April 23, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Madrid, Spain, Traditions

Standing in Madrid’s Plaza de Cibeles, I was nearly alone, save for my friend, dozens of policemen and several reporters smoking their last cigarettes before going on air. There was an eerie quiet – surely the calm before the proverbial storm.

Just as the clock struck midnight, cheers broke out, seeping from windows, bars and cars across the city.

“They won,” I said to my friend.

Instantaneously, people started to flow like an avalanche into the round-about from all of its connecting streets.

Real Madrid had just won the Copa del Rey in a match against their biggest rival – Barcelona. It’s a rivalry that puts the likes of the Dodgers and the Giants to shame (go Giants!). We were standing in the heart of the soon-to-be fiesta, where Madrileños come after every Real Madrid win to celebrate and await the team’s arrival (and also where we went last June after the World Cup win).

As fans made their way from the far corners of the city, we watched as massive signs unravelled declaring Real Madrid as champions. Meanwhile, giant speaker structures began to blast the traditional Real Madrid Hymn. It was as if someone had given the thumbs up to flip on the switch at a traveling carnival – going from quiet and vacant, to loud, boisterous and full of energy.

My friend and I stood frozen as we watched the chaos unfold in front of us, and perplexed by what this would have been had they not won. Would these same signs be hauled to the dump? Would the press towers and scaffolding be dismantled and stored away for the next big game?

Soon the square overflowed with chanting teenage boys downing beers while wrapped in Spanish and Real Madrid flags. Some carried horns, others banged on drums, all reminding me that virtually any good news is reason to celebrate in this adopted country of mine.

Realizing we were far too old and far too American to stay up late enough to watch the soccer team’s reception, we headed back home. Like salmon swimming up stream, we fought a current of youngins partying while staggering their way to the festivities.


Arriving at my house, fat rain drops began to speckle the city sidewalks. Only moments later, curled cozily in bed, the incessant sound of rain falling and victory horn-honking would lull us to sleep. It turns out that proverbial storm wasn’t so proverbial after all.

*Pardon the lack of photos – I only had my cell phone!

2 Responses to “The calm before the soccer storm”

  1. Cat Says:

    I had to catch a flight from Madrid that night. No one in Atocha, the metro or even Barajas! Top notch service in El Brillante, too, thought I missed the crazed hustle that I don’t often get down in Sevilla!

    And, in case you were wondering, Betis won, too.

  2. Erin Says:

    Madrid was a ghost town last week – except for Plaza de Cibeles on Wednesday night! Hala Betis 😉

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