Thursday, December 11, 2014

Real Madrid - Sell Out?

Real Madrid - In Spanish, "Real" means Royal
It was our last full day in Madrid, so I decided I should at least visit the Real Madrid Stadium before we left. After all, they are the most loved football team in the world! I found out on the website that it cost $25 just to take a "self-guided" tour. 

I knew they had a home match that night - but it was not a first division league match. It was an early round match in the Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) against a small team from Barcelona called Cornella from Division 2B. Real Madrid had won the first leg 4-1 so it sounded like it would be a one-sided contest and not worth attending. But now that I knew what the tour cost, I got to thinking...

Tickets for the match started at $12.50 so why not go to the match AND see the stadium. Another factor that encouraged me to change plans was a story I had seen about Real Madrid having removed the "Christian cross" from their logo in order to accommodate a credit card sponsorship deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. (More about that later). So... I decided to skip the tour and go to the match. Yea!

We had mastered the metro system and the stadium is just a few Metro stops from the center of Madrid where we were staying. In fact, when you pop out of the Metro station the huge building looms right in front of you. It was very impressive at night!

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu - Capacity 81,000
It is impossible to exaggerate how popular this team is - not just in Spain, but worldwide. Before I tell you what happened next let me share a few details about Real Madrid:
  • They have 75 million likes on Facebook
  • 32 League Titles
  • 19 Copas del Rey Titles
  • Never been relegated in 112 years
  • Annual Revenues are highest in the football world - $800M
  • Highest value of any team in the world - $3.4B, (Dallas Cowboys valued at $3B)
  • Named by FIFA as the "Club of the 20th Century" in 2000
  • Enough star players to fill-up a soccer galaxy of their own
I think you get the idea. I got to the ticket window and was told that the match was "Sold-out" which was both baffling and surprising. How could it be sold out? I knew the team was popular but a week-night match in December against a Division 2B team just didn't make sense. On top of that I saw on the team website that some of the best players would be sitting-out the match, including their Portuguese super-star Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably one of the top two players in the world.

Dumfounded I started circling the stadium going from one entrance to another thinking it must be a mistake. Surely the game could not be a sell-out. They must be selling tickets somewhere. I even tried the VIP entrance and the "Honors" Entrance.

Sorry - No tickets here either
When I realized I was getting nowhere I decided to take a few photos that I could at least use in my blog explaining how I tried to go to the match but could not get in. Here's one of the ticket takers I approached.
I thought they were giving me a friendly wave. I quickly learned, no photos allowed of stadium security.
By now I was thinking about calling it a night and heading home. But instead I decided to see if there were any scalpers (in Spanish they are called reventa.) At first they were hard to find but after awhile I started to pick out who was selling tickets. Before long I found a reventa who wanted 50 Euros for a ticket. Turns out he was from Iraq and his English was pretty good. I was nervous that I'd buy a fake so he invited a cop over to prove the ticket was authentic. I wondered if he was in on the scam...anyway the cop said it was good, so I went for it.

I decided to take the plunge - Here is my scalped ticket
We settled on 25 Euros, which is about $31. I made my way to my gate and slid the bar code under the scanner and voila! It worked. Yea! In I went. My seat was in Section 528 which was at the very top of the stadium so up I went. Up, up, up until I got to the very top. Wow.

My seat was 5 rows from the top but awesome view!
 I was totally surprised when I got to my seat to see that the stadium was about 20% full. Fortunately for me, there were two guys next to my seat in what otherwise was a pretty empty section and the one nearest me spoke good English. Efrain explained to me that a few more fans would show up before the match started but that most members would not show up for the match but their tickets were paid-for hence the match was technically a sell-out even though there would probably be 30,000 people there for the match. I was damn happy that I was one of them.

The match got underway and my suspicions about a one-sided match were confirmed pretty early on. RM was in complete control of the match until the 14th minute when Cornella somehow managed to get the ball into scoring position in the penalty box and the referee awarded them a penalty kick. Well, the Cornella player must have been a nervous wreck because somehow he managed to miss the entire goal and put the ball into the stands. Oops.

From then on it was all RM with unanswered goals in the 16th, 32nd, 33rd, 60th and 77th minute to take a 5-0 win to the locker room and advance to the Round of 16 in the Copa del Rey. Two of the goals came off the foot of Columbia's 23 year-old superstar James Rodriguez who you'll remember won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup. He led all scorers in Brazil with 6 goals. So even thought I did not get to see Ronaldo play, it was cool to see James stick in two for the home team.

Columbia's James Rodriguez scored twice
As I have said before, every match I've attended has been an adventure and there always ends up being a story one way or the other. I'm so glad I went and thankful that my Iraqi scalper sold me a real ticket. Note - I learned during the match that Efrain and his buddy paid 30 Euros for their tickets so I felt pretty good about my negotiating skills.

Before I go, here is the Reader's Digest version of the credit card dust-up, and my question is did they "Sell Out?" As the story goes on the Internet, RM entered into an agreement with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. The Bank gets to issue a RM debit card in exchange for $3M. Apparently, the Bank requested the Christian cross on the top of the RM logo be removed in order to accommodate Muslim sensitivities . The club agreed (see photo below). The cross is an integral part of the logo since it sits atop the crown of the Spanish King. Remember that "real" means royal.

The original on the left - modified version on the right
If you want to know more, here is a link to the story.

http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/11/26/appeasing-gulf-arab-sponsors-soccer-giants-real-madrid-remove-cross-from-club-logo/

Until Next time...

Michael

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