but they’re also the ones who play with the passion that makes Spanish football what it is.
Over the next few days, we’re collaborating with the Spanish Tourism Board to explore Madrid’s football culture and its endless stories. But here’s the thing: We can (and will) see Atletico and Cristiano and even Rayo Vallecano. But, really, anyone can do that. And, indeed, we’re sure many you have. So we want to hear from you about the unexpected, unforgettable experiences: the hidden pitches, the graffiti, and definitely that one place with an incredible bocadillo named after Diego Simeone that made your trip to the Calderón 100 times better.
Our eyes and ears are wide open.
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We just landed yesterday, and we’ll be documenting everything here, as well as on Instagram and on Twitter. You can even find some shots of Madrid that go beyond the pitch on my personal Instagram. Everything will be tracked with the #whereisfootball & #mustseemadrid hashtags. Let’s uncover some hidden gems in a city that lives and breathes the game! Words and photo taken by Eric, writing while thoroughly jetlagged and only moments away from a siesta.

Uncovering the Game in Madrid

Just a couple hundred meters from the Santiago Bernabéu, there are a hundred little Madrileños playing on a rooftop. A bell rings every 20 minutes. Each time, the pitch empties for a moment, only to be filled by another hundred students-turned-footballers who dream of playing on a patch of grass that’s only five minutes away. They may stand in the shadows of giants and galacticos, but they’re also the ones who play with the passion that makes Spanish football what it is.

Over the next few days, we’re collaborating with the Spanish Tourism Board to explore Madrid’s football culture and its endless stories. But here’s the thing: We can (and will) see Atletico and Cristiano and even Rayo Vallecano. But, really, anyone can do that. And, indeed, we’re sure many you have. So we want to hear from you about the unexpected, unforgettable experiences: the hidden pitches, the graffiti, and definitely that one place with an incredible bocadillo named after Diego Simeone that made your trip to the Calderón 100 times better.

Our eyes and ears are wide open.

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Rayo Vallecano x Sausages and Caviar

Settled in the neighbourhood of Vallecas, Rayo Vallecano is celebrating 90 years of being a proud presence in Madrid that steps far away from the world of Galacticos. After their trip to see Union Berlin’s supporter and club culture, Jason and Kai went to Spain’s capital with help from our friend Dermot Corrigan to discover another loyal, local fanbase.

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Inside El Clásico

400 million watched, but only for 90 minutes. Even with the excessive coverage from the Spanish press, so much is lost in the build-up to one of the biggest spectacles in world football. With access a reporter could only dream of, FC Barcelona released a video of the scenes before and after the big match at the Camp Nou. The nerves, the fans, the hundreds of cameras, they’re all captured. Watch the full feature here. [Posted by Eric]

Imagining the Iberian Championship: Castilla conquers Group B

By Dermot Corrigan, writing from Madrid.

The tournament: Introduction and Group Draw. Group A.

Group B began with Castilla, Euskadi, Cantabria y Asturias Las Islas Unidas all confident they were in with a chance of making the final four, although the bookies had Míchel’s centralistas and Unai Emery’s Basques as clear favourites to claim the two qualifying places on offer.

As the Bernabéu was unavailable due to repairs to its non-alcoholic beer taps, and a Keane concert at the Calderón, the footballing aristocrats of Castilla were forced to begin their campaign at home to Las Islas Unidas at the less majestic surroundings of Estadio Vallecas.

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Imagining the Iberian Championship

By Dermot Corrigan, writing imagining in Madrid

While the recently growing calls for Catalan independence have led to a number of very tricky questions for politicians at local, national and European levels to ponder, they have - more importantly of course - also caused football fans to scratch their heads and wonder about the possibles issues that would arise. Along with the proposal of no more Barca-Real Madrid clásicos in La Liga, there was the idea of a Catalan national side taking part in the World Cup or European Championships and (quite likely) meeting the rump Spain team in the latter stages.

For many football watchers, this might actually be a good thing, given Spain’s dominance of international football (at senior and underage levels) over the past six years. La Roja’s ability to easily beat everyone else has become so predictable that some have grown to see current international football as boring and not worth watching. That viewpoint is a bit extreme, but even those who like watching Spain play can see the problems their untouchable excellence is causing. Coach Vicente del Bosque lamented recently that he could not find a place for Chelsea attacker Juan Mata, maybe the most in-form player in the Premier League, in his 23 man squad. “We have a problem of quantity not quality,” he said. This got us to thinking…

It does seem that the time is now ripe to establish a new competition, making use of the great wealth of talent being produced within Spain’s (current) borders, by forming new representative teams along more regional lines. While seeing Barcelona icon Xavi Hernández and Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas overcome their club rivalries to pull together in the same national team has become a common sight, the idea of Xavi lining up for Catalonia against Andrés Iniesta in a Spain shirt needs a bit of time to get your head around. But it is then actually pretty exciting. Go a bit further along the same line, by giving all Spain’s other regions / nations their own teams, and you soon get Catalonia’s Gerard Piqué marking Asturias’s David Villa and Andalucia’s Sergio Ramos clattering into the Basque Country’s Xabi Alonso.

The strength and widespread interest in such a potential new competition can be taken for granted. Remembering Jonathan Wilson’s SI.com made-up tournament to determine the best club side ever, A Football Report decided to hold an eight team tournament, with two groups of four, and the top two teams in each then progressing to the semi-finals. Players could only be born within today’s Spanish national border and must represent the team of their birthplace (as decided by Marca’s excellently encylopaedic Guía de La Liga 2013).

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Will Iniesta pull the strings in tonight’s ‘El Clásico’?

It’s probably the most spoken about rivalry in modern football, Real Madrid vs Barcelona, simply known as El Clásico. Nike have launched a new video promoting their latest CTR360 boot featuring the visionary Andres Iniesta. Although it’s not explicitly described, it’s evident that the white opponents represent Barcelona’s eternal rivals, Real Madrid. It may only the first leg of the Supercopa de España but everybody wants to win and from a Blaugrana perspective, Iniesta will be pulling the strings. [DV]

Disrupting Accepted Narratives: On Spain’s Olympics and Selective Memory

By Jordan Brown

Spain’s summer tournaments are over, with the results being a glorious and historic victory, and a quietly disgraceful defeat.  For all the glowing press that came out of Spain’s record-setting Euro 2012 performance, there is a comparative hill of silence with regards to their Olympic stumble. Sources that can usually be trusted to have something to say about such a story have been moot, both online and in print.

Michael Cox’s Zonal-Marking seems to be on hiatus after the Euros—offering us no autopsy of the exit, the usually insightful Sid Lowe only wrote an early Olympics piece on De Gea’s expectations for the tournament (pre-ignominy), but curiously—nothing since. No feature on the Football Ramble, nothing but match recaps on Soccernet, and in some cosmic coincidence Spanishfootball.info is down for maintenance. Now these may not be everyone’s personal sources for football coverage, but they’re on my daily round, so to find no real response to Spain’s poor display was surprising. Why aren’t we talking about this?

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The history of Spanish fútbol.

"Spain: Home of Picasso, Penelope Cruz, and, for some time, Fascism."

Ahead of EURO 2012, The Guardian is doing a series of videos telling the stories of Europe’s most acclaimed national teams. Alongside some delightful animation, James Richardson shares Spain’s story, given that España is expected to win yet another trophy this summer. In their words, let’s go through “the history of the Spanish national side, from their refusal to play in the first World Cup to glory at last in 2008 and 2010, via penalty misery in England and plenty of political interference.” [posted by EB]

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