Editor’s note: Several months ago, a reader contacted us wanting to pen some guest posts for the blog about his experiences in Madrid and learning just what it means to support Atlético. That reader, Mikeie Reiland, is a high school Spanish teacher who spent a year as an educator in Madrid, and this eight-part series will be published throughout the week as we prepare for Saturday’s Madrid Derby.
In mid-December, my girlfriend Natalie, my roommate Alex, my friend Sam, and I scored tickets to the Atlético Madrid vs. Athletic Club game, a chilly affair between two of the better teams in La Liga.
When I told José Miguel at the watercooler that I was going to the game, he responded with a knowing smile.
“You’re liking it,” he said.
Sam was the true original soccer fan among us. On a Saturday morning you could find Sam on his apartment’s couch, hunched over a laptop trained on a shaky live stream, clad in a Manchester United jersey and rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
I remember this game in particular because we were sitting at the far end of the Calderón, high in the nosebleeds above the Ultras. Americans studying or teaching abroad were seated behind us, and I remember being distinctly annoyed at the prospect of hearing English in the Calderón. I wasn’t the only one who had “discovered” Atlético. Annoyed and fueled by smugness, I had assumed that I was surely the only American forward-thinking enough to choose Atleti instead of the more at-your-fingertips Real Madrid. This vision came crashing down as the collegiates behind me chatted about sororities and frats and their study abroad program leader.
Another reason this game was memorable: in the second half, Antoine Griezmann scored what Ian Darke would characterize as “an absolute firecracker,” a goal that I think may have done for Alex and Sam what Griezmann’s header at the death against Gijón did for me.