Groundhopper Carter’s Reader Report: A Week Of Soccer In Madrid

Carter Lawson · Profile
Groundhopper Carter’s Reader Report: A Week Of Soccer In Madrid

Groundhopper Carter used Madrid as a hub to see some great soccer, including several La Liga games and culminating with the Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich!

Hello again! Groundhopper Carter here, checking in again with an update on my European groundhopping adventures. My first taste of a true groundhopping trip came two months ago when I had the opportunity to travel across England and see 7 games in 10 days with my dad. This time around I’ve traveled south to Spain to catch some La Liga and Champions League action all around Madrid.

I’ve been a Real Madrid fan for over 10 years now, as I started following them during the early heyday of Cristiano Ronaldo dominating La Liga and the Champions League. So to my pleasure, it just so happened that Real Madrid knocked out the reigning champs, and Champions League favorites, Manchester City in the quarterfinals. This led to them being matched up against longtime Champions League rivals Bayern Munich, with a game scheduled in Madrid during my trip — what could be better? Along with this game, I was also fortunate that La Liga decided to schedule home games for teams in Madrid on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of  the weekend prior, allowing me to really pack in some Spanish football!

First up was a trip out to the southwestern Madrid suburb of Getafe, where mid-table La Liga team Getafe CF play their home games. During my short walk from the train station to the stadium, I stumbled upon a nice little neighborhood bar decorated with Getafe CF gear so I had to grab myself a pregame pint and some tapas.

A small bar I stopped in near Getafe’s stadium.

As I made my way closer to the ground I saw more Getafe fans, but also a significant amount of Athletic Bilbao fans, who had made the 400+ kilometer trip south to see their team. My ticket was in the “home section” but I wouldn’t have known unless it said that because my side of the stadium had a shocking amount of Bilbao fans! During the pregame festivities, the Getafe players gave the Bilbao players a guard of honor to reflect Bilbao’s recent Copa del Rey win over RCD Mallorca.

The game itself had just about everything one could ask for, except for a goal from the home team. Bilbao scored two great goals that were both assisted by Nico Williams and scored by his older brother Iñaki Williams. The second half continued with drama as there was a missed penalty by Getafe and two red cards for Bilbao, three if you count their coach getting tossed!

My second game was the following day on Saturday afternoon, Real Madrid vs Cádiz at the newly renovated Santiago Bernabéu. I stumbled upon the Cádiz fans enjoying some pregame beverages in a park adjacent to the stadium while singing and having the time of their life, despite having to go up against the La Liga front-runners away from home.

I got this seat about 3 days prior to the Real Madrid vs Cádiz game!

Seeing a Real Madrid game live had always been a dream of mine so it was particularly special to get to this game, despite the fact that Real was fielding a team made up of mainly second-string players as they were resting starters for the Champions League game against Bayern on Wednesday. The game went as one would expect, with Real cruising to an easy 3-0 victory courtesy of a great opening goal by Brahim Díaz. Jude Bellingham also managed to get into the game later in the second half and scored within 2 minutes of coming on.

This was also an especially important game because victory for Real meant that they would win La Liga unless Barcelona managed to beat Girona. Barcelona would go on to blow a 2-1 lead and Real were crowned champions of La Liga for the 36th time in their history, a record in Spanish football.

The following day I was planning to see Rayo Vallecano, a small club from the Vallecas neighborhood in Madrid, but after some research realized that they don’t do any ticket sales online at all. As someone who grew up during the digital ticket age, I can really appreciate when a club truly sticks to its roots like this. In addition to their traditional ticket style, Rayo in general is a classic football outing. You’ll see Spaniards from all over the working-class neighborhood surrounding the stadium bringing in food, rolling cigarettes, and cheering on their small La Liga club. It was an incredible and truly authentic experience, to say the least.

The Estadio de Vallecas, home of Rayo Vallecano.

Unfortunately, Rayo put forth a lackluster performance and fell 1-0 to Almería who currently sit at the bottom of La Liga and will be relegated following the end of this season.

The fourth and final game in Madrid for the week was the crowning jewel, the Champions League semifinal of Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich. I had high expectations for this game and it certainly did not disappoint. Starting in the pregame, thousands of Madrid fans filled the streets to welcome their home team’s bus, and the air around the stadium was soon filled with smoke from flares and smoke bombs, creating an unforgettable march into the stadium.

Our seats were up high and behind the goal, so we had a great view of the pregame Champions League festivities and in this case, the pregame Madrid display which filled the entire stadium on all 4 sides. We could also see the traveling Bayern fans directly across from us who made sure to be heard despite the roar from the Spaniards.

As for the game, Real Madrid did exactly what they do in the Champions League. Score late goals and do whatever they need to do to win. Going into the final 10 minutes down a goal after having one of their own disallowed, the mood was not somber but rather filled with anticipation of when they would break through and get that goal. It came in the 88th minute via a huge mistake from goalkeeper Manuel Nuer, who up until that point had been stellar. Then Madrid went on to score again 3 minutes later and truly blew the roof off of the Santiago Bernabeu. Although everyone had the feeling Real would find a way, there was still an incredible amount of awe as to what we had just witnessed as fans. As a Real fan myself it truly couldn’t have gone any better, as I was able to see a team of such quality pull themselves out of a desperate situation, just to send themselves back to the Champions League Final for the 18th time.

There was truly no better way for this week of Madrid soccer to end and I’m already looking forward to planning my next Madrid groundhopping trip for the 2024-25 season!

Written By Carter Lawson
Carter Lawson, Content and Social Media Director · Profile

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