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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A crown for a new king who couldn’t be stopped

He was shoved out. He could have dived. He could have taken the foul and slowed the game down. Instead, he stayed on his feet, knowing more than anyone that nothing could stop him. Gareth Bale stepped up, and now there are no doubts. Madrid will remember this one legendary run for years to come. [Art by Kendall Henderson. Words by Eric]

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]

"Zizou dances in Madrid" - by Dan Leydon
"I’ve never appraoched Zidane as a subject for illustration before. What always struck me about his style of play was his grace of movement. I wanted to show him in a quite skillful pose so I went with the behind the leg drag back. I even toyed with putting a pink tutu on him as a humorous nod to his balletic movements."
We’re delighted to feature Dan’s work on AFR. Find him on: Twitter / Tumblr / Etsy.

"Zizou dances in Madrid" - by Dan Leydon

"I’ve never appraoched Zidane as a subject for illustration before. What always struck me about his style of play was his grace of movement. I wanted to show him in a quite skillful pose so I went with the behind the leg drag back. I even toyed with putting a pink tutu on him as a humorous nod to his balletic movements."

We’re delighted to feature Dan’s work on AFR. Find him on: Twitter / Tumblr / Etsy.

We love Falcao, but we also love Atlético Madrid

By Jake Allingan

Prized, lethal and ruthless are three adjectives which spring to mind when asked to describe Falcao. Is he world-class? Absolutely, definitely, positively, ridiculously. Take a look at this stat for this season: he scores with roughly every third shot. Falcao provides so much for Atletico Madrid that Gerard Pique recently described the side as ‘Falcao’s team.’

However, whilst the strength which the Colombian provides his side with cannot be undervalued, it would be unfair - and arguably stupid - to flippantly disregard the talent which resides within the bowels of the Vicente Calderon stadium as nothing more than servants hurrying to meet their striker’s needs.

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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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On Barcelona, Madrid and Stalin

By Max Grieve

In Bilbao, Real Madrid won the title for the first time in four years, whilst at the Camp Nou Lionel Messi equalled, then surpassed, the record for the most goals scored in a European season. The Spanish newspapers would have you believe that only one or the other of these happened, of course.

“El Mejor!” Marca’s front page screams the following morning – “The Best”. Mourinho is thrown into the air, one finger raised, and images of a euphoric Ronaldo are splashed below the headlines. In Barcelona, El Mundo Deportivo pays tribute to “Torpedo Messi”, and the little Argentine is seen lifting the ball over Carlos Kameni to score his third – Barcelona’s fourth – to scratch Gerd Müller’s name from the 39-year-old record.

Below the singing Xabi Alonso, below the elated Iker Casillas, below the hoards dancing in the Plaza de Cibeles, a box the same size as the neighbouring advertisement for the new Subaru XV acknowledges that Barcelona have played. Even then, the image accompanying the scoreline is one of a rueful Guardiola. In the smallest type imaginable for the front page of a national newspaper, Marca make a note of Messi’s historic hattrick.

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