Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Football in Spain

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

There are two faiths in Spain: the church and football. Football is the most popular sport in the country and the Spanish excel at the game on an international level. They are current holders of the FIFA World Cup (next contested in 2014 in Brazil), and won Euro 2012, although they were defeated early in the Olympics much to everyone’s surprise.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are the most successful teams in the country and the best known on the world stage having won UEFA Champions League title for Spain 13 times between them and been runners-up 3 times. Barcelona won the cup in 2011. This year Real Madrid defeated Barcelona to win the Spanish Super Cup, always heavily competed between the two clubs.

Visiting the stadiums of these two clubs is a highlight for many visitors to Spain.

FC Barcelona is based at Camp Nou stadium in the suburbs of Barcelona and has been since 1957. They have an excellent stadium tour and exhibition of the history of the club called the Camp Nou Experience. The museum and interactive display tour costs around 23 euro and is open from 10am until 6.30 pm and until 8pm from April until early October, Monday to Saturday, and 10am until 2.30pm on Sundays, except on match days when you’ll need to check the opening hours. You won’t see the first-team players training – though you might in the early morning of a match day if you are lucky – but generally the high level training sessions are private. You can however go to a game with many seats available for the general public.  To get to the stadium catch the metro line 5 to Collblanc i Badal, or line 3 to Maria Cristina, Palau Reial and Zona Universitària. The way to the stadium is clearly signposted.

Real Madrid C F is based in Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium since 1947. You can also take a tour there most days of the year and it begins with a wonderful view over the ground from one of the 8 panoramic lifts. There’s a trophy room and you’ll get to walk around the pitch and see life as the players do. You’ll even get into the dressing room but only the visitors’ rooms, not that of the Real Madrid team itself to respect their privacy. The tour costs 16 euro and you can also buy a ticket to watch a match in the public seating areas. To get there catch Bus14, 27, 40, 43, 120, 147, 150 or the metro to Santiago Bernabéu or train to Nuevos Ministerios.

The other top team is Athletic Bilbao based in northern Spain in Bilbao. Along with Real Madrid and Barcelona they are the only team never to have been relegated from the premier league. Their stadium is San Mames Stadium also known as The Cathedral. A new multimillion euro stadium is under construction and due to open this year. The current stadium is the oldest in Spain dating from 1913. You can tour the stadium, trophy room and an exhibition nearly ever day for 6 euro. Tours stop at noon on match days.


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